The so-called “Adamawa” languages are spoken in the sub-Saharan savannah belt, along the Upper Benue and its tributaries and in isolated pockets in southern Chad. Insufficient documentation and the marked linguistic diversity of the numerous language groups and isolates subsumed under “Adamawa” largely contributed to its contested status. So far, no convincing evidence was presented that “Adamawa” is indeed a distinct genetic unit, as proposed in earlier classifications. Within “Adamawa” only a minority of languages have preserved the heritage of a noun class system. Yet the remarkable morphological resemblances—supported by lexical correlates and typological analogies—found in class languages in two distinct “Adamawa” groups, as well as in various class languages of Central Gur, provide the strongest evidence contesting the validity of “Adamawa”. A larger Adamawa-Gur continuum which apparently occupied a contiguous area in the savannah belt before it became broken up appears to be more feasible.
This afterword looks back over the articles in the book, using a developmental metaphor to identify the stage that endangerment linguistics seems to have reached. Pure and applied aspects of the subject are identified. It reviews some of the myths associated with endangerment studies, and brings together themes addressed in various chapters, such as rate of loss, the nature of collaboration, and community concerns. Several chapters explore exactly what is involved in such notions as intergenerational transmission, immersion, minority status, contact situations, correctness, and metadata. A comparative perspective is seen to be of particular importance, with the emergence of a more standardized methodology for data gathering and description, and fresh opportunities for hypothesis testing and case studies, especially in a digital world. Terminological issues are also addressed, especially the mind-set switch from endangerment to empowerment.
The centrality of language in human life means we cannot document any language without understanding all the spheres of knowledge it is used to talk about. Equally, undocumented languages contain too much information to be wasted on linguists alone. As the medium through which the whole fabric of traditional knowledge about everything in the world is transmitted, the importance of these languages stretches out in the direction of many fields of enquiry, from ethnoecology to comparative jurisprudence to deep history to the study of musical and verbal art. Linguists, then, have a responsibility not just to their own field but to all areas of scholarship concerned with the almost infinite varieties of human creativity, and we abrogate this responsibility if we do not seek to follow our documentation of the languages we study down all these lanes and by ways of orally transmitted lore. One of the appeals of fieldwork is that we get the opportunity to develop interests in many new subjects, from botany through ethnography to thatch-making. But few linguists reach the point where we are able to really penetrate to the heart of all these fields, and in practice the best way to extend our documentary coverage is through some form of interdisciplinary fieldwork. The advantages of interdisciplinary fieldwork are most obvious in the way it can extend the detailed lexicon of targeted areas — botanical terms with the botanist, rock types with the geologist, terms for spear or personal adornment types with the material culture specialist, and so forth.
There are many paths language revitalization can take, but they are not mutually exclusive. A central aspect of language revitalization is the creation of new speakers. One path is for families to learn and transmit the endangered language at home. Schools are major venues for language learning. Language nests and immersion schools have been especially effective. Adult language education has also become a critical part of language revitalization. Universities and “bootstrap” methods such as the Master-Apprentice Program have been able to bring adults to high proficiency. Linguistic archives have been useful for access to language, especially when there are no speakers left. Modernization of the language is also unavoidable, including new vocabulary and the development of writing systems if necessary. Most importantly, language revitalization should involve increased use of the language, by native speakers and learners alike.
Nala H. Lee and John R. Van Way
The need for accurate measures of language endangerment is now more important than ever, given the global problem of language endangerment. In this chapter, different vitality measures are introduced and their advantages and disadvantages are discussed. In particular, this chapter draws attention to the Language Endangerment Index. Learning from the strengths and weaknesses of previous approaches, LEI was developed for assessing the level of endangerment for any language in the world. It takes into account four separate factors: intergenerational transmission, absolute number of speakers, speaker number trends, and domains of use. LEI combines these four factors to obtain an overall rating, which can be used for quick reference or comparison. The scale also generates a certainty level, based on how many of the four factors were used in the assessment, which allows it to be used and interpreted accurately, even when little is known about a language’s situation.
Atlantic is one of the controversial branches of the Niger-Congo language family. Both its validity as a genetic group and its internal classification are far from being settled. The longstanding debate on the status and structure of Atlantic cannot be closed before the descriptive situation of these languages allows for sufficient and reliable lexical data; before attempts at applying the comparative method have been made; and before the extensive role of language contact for shaping the languages in question is taken into account. Although no typological feature or feature combinations characterizes the group as a whole, several features are considered typical for Atlantic languages, including noun class systems, consonant mutation, and complex systems of verbal derivation, which have been used to justify suggested genealogical groupings. Atlantic languages, with the exception of Fula, are attested in an area from Liberia to Senegal, stretching from the Atlantic coast to the hinterland.
Anna Margetts and Andrew Margetts
This article gives an account of practical issues with audio and video recordings in a fieldwork setting, based on real-life experiences. In addition to some standard recommendations, it includes points learned through mistakes, happy accidents, and trial and error. Comments about specific equipment will be out of date by the time this volume is published. Nevertheless this article gives specifications for at least some items in the hope that this will help to identify types of equipment that have been found to be worthwhile. This article first addresses some general points about what to record in a field situation, outlines the workflow of data processing, and provides notes on managing equipment. It then discusses audio and video recordings and raises the question of energy supply and useful auxiliary equipment. The appendix provides suggestions for a basic field equipment kit. This article also elaborates upon what to record for linguistic analysis followed by the workflow that would allow some of the data to be fully processed during the fieldtrip.
The Bantu family is the largest African language family in terms of geographic and demographic spread: the 450–500 Bantu languages are spoken in 27 countries, by about 240 million speakers. The close linguistic relation between Bantu languages has been recognized since the nineteenth century and was the focus of the earliest comparative linguistic studies in Africa, leading to the establishment of a reconstructed proto-language. Following the work of Bleek, Meinhof, and Guthrie, contemporary work on the internal classification of Bantu languages employs computational and phylogenetic methods, insights from comparative work on smaller subgroups, as well as models of language contact. A particular concern of comparative Bantu has for a long time been the relation between classification and social history, and hypotheses about the spread of Bantu languages across central, eastern, and southern Africa have had considerable influence on models of African history.
Berber languages are a close-knit language group within Afro-Asiatic. In Berber scientific and political discourse, there is a tendency to play down the differences, and often Berber is represented as one single language with only some superficial regional variation. Berber dialectology is predominantly synchronic. Instead of providing a tree-model of the different varieties, this chapter, by using different approaches, attempts to define a number of different synchronic blocks. In a block-like classification of Berber languages, seven such historically defined entities are established. In view of the continuous movement of convergence one may doubt that the reconstruction of a Proto-Berber entity is possible.
Barry J. Conn
This article illustrates the requirement of plants and their association with people. Since plants are a very important part of the material and cultural heritage of all communities, those who are interested in studying the culture of a people require an understanding of the plants associated with them. To understand plants and their association with the people, it is important to know the identity of the plant species used by them. Knowing the vernacular name of a plant used by a community assists with communication within that community but fails to provide information to a broader group. Furthermore, the information on how this plant is used by other communities remains inaccessible to most researchers. Therefore, it is important to link local plants to their scientific names so that all the information about these plants is available to everyone. However, the identification of plants is often quite difficult and requires careful examination of the features of the plant and comparison with other previously identified species. Therefore, carefully prepared botanical collections are always required to identify plants with certainty. The study provides a brief introduction to the techniques used for collecting botanical specimens that will enable fieldworkers to provide specimens of plants that are adequate for identification and valuable for scientific study.
This chapter describes the Central Cushitic (hereafter CC) language family, one of four branches of Cushitic. CC, traditionally known as Agäw, contains four languages: Awŋi, Bilin, Kemantney, and Xamt’aŋa. Apart from Bilin, which is spoken in Eritrea, the CC languages are spoken in the central highlands of Ethiopia. The name CC was evidently given to Agäw on account of the geographical distribution of the North, South, East and the then West Cushitic (later Omotic) subgroups. The morphology, especially the verb morphology, identifies the CC languages as Cushitic, but they are classified as a separate branch of Cushitic on the basis of salient features exhibited in them. CC languages exhibit striking similarities in the lexicon, and due to longstanding language contact there exists much inter-influence with the Ethio-Semitic languages. These and other linguistic properties of CC are discussed in this chapter.
The Central Sudanic family consists of some sixty languages that are spoken in the center of Africa. According to Greenberg, who coined the label, it is part of the Nilo-Saharan phylum (this point is, however, debatable and not addressed here). The chapter discusses the genetic unity of Central Sudanic, a hypothesis that still needs to be confirmed by application of a strict comparative-historical method. After reviewing previous internal classifications, it establishes five consistent subgroups, plus several ‘indeterminate’ languages. The subgroups are then submitted to a series of criteria—lexicostatistics, distribution of likely cognates, regular consonantal correspondences, derivational affixes, and syntactic typology—which lead to the provisional conclusion that these subgroups represent more or less equidistant parts of a genetic Central Sudanic unit. It considers whether the linguistic distance between languages spoken in such a limited area can simply be explained by diversification.
The Chadic family is best known by Hausa and its 45 million speakers, while the other 170 or so languages count between 500,000 and a few thousand. Given their common genetic origin, what does it mean to be a Chadic language, not only in terms of retentions and innovations from their common Afro-Asiatic origin, but also from a typological point of view? The chapter begins by listing and locating the Chadic languages, while making an attempt at estimating their number of speakers. It then characterizes the typical Chadic language, describing its phonology, morphology, sentence structure, and function marking. The next section studies the relationship between Chadic and Afro-Asiatic in terms of retention and innovation. The section after that explores the typology of the Chadic family and its relationship with the Macro-Sudan belt and Africa as a linguistic area. The conclusion presents a brief assessment of the development of Chadic linguistics.
Christopher P. Dunn
Climate change is arguably one of the most pressing issues facing humanity. The implications for natural ecological (terrestrial and marine) and agricultural systems are enormous. The diminishment and extinction of native species and the increase in number and impact of invasive species are well documented. As natural systems are altered, the local communities and indigenous groups that have co-evolved with, and depend on, native plants and animals are challenged to maintain their integrity and livelihoods. Thus, the erosion of biological diversity can lead directly to the erosion of cultural and, thusly, linguistic diversity. Here the ramifications of climate change with respect to cultural and language endangerment are examined, with particular emphasis on island systems, ecological calendars, civil conflict, and migration. Strong mitigation and adaptation strategies will be essential for cultural and language survival.
Gary B. Palmer
Emotion language has been the object of intensive study in recent years, both in cognitive linguistics and in anthropology. Cognitive and anthropological linguists are struggling to parse out the influences of heredity, basic experience, and culture on semantics. This article focuses on the intersection of cultural knowledge with the semantic component of cognitive grammar. It examines research in two broad semantic domains: agency and emotion and spatial orientation. There is no presumption that these categories have folk or emic status in other languages; their status is merely analytic. In actual case studies, one seeks to discover how speakers themselves delineate their semantic domains. One can think of other semantic domains that linguists and anthropologists have studied, from kinship and illness to botany, anatomy, and the earmarkings of reindeer. This article discusses new approaches and findings in each of the selected domains that offer promise for anthropological linguistics. It focuses on studies demonstrating strong interdependencies between grammar and culture, but shows that the findings do not support a strong Whorfian position on the determination of perception by grammar.
Gabriela Pérez Báez, Rachel Vogel, and Eve Okura
Language revitalization aims at reversing language shift. This chapter seeks to expand knowledge about ongoing efforts to sustain the use of languages by means of a study that goes beyond the relatively limited number of often cited case studies that have been reported in the relevant literature, and endeavors to document the diversity of efforts around the world for the purposes of comparative analysis. The authors report on the results of a pilot of the Global Survey of Language Revitalization Efforts carried out by Recovering Voices (National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian) in collaboration with the Linguistics Department at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. This survey is, to their knowledge, the first attempt at analyzing revitalization comparatively across cultural and geographic contexts to shed light on correlations among variables that foster positive outcomes in language revitalization—and on correlations that may represent challenges.
Kenneth L. Rehg
Dictionaries play an essential role in documenting and conserving endangered languages. However, many such languages lack dictionaries, for a variety of reasons. A fundamental one is that relatively few linguists have had any training in lexicography. The purpose of this chapter, therefore, is to provide a preliminary guide to compiling a dictionary by envisioning that task as the production of a product. The creation of any successful product entails at least five steps—research, preliminary planning, design and construction, distribution, and support. Each of these steps is briefly discussed here, with an emphasis on dictionary design, described in terms of the dictionary’s macrostructure, microstructure, and megastructure. Legal and ethical issues are also briefly considered. The primary goal of this chapter is to urge researchers to undertake the creation of a dictionary, and to provide them with a conceptual framework to do so.
David Harmon and Jonathan Loh
Numerous studies have confirmed that there is a striking congruence between the global distributions of species diversity and language diversity. In both, richness and diversity generally increase at latitudes closer to the Equator. A variety of explanations has been offered; fundamentally, it appears that similar evolutionary processes, working on key biogeographic and environmental factors, are the cause. Advances in statistical analysis promise a deeper understanding of the overlap. The status of and trends in species and language diversity also show remarkable similarities when two leading indicators, the Living Planet Index and the Index of Linguistic Diversity, are compared at a global scale. Likewise, an analysis using IUCN Red List criteria reveals comparable levels of threat. At regional scales, however, differences emerge between trends. An integrated, biocultural approach to conservation is proposed as the most effective response to the parallel extinction crisis of species and languages.
Copyright and other legal concerns are enumerated in this article. Fieldworkers normally think of copyright as something that they will have to deal with later when they have returned home and are involved in writing up and publishing, and not something to worry about when they are busy in the field with data and text collection, participant observation, or controlled experiments. At one time this may have been the case, de facto if not legally. But nowadays, when people are sensitive to the reach of copyright and the protection of indigenous intellectual property rights, failure by the linguist to pay attention to copyright concerns in the field could create unpleasant complications later, cause frictions for future researchers, and even present obstacles to using one's own research materials.
This chapter analyzes the specific characteristics of corpora of endangered languages from a corpus linguistic perspective. Therefore it starts with a definition of the central notions of corpus and text and then investigates how the heterogeneous language documentation corpora may fit into a general typology of corpora. The third section looks at the genres and registers that for methodological and theoretical reasons are typical for language documentations, whereas the fourth section deals with the structure of corpora and how texts of a particular content, genre or register can be accessed in archives. The format of the texts, which are typically annotated audio and video recordings, is described in the fifth section and deals with metadata, transcription, orthography, translation, glossing, and syntactic annotation. How annotated corpora can be analyzed for grammatical and lexical research is shown in the sixth section. The last section summarizes the specific features of language documentation corpora.