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.
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.
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.
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.
Humans have a long history of watching the sky and incorporating the sky into their culture in the form of art and stories. This article tries to explore the importance of cultural astronomy for linguists. They developed uses for the sky such as for timekeeping and night navigation. As with other parts of their natural environment, humans continued to watch and learn about the sky to better their lives throughout their history, resulting in an aspect of environmental adaptation that is often overlooked by scholars today. This article begins with definitions presented as a first step towards thinking about the many ways that people relate to the sky. This crash course in cultural astronomy should enable the reader to collect relevant information with some rigor and confidence. The interdisciplinary field of cultural astronomy is currently dominated by astronomers, and the goal here is to increase linguists' awareness of astronomy as a topic in field research, leading to them attending cultural astronomy meetings and publishing in cultural astronomy journals. Cultural astronomy is broadly defined as the study of the relationship between humans and the sky. There are a couple of working definitions that provide details of this relationship such as that of Campion ‘the use of astronomical knowledge, beliefs or theories to inspire, inform or influence social forms and ideologies, or any aspect of human behaviour’.
Anthony K. Webster
This article argues for the continuing importance of ethnopoetics/cultural poetics in the work of linguists and anthropologists. A heuristic definition of ethnopoetics (or cultural poetics) is given as the various traditions of such recurrent patternings of linguistic forms (and the thwarting of such expectations of such patternings). The continuing relevance of a Hymesian-inspired anthropological philology is noted. After framing the discussion of poetry and poetics as both linguistic and ethnographic questions, this article engages questions of linguistic relativity and its relationship to poetics, as well as poetry and poetics as social practices. Examples of parallelism and metaphor are given and discussed both in relation to their poetic form and to their social work. A final extended illustration is given concerning Navajo poetry as an example of a cultural poetics informed by both linguistics and anthropology. It is argued that research on cultural poetics/ethnopoetics encourages patience and reflection.
Academic work with endangered languages has been criticized for failing to consider speech community members' needs. Recent calls to better integrate speech community needs have led many researchers to explore the notion of collaborative language documentation. This chapter outlines phases in the planning and implementation of a community-collaborative language documentation project drawing from models of sustainable community development and the author’s own experience working with members of the Konomerume, Suriname community. The emphasis is on working with members of a speech community from the outset of a project rather than on “giving back” after academic needs have been met. Collaborative language documentation is defined, phases of a project are described, and potential challenges are discussed.
The goal of this chapter is to provide a blueprint for planning a language documentation project. The scope is limited to the documentation of languages with average vitality but the chapter has relevance to other levels of endangerment as well. Language documentation is improved by key partnerships. By seeking out a supportive network of similarly motivated researchers, the language documenter can learn how to sequence and budget for documentation activities and how to plan workflow and data management so that dissemination and archiving goals are met. Implementing a documentation project as a lone academic or community member is possible, but having partners with complementary expertise can lead to the best results. Creating such teams requires funding and infrastructure so seeking out financial and institutional support is also part of the planning process for a documentation project.
Speakers of the world’s endangered languages are rapidly gaining access to broadband internet on mobile devices. Meanwhile, social mobile technologies continue to transform the way people work together. I believe that conditions are ripe for the development of a new generation of software for endangered languages. This software will enable new ways for linguists to collaborate with speakers in ancestral homelands and worldwide diasporas to produce high-quality large-scale documentation. This chapter sets out a conceptual framework and describes some concrete steps for designing mobile applications for endangered languages, recognizing the special challenges they present, such as reliance on oral materials, lack of established orthography, and lower digital literacy.
This chapter addresses the relationship between language documentation and linguistic theory, focusing on linguistic typology and formal grammar, with particular attention to the understanding of linguistic diversity. It reviews the goals of documentation and of the theories under consideration, and outlines the types of data considered in documentation as well as preferred data types in the two theoretical perspectives. It concludes that, while the questions and preferred types of data are different in linguistic typology and formal grammar, nevertheless language documentation has made strong contributions to each of them, and each of them has made strong contributions to language documentation.
This chapter provides an introduction to endangered sign languages specifically designed for linguists who know little about sign languages but who may have an interest in the documentation of endangered sign languages. Focusing on ten Southeast Asian sign languages, nine of which are endangered or dying and six of which are being documented by fluent Culturally Deaf users trained through the Asian-Pacific Sign Linguistics Program in The Centre for Sign Linguistics and Deaf Studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, this chapter provides information about: the historical relationships of these sign languages, sign language phonology, “alphabetization” of signs by formational parameters, sign language morphology, sign language syntax, and sign language lexicons and lexicography. Finally, the chapter provides some discussion about the possible future of the documentation, conservation, and possible revitalization of endangered sign languages.