Tag Archives: Fieldwork
7/02 Keren Rice (Hale Professor): “Fieldwork and community: Aspects of variation and change”


Keren Rice, University of Toronto
2013 Linguistic Institute Ken Hale Professor
Tuesday, July 2, 2013 7:00 pm
Askwith Auditorium, Lorch Hall
Reception to follow

Read Abstract

During my career, I have been interested in addressing and trying to understand the tension that exists between universality and variability in language; I have also been interested in examining ways of working with people in fieldwork where the role that the people that linguists work with are taken into account, with a focus on people as well as on language. In this talk, I would like to examine variation from two quite different perspectives, a general approach to research and specific research that I have been doing.

I begin from the perspective of approaches to research. In recent years in research on endangered languages in Indigenous communities, there has been a trend towards empowerment, collaborative, and community-based models. These models grow out of social science methodology, the development of Indigenous research paradigms, and societal values such as the notion of giving back. I am an advocate of such models, but I have been experiencing a concern with the unidimensionality that sometimes accompanies the discussion of these models, with value judgment placed, perhaps without even realizing it, which privileges ways of research that involve communities directly in the research, with leadership coming from the community. While there are concerns with hearing community needs, does this mean operating under a model in which everyone works together, or can collaboration be more broadly construed?

I then outline a very different type of variation, the absence, or presence thereof, of variation at a time in the history of the Dene (Slavey) language that has important ramifications for the history of how communities were settled, a topic of interest in the communities. The ethnographic record speaks to the emergence of two varieties of the language in the late 19th or early 20th century, with them being largely undifferentiated prior to this time. This does not fit well with people’s sense of their history. I worked with a dictionary compiled in the late 19th century, and this work reveals that the linguistic varieties were in fact distinct at that time, suggesting that the linguistic record supports the community interpretation of its history.

How do these two topics relate? Both speak to the importance of recognizing variation. The linguistic work provides an interesting counterpoint to a comment by Sapir, speaking of the value of linguistic work to understanding culture, that linguistic research requires a “closeness of knowledge that is often out of proportion to what little can be obtained from it for tangible cultural inference” (Sapir 1936: 224). Yet much is to be learned if we can do this work. In restrictive research models, would such work be done?

In rethinking responsibilities, we may have defined collaboration so narrowly as to devalue valuable work, putting burdens on communities that may, perhaps, not be welcome, while the work itself might be perceived to be of value. A broader construal of collaboration may best serve both community and academic needs so long as that broader collaboration is grounded in relationships, respect, and recognition, allowing a range of types of work to thrive.



7/03 The Grammar of Happiness and Q&A Session with Dan Everett

Showing of film “The Grammar of Happiness”
Introduction and question-answer session with Dan Everett
July 3, 2013 7:00 pm
Auditorium, Kraus Natural Science Building

7/07 Examples in Revitalization Fieldwork – Anishinaabemowin in the Great Lakes

July 7, 2013, 10 am – 1 pm
2407 Mason Hall

Organizer contact: Meg Noori (mnoori@umich.edu)

See Workshop Description

This workshop will focus on the tools and techniques of language revitalization. The workshop will focus on Anishinaabemowin, an endangered North American language.  Used in several provinces and states in the US and Canada, Anishinaabemowin is the heritage language of over 200 native nations.  Although there are numerous dialects, it provides the structural core of language shared by Potawatomi, Ojibwe and Odawa people, also known as the Three Fires Confederacy.  For hundreds of years, the language has been written by traders, translators and teachers.  Despite its widespread history and level of literacy, Anishinaabemowin declined in use during colonization and only recently has the younger generation begun seeking ways to incorporate it into their daily lives.

Fieldwork in Anishinaabemowin requires a strong awareness of dialect similarities and differences as well as generational variance in use and support.  All contacts need to be placed in historical and cultural context in order to maximize the potential use of any linguistic data gathered.  We will talk about phonological, as well as ethnographic data.  We will also look at how to best capture important information while meeting both the linguists’ needs as well as the cultural and curricular needs of the community.

With a particular emphasis on song, ceremony and poetics, we will listen to lyrics from the early 1900s, mid 1900s and the present and attempt to document important linguistic and cultural detail.  Questions for discussion will include: What meta-data is important to gather about recordings?  How can data not volunteered be surmised and respected? What phonological elements vary and how does linguistic and folk representation of sound impact an archive? How can speakers and scholars combine their knowledge of morphological elements?

Lastly, we will talk about the politics of representation and preservation and explore some of the ways Anishinaabemowin is archived at the University of Michigan in Deep Blue, the Bentley Library, in linguistics and language curriculum and on www.ojibwe.net and Facebook.

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7/16 Lyle Campbell (Collitz Professor): “Contributions from Endangered Language Documentation to Outstanding Issues in Historical Linguistics”


Lyle Campbell, University of Hawai’i, Manoa
2013 Linguistic Institute Hermann and Klara H. Collitz Professor
Tuesday, July 16, 2013, 7:00 pm
Askwith Auditorium, Lorch Hall
Reception to follow

Read Abstract

The goal of this talk is to explore the relationship between Endangered Languages and Language Change (historical linguistics).

(1) I survey the number of known extinct languages and what that implies for historical linguistic research in general — 22% of all known extinct languages become extinct in the last 50 years. Of the c.420 independent language families and isolates, exactly 100 are extinct – nearly 25% of the linguistic diversity of the world has been lost forever. (2) I review the relationship between fieldwork documentation and the working out of aspects of the history of language families, including instances in the history of Indo-European. (3) I investigate the kinds of changes encountered in endangered languages and attempt to evaluate claims about what this means for language change in general and for language typology – for example, I address the claim that sound change in endangered language contexts need not be regular. (4) I look at a specific language documentation project involving several languages of the Chaco region of South America, noting discoveries there that go against general thinking about what is possible in contact induced change, and presenting other cases that provide insights into other aspects of language change.

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Field Methods

Keren Rice – University of Toronto
Course time: Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday 3:30-5:20
2437 Mason Hall
Note: This class may count for double credit.

See Course Description

This course is an introduction to linguistic field methods. We will work with a speaker of a language that none of us know, endeavoring to discover as much as possible about the structure of the language, at all levels – phonetic, phonological, morphological, syntactic, semantic – through a combination of structured questioning and working with texts that we will record from the speaker. The emphasis will be on how to discover the systematicity of an unknown language on its own terms.

Prerequisite: Background in linguistics. Students should be able to transcribe, do morphological analysis, and syntactic analysis.

Recommended co-requisite: Tools for Language Documentation (Claire Bowern)

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Semantic Fieldwork Methods

Judith Tonhauser – Ohio State University
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 1:30-3:20 pm
2347 Mason Hall

See Course Description

This course introduces participants to the methodology of collecting semantic/pragmatic data in collaboration with linguistically untrained native speaker consultants.

Data that may inform semantic/pragmatic theorizing are typically quite complex, consisting of 1) one or more grammatical sentences that are 2) uttered in an appropriately designed context, and 3) a native speaker’s judgment about the acceptability or the truth of the sentence(s) uttered in that context.

The goal of the course is to familiarize students with the empirical, theoretical and methodological considerations relevant to obtaining such data. In particular, topics to be discussed include the kinds of judgments obtainable from native speakers, distinguishing syntactically ill-formed from semantically/pragmatically anomalous sentences/utterances, the importance of context and how to appropriately control for it, reporting semantic/pragmatic data, and the generalizability of results.

The course also examines the benefits of and difficulties with exploring semantic/pragmatic research questions through texts. The relative merits of one-on-one elicitation and controlled experiments with linguistically untrained native speakers are also considered.

Although much of the data provided for in-class discussion comes from Paraguayan Guaraní (Tupí-Guaraní), in particular studies of temporal and nominal reference, and of presuppositions and other projective contents, the course aims to prepare participants to conduct semantic/pragmatic fieldwork on any topic in any language. Note that this course does not have a regular practical component during which course participants work with a native speaker consultant; Professor Keren Rice’s field methods course (http://lsa2013.lsa.umich.edu/2012/05/field-methods/) is highly recommended for this purpose.

This course is targeted at students already familiar with formal syntax, semantics and pragmatics who wish to collect data with native speakers, as well as students who already have experience in conducting research with native speakers and want to extend their research to semantic/pragmatic topics. Interested course participants should contact the instructor (judith@ling.osu.edu) with questions about the course content and suitability.

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Tools for Language Documentation

Claire Bowern – Yale University
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 9:00-10:50 am
2330 Mason Hall

See Course Description

This four-week course will cover a selection of the software, hardware, and stimulus kits/surveys which are most useful in documenting languages. The course will begin with an overview of software tools for organizing language data, including Toolbox and Elan, and hardware (e.g. audio and video recorders) for making recordings. Week 2 will focus on tools related to grammatical documentation (e.g. in the writing of reference grammars) and will include the use of structured stimulus kits, questionnaires, and tools for organizing transcripts and analytical data. Week 3 will focus on corpus planning and the collection of narratives and conversational data. Week 4 will concentrate on software and techniques for lexical elicitation, along with collection archiving. Each class will have a practical component and class participants are encouraged to bring their own data sets; however, data samples will also be available for those who need them. Some familiarity with general linguistics is presumed.

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