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Bridging gaps: Documentation, description, and revitalization as mutually beneficial, integrated counterparts

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Title: Bridging gaps: Documentation, description, and revitalization as mutually beneficial, integrated counterparts
Issue Date: 12 Mar 2015
Description: Documentation and description of endangered languages has traditionally been the purview of academic linguists, while revitalization is often viewed as applied work of greater interest to speech community members. Separating documentation, description, and revitalization can create an artificial hierarchy wherein pedagogical materials are secondary to and derivative of documentation. Rather than view these as disparate activities, we argue for an integrative approach that bridges the endeavors and reframes them as equal, concurrent, and non-derivative. We maintain that approaching them as counterparts of a single enterprise strengthens all. Re-envisioning the relationship from sequential to concurrent is essential to creating a more robust corpus that better meets the needs of all stakeholders. As opposed to mining documentary corpora for teaching aids after the fact, both speech community and academic community goals are considered from the beginning and are reflected in all aspects of a project.

We will discuss the integration of documentation, description, and revitalization from a methodological perspective illustrated with our own fieldwork. Case-study examples emphasize practical ways of integrating revitalization with documentation by working with community partners to set mutually beneficial goals and develop an integrated workflow from the outset of a project (c.f. Author 1, 2011). For instance, members of the community where Author 1 works have begun a revitalization project that includes a teaching component. While planning curriculum for particular high frequency forms, community teachers and Author 1 discovered that the forms of interest were under-described in existing academic literature. This eventually led to both a more thorough academic description (c.f. Author 1, 2014) and a way to teach the constructions these forms appear in. The description is now part of a bigger typological work, AND teachers are better able to convey aspects of the language in use. Had Author 1 been focused solely on documentation and description to the exclusion of revitalization, she may not have become aware of or may have overlooked this gap in existing descriptions of the language. Both formal teaching and academic description were enriched by supporting revitalization concurrently with documentation.

Teaching curricula, lessons, and other such materials, thus, are not viewed as products to be delivered as an academic linguist's "giving back" to a speech community, but instead are integral to maximally useful documentation. We hope this talk will be part of an ongoing conversation theorizing a methodology for endangered languages research that integrates documentation, academic description, and revitalization.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:4th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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