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The Sign Language Documentation Training Center

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Title: The Sign Language Documentation Training Center
Issue Date: 12 Mar 2015
Description: The Sign Language Documentation Training Center (SLDTC) offers workshops and linguistic training to users of threatened sign languages: currently American Sign Language (ASL) and Hawai‘i Sign Language (HSL). Currently in its third iteration, the SLDTC aims to train participants to document their own languages in ways that make the information useful for interested parties; it also aims to increase awareness of language endangerment and encourage signers to think critically about their participation in language revitalization. The final goal of successful completion of the workshops is for participants to publish an annotated ELAN file with various tiers for transcription, making this valuable information on sign languages available to a wider range of users.

The philosophy behind the SLDTC has its roots in the Language Documentation Training Center (LDTC), a volunteer run initiative developed by graduate students at the Department of Linguistics at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. The LDTC was conceived as a way to document and conserve endangered languages spoken throughout the world, and targets the many speakers of these languages who come to UH Mānoa to study. Since its founding in 2004, the LDTC has documented over 100 languages, and made these projects available on the Internet, and in the Kaipuleohone archive. These workshops formed the basis of the workshops initially offered in the first iteration of the SLDTC.

The acute need for sign language documentation was made apparent by the recent validation of Hawai‘i Sign Language as a distinct and highly endangered language. This collaboration is taking place between Kapi‘olani Community College, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and researchers from the Centre for Sign Linguistics and Deaf Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Participants include Deaf researcher, Deaf community members, and ASL interpreters. The expertise available has allowed the workshop leaders to develop best practices for sign language documentation, and to get immediate feedback on these practices from native signers.

The work has been rewarding, but not without its challenges. Finding users of endangered sign languages in the Honolulu metro area is problematic, as is adapting workshops and materials originally intended for spoken languages. Practical issues have also surfaced during past workshops: time, technological, and orthographic constraints. SLDTC participants have been motivated, insightful, and knowledgeable. They and the workshop leaders view the project as a success that contributes to linguists’ knowledge of sign languages and the best practices for documenting them.
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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