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Interwoven: material culture, museums and lexicography

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Title: Interwoven: material culture, museums and lexicography
Issue Date: 28 Feb 2013
Description: Interdisciplinary approaches to language documentation can reflect connections between disciplines over time, as well as at the same time. This paper describes the roles that anthropology, cultural heritage, and linguistics play in a language documentation project in the Solomon Islands.

The Longgu (lgu) community of Guadalcanal is engaged in developing a thematic dictionary on weaving: learning how to write definitions, choosing headwords, and drawing on the disparate knowledge of weavers, elders who remember seldom-used words, and teachers. A dictionary workshop, held in July 2012, highlighted the value of being able to draw on earlier anthropological work in undertaking lexicographic work today. The anthropological legacy consisted of an extensive photographic collection and a study of the society that included information about house construction, domestic tasks and feasts, all of which involve woven products.

Access to the photographic collection was gained through a current interdisciplinary project that connected the museums and archives where the images were held with a linguist (the author) and an anthropologist focusing on cultural heritage. While the anthropological work was done nearly 80 years ago, the careful archiving of the material enables new work to be done. The interdisciplinary nature of the current work is exemplified by the community’s intended outcomes for the language documentation project: a dictionary, but also examples of the products described and defined in the dictionary, as well as a special ‘project house’ to display them. Through involvement in a project that brought two Longgu speakers to view and annotate the photographic images in 2012, there is increased community awareness of the importance of preserving and caring for cultural objects; one way in which the community is doing this is by building a house for this purpose.

This interdisciplinary approach can be likened to a woven product: the threads are becoming more difficult to disentangle. This can be seen from a current cultural heritage project with the Longgu community that incorporates its lexicographic endeavors as an example of life today. Just as the anthropologist, 80 years ago, deposited his field notes and photographs of the community in the archives as a reflection of his experience of that community, now the community has been invited by one of the museums that houses the cultural heritage of the
Longgu people to document aspects of their daily life for display in the museum. The community’s lexicographic work forms part of that reality.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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