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When language documentation requires experimental design: Documenting stress in western Indonesia

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Title: When language documentation requires experimental design: Documenting stress in western Indonesia
Authors: McDonnell, Bradley
Issue Date: 03 Mar 2017
Description: Language documentation research has demonstrated the advantages of collecting naturally occurring discourse, harkening back to Boas (Woodbury, 2011), and targeted examples through direct elicitation (Evans, 2008). However, as the field continues to expand its methodologies (e.g., in documenting language use and ethnobotany, evidenced in the third ICLDC), simply balancing these two data collection methodologies is not always sufficient. This paper demonstrates how the use of experimental methodologies in data collection is necessary to document stress in many of the world’s languages and subsequently provides practical advice for documentary linguists to implement experimental methodologies in doc- umenting stress in various languages. For many languages, documenting stress is not at all straightforward. There are two fundamental issues: the acoustic correlates of stress and the domain of stress. Discovering acoustic correlates of stress, even in well-known languages, has been notoriously difficult to pin down and differs cross-linguistically (Gordon, 2011). It requires a carefully constructed wordlist that contains words with comparable vowels in presumably stressed and unstressed environments that are easily measured and minimize microprosodic effects. Determining the domain of stress (e.g., word, accentual phrase) has been found to be more problematic because many linguists conflate the different levels of prosodic prominence (e.g., word-level stress and phrase-level intonational prominence). That is, words are often recorded in isolation, which speakers typically treat as prosodic phrases in of themselves (i.e., single-word prosodic phrases) (Gordon, 2014). Thus, determining the domain of stress re- quires that words appear in different positions within carrier phrases in order to disentangle word-level stress and phrase-level intonational prominence. Because of these and other fac- tors (e.g., boundary tones, information structure), it is extremely difficult, if not impossible to properly document stress using direct elicitation or natural discourse. Building upon the methodologies discussed in Himmelmann & Ladd (2008), this pa- per shows how experimental methodologies were used in a particularly complicated case of word-level stress in Besemah, a Malayic language of southwest Sumatra. It illustrates how documentary linguists can construct and carry out an experiment and subsequent quantita- tive analysis to properly document stress, covering three essential topics: (i) constructing a wordlist by choosing words with comparable vowels in environments that minimize micro- prosodic effects and selecting an adequate number of tokens that are properly randomized for quantitative analysis, (ii) devising carrier phrases that control for position in the prosodic phrase and information structure, and (iii) implementing current methodologies of multifac- torial quantitative analysis using mixed-effects modeling. References Evans, N. (2008). Review of Essentials of language documentation. Language Documentation and Conservation, 2(2), 340–350. Gordon, M. (2011). Stress: Phonotactic and phonetic evidence. In M. van Oostendorp, C. J. Ewen, E. Hume, & K. Rice (Eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Phonology (pp. 924– 948). Malden: Wiley-Blackwell. Gordon, M. (2014). Disentangling stress and pitch accent: Toward a typology of prominence at different prosodic levels. In H. van der Hulst (Ed.), Word stress: Theoretical and typological issues. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Himmelmann, N. P. & Ladd, D. R. (2008). Prosodic description: An introduction for field- workers. Language Documentation and Conservation, 2 (2), 244–274. Woodbury, A. C. (2011). Language documentation. In P. K. Austin & J. Sallabank (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Endangered Languages (pp. 159–176). Cambridge: Cam- bridge University Press.
Appears in Collections:5th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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