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Large-scale language documentation in Nepal: A strategy based on SayMore and BOLD

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Title: Large-scale language documentation in Nepal: A strategy based on SayMore and BOLD
Authors: Khadgi, Mari-Sisko
Issue Date: 04 Mar 2017
Description: In 1998 Himmelmann brought to light the importance of collecting primary data, especially in languages that are threatened. Hence different people have been thinking about ways to accelerate the process and especially how to get past the bottleneck of time-consuming transcription of audio recordings. Woodbury (2003:45) brought up the possibility of doing transcriptions orally: “starting with hard-to-hear tapes and asking elders to ‘respeak’ them to a second tape slowly so that anyone with training in hearing the language can make the transcription if they wish." Similarly, he proposed that translations of the recorded texts could quickly be captured by recording spontaneous oral translations. Taking the lead from this, the BOLD (Basic Oral Language Documentation) method was introduced by Simons in 2008. (The BOLD method is discussed in great detail in Reiman 2010 and Boerger 2011.) SIL then developed a software tool named SayMore to help people to do documentation using the BOLD method (Hatton 2013; Moeller 2014, 2015). Even though SayMore has been used in different parts of the world by both trained linguists and local language speakers, until now only Moeller (2015) has reported a case study. This paper presents a case study on how four nationals, without any previous linguistic training, have been taught to use this easy-to-learn software and the BOLD method very successfully in Nepal. Over the past couple years, this small team has done high-quality recordings in 14 languages of Nepal (two having less than ten speakers). For nine of these languages the recordings total more than 10 hours, even up to 17 hours, and involve 70-100 speakers per language. Depending on the number of technicians and mother-tongue facilitators dedicated to a project, it takes approximately 4-6 weeks to complete one project. In this paper I give details on how the nationals were trained, on the plan and timing for a typical project, and on the size and scope of all the corpora that have been collected. I then go on to discuss the key factors of the success of this strategy and some challenges with this strategy. Overall, the BOLD method using SayMore has proven highly effective. The projects have been very well received in the communities. For most of them this is the first time their language has been recorded and they are very excited to be listening to their language. References Boerger, Brenda H. 2011. To boldly go where no one has gone before. Language Documentation & Conservation 5: 208-233. Hatton, John. 2013. SayMore: Language documentation productivity. Paper presented at the 3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC). University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, 28 February 2013. Himmelmann, Nikolaus P. 1998. Documentary and descriptive linguistics. Linguistics 36(1): 161-195. Moeller, Sarah R. 2014. SayMore, a tool for Language Documentation Productivity. Language Documentation & Conservation 8: 66-74. Moeller, Sarah R. 2015. Developments in SayMore: The language documentation tool for citizen scientists. Paper presented at the 4th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC). University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, 28 February 2015. Reiman, D. Will. 2010. Basic oral language documentation. Language Documentation & Conservation 4: 254-268. Simons, Gary F. 2008. The rise of documentary linguistics and a new kind of corpus. Paper presented at the 5th Natioanl Natural Language Research Symposium. De La Salle University, Manila, 25 Nov 2008. Woodbury, Anthony C. 2003. Defining language documentation. In Peter K. Austin (ed.), Language Documentation and Description 1: 35–51. London: SOAS
Appears in Collections:5th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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