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On the role and utility of grammars in language documentation and conservation

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Title: On the role and utility of grammars in language documentation and conservation
Authors: Rehg, Kenneth L.
Issue Date: Dec 2014
Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press
Series/Report no.: LD&C Special Publication
Abstract: The National Science Foundation warns that at least half of the world’s approximately seven thousand languages are soon to be lost. In response to this impending crisis, a new subfield of linguistics has emerged, called language documentation or, alternatively, documentary linguistics. The goal of this discipline is to create lasting, multipurpose records of endangered languages before they are lost forever. However, while there is widespread agreement among linguists concerning the methods of language documen- tation, there are considerable differences of opinion concerning what its products should be. Some documentary linguists argue that the outcome of language documentation should be a large corpus of extensively annotated data. Reference grammars and dictionaries, they contend, are the products of language description and are not essential products of language documentation. I argue, however, that grammars (and dictionaries) should normally be included in the documentary record, if our goal is to produce products that are maximally useful to both linguists and speakers, now and in the future. I also show that an appropri- ately planned reference grammar can serve as a foundation for a variety of community grammars, the purposes of which are to support and conserve threatened languages.
Sponsor: National Foreign Language Resource Center
ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-0-9856211-4-8
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike License
Appears in Collections:LD&C Special Publication No. 8: The Art and Practice of Grammar Writing

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