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Title: Problems and benefits of web-based tools for language documentation 
Author: Cablitz, Gabriele; Chong, Fasan; Tetahiotupa, Edgar
Date: 2009-03-14
Description: This paper reports on a project within the DoBeS-program in which a digital multimedia encyclopaedic lexicon is created for the endangered Marquesan and Tuamotuan languages of French Polynesia with the newly developed lexicon tool LEXUS. The web-based editing possibilities of LEXUS allow the speech communities to be more actively involved in the documentation of their languages. Modern information technology and internet facilities which are more and more accessible in the remotest areas of the world make it technically possible to continue the cooperation between researchers and speech communities outside fieldwork periods. This paper discusses the problems and benefits connected with such an approach as well as a design of collaborative workspaces which has been developed together with the Tuamotuan speech community. It is not sufficient, simply to make a web-based tool available to ensure online cooperation, nor can one assume that an encyclopaedic lexicon will be easily created in a wiki-like manner by the speech community. For a successful online cooperation with LEXUS, it is a prerequisite that speech community members have substantial training in the basics of lexicography and the usage of linguistic software. Apart from these basic linguistic and IT requirements, there are community-internal obstacles to overcome as well. A web-based encyclopaedia creation is not without conflict in highly endangered speech communities. The indigenous languages of French Polynesia are currently undergoing rapid linguistic change caused by French, the dominant contact language, and depending on the age of the consultants and their upbringing, speech community members do not necessarily share the same metalinguistic and cultural knowledge about words. The continuous loss of their linguistic and cultural heritage also feeds into many insecurities of the speakers and are often ground for conflicts between speech community members in what is authentic and not authentic knowledge. Even if only the most knowledgable are invited to contribute these, mostly older, community members often cannot read or write, not to mention their lack of IT skills. They have to learn to cooperate with younger community members who have good IT skills, but often lack knowledge of the indigenous language or culture. Last but not least, the LEXUS tool needs a quality-based system of collaborative workspaces with a committee of moderators who evaluates the input of speech community members. The selection of suitable moderators is a further issue which speech communities need to address.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/5003
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

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