LD&C Special Publication No. 16: Methodological Tools for Linguistic Description and Typology

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    Whole volume
    (University of Hawai'i Press, 2019)
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    Front matter
    (University of Hawai'i Press, 2019)
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    Front cover
    (University of Hawai'i Press, 2019)
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    A proposal for conversational questionnaires
    (University of Hawai'i Press, 2019) François, Alexandre
    This paper proposes a new approach for collecting lexical and grammatical data: one that meets the need to control the features to be elicited, while ensuring a fair level of idiomaticity. The method, called conversational questionnaires, consists in eliciting speech not at the level of words or of isolated sentences, but in the form of a chunk of dialogue. Ahead of fieldwork, a number of scripted conversations are written in the area’s lingua franca, each anchored in a plausible real-world situation – whether universal or culture-specific. Native speakers are then asked to come up with the most naturalistic utterances that would occur in each context, resulting in a plausible conversation in the target language. Experience shows that conversational questionnaires provide a number of advantages in linguistic fieldwork, compared to traditional elicitation methods. The anchoring in real-life situations lightens the cognitive burden on consultants, making the fieldwork experience easier for all. The method enables efficient coverage of various linguistic structures at once, from phonetic to pragmatic dimensions, from morphosyntax to phraseology. The tight-knit structure of each dialogue makes it an effective tool for cross-linguistic comparison, whether areal, historical or typological. Conversational questionnaires help the linguist make quick progress in language proficiency, which in turn facilitates further stages of data collection. Finally, these stories can serve as learning resources for language teaching and revitalization. Five dialogue samples are provided here as examples of such questionnaires. Every linguist is encouraged to write their own dialogues, adapted to a region’s linguistic and cultural profile. Ideally, a set of such texts could be developed and made standard among linguists, so as to create comparable or parallel corpora across languages – a mine of data for typological comparison.
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    Video elicitation of negative directives in Alaskan Dene languages: reflections on methodology
    (University of Hawai'i Press, 2019) Lovick, Olga ; Tuttle, Siri G.
    In this paper, we describe the use of video stimuli for the targeted elicitation of negative directives in Denaakk’e (Koyukon) and Nee’andeegn’ (Upper Tanana), two severely endangered Alaskan Dene languages. Negative directives are extremely rare in our previously collected data, yet they exhibit a great variety of forms. Forms further seem to depend on several factors, particularly on whether the prohibited act violates social norms known as hʉtlaanee/įįjih. To better understand the variety of on-record and off-record forms, we created video clips showing activities violating hʉtlaanee/įįjih and activities that are merely foolish or mildly dangerous. After viewing the clips, our consultants were asked to advise the actors as if they were their grandchildren. Their responses were discussed at length with the speakers. The speakers greatly enjoyed this task and produced a great variety of on-record and off-record responses including some unusual linguistic structures. In both languages, offrecord expressions were preferred over direct ones, particularly in situations where hʉtlaanee/įįjih was involved. We also identified several conventionalized off-record strategies. The emphasis on hʉtlaanee/įįjih made the task interesting and relevant for speakers. While our stimuli are designed for work with Alaskan Dene, the method can be adapted for cultural contexts around the world.