In search of island treasures: Language documentation in the Pacific

François, Alexandre
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University of Hawai'i Press
The Pacific region is home to about 1,500 languages, with a strong concentration of linguistic diversity in Melanesia. The turn towards documentary linguistics, initiated in the 1980s and theorized by N. Himmelmann, has encouraged linguists to prepare, archive and distribute large corpora of audio and video recordings in a broad array of Pacific languages, many of which are endangered. The strength of language documentation is to entail the mutual exchange of skills and knowledge between linguists and speaker communities. Their members can access archived resources, or create their own. Importantly, they can also appropriate the outcome of these documentary efforts to promote literacy within their school systems, and to consolidate or revitalize their heritage languages against the increasing pressure of dominant tongues. While providing an overview of the general progress made in the documentation of Pacific languages in the last twenty years, this paper also reports on my own experience with documenting and promoting languages in Island Melanesia since 1997.
Pacific languages, Melanesia, online archives, vernacular literacy, linguistic repatriation
François, Alexandre. 2018. In search of island treasures: Language documentation in the Pacific. In McDonnell, Bradley, Andrea L. Berez-Kroeker, and Gary Holton. (Eds.) Reflections on Language Documentation 20 Years after Himmelmann 1998. Language Documentation & Conservation Special Publication no. 15. [PP 276-294] Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.
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