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Reusing manuscript vocabularies, an example from Western Australia

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Title:Reusing manuscript vocabularies, an example from Western Australia
Authors:Thieberger, Nick
Contributors:Thieberger, Nick (speaker)
Date Issued:02 Mar 2013
Description:In this paper I will address a general problem of working with manuscript vocabularies in a way that permits them to be used in various ways, including in language revitalisation work. I will illustrate with the example of a collection of papers made by Daisy Bates, an ethnographer who collected many vocabularies of Australian Indigenous languages in the early 1900s. She printed and distributed 500 copies of a questionnaire with 1,838 prompts, mainly for vocabulary, but including some sentence examples. This questionnaire was then filled in by a variety of observers, with different approaches to writing the local language. Some 200 completed questionnaires were then typed so the collection now includes 4,800 pages of typescripts and 8,600 pages of completed manuscript questionnaires representing 123 individual speakers in as many locations. Copies of this paper material are held in two state libraries and in the National Library of Australia.

Individual vocabularies from this collection have been used in various ways in the sixty years that they have been available, including in language surveys, comparative work, and in Native Title cases. Typically a vocabulary was typed and analysed according to the needs of the particular project, and no copy of the digitised version was kept.

In this project the typescripts have been retyped as structured text using XML, specifically using the Text Encoding Initiative1 (TEI) guidelines for text markup. Because of the problem of reading the diverse range of handwriting it is useful to have both the textual version and the image of the manuscript available, and to allow users to annotate the resulting material. Structured text will allow searching, sorting, retrieving and recombining items in the collection in new ways, for example, providing a geographic representation of the wordlist, a comparative list of all terms, and downloadable versions of wordlists for reuse in classrooms, among others. I will assess the usefulness of the TEI in structuring the vocabularies and illustrate the current state of the project.
Rights:Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections: 3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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