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Biology in Language Documentation

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Title: Biology in Language Documentation
Authors: Si, Aung
Keywords: biology
language documentation
indigenous knowledge
Issue Date: Dec 2011
Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press
Citation: Aung Si. 2011. "Biology in Language Documentation." Language Documentation & Conservation. 5: 169-186.
Abstract: The fields of ethnobiology and language documentation have much to offer each other, but for the moment, there are few signs of engagement between practitioners of the two disciplines. In this paper, I argue that projects that seek to document endangered languages can benefit by focusing on the semantic domain of traditional biological and ecological knowledge (TEK), and by engaging in collaborative projects with ethnobiologists. In doing so, researchers not only produce a rich corpus that is culturally relevant and valuable to the language community, but also record information about the natural world that may be of interest to researchers in other fields. The TEK encoded in a language is best and most easily observed in the specialized vocabulary that speakers may employ when talking about various natural phenomena. However, a community’s knowledge of their biological environment extends far beyond the lexicon and into the domain of complex ecological relationships among different organisms. Using examples from my fieldwork in southern India, I argue that it is possible to capture such knowledge in a language documentation program. Other criteria for a good documentation, such as the inclusion of a wide range of speech genres, can also be met while eliciting TEK from language consultants.
Sponsor: National Foreign Language Resource Center
Pages/Duration: 18 pages
ISSN: 1934-5275
Rights: Creative Commons, Non-Commercial No Derivatives License
Appears in Collections:Volume 05 : Language Documentation & Conservation

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