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Preserving data: The paper phase

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Item Summary Grimes, Joseph 2009-04-02T18:07:20Z 2009-04-02T18:07:20Z 2009-03-14
dc.description One object of documenting languages is to make their data available not only to oneself, but to speakers and nonspeakers who have no direct access because they are in different places or in later epochs of time. The enabling event in collecting data is the capture in written form, by native speakers or linguists, of a suitable quantity of utterances in the language whose meaning is approximated by translation into a world language. Getting this material together is an inherently messy process, however much we idealize crisp audio recordings and well transcribed and annotated text files, with or without an analysis. No matter how astute the language consultant or how gifted the linguist, initial transcriptions are inevitably sprinkled with skips, mishearings, on-the-spot editing, slips of the pen or the keyboard, initial stabs at translation that miss the point, interference of discourse patterns between spoken and written media – even when the recording is fresh and the language consultant is doing the work. This is the reason many linguists find it makes their final archivable reporting more accurate to go through a phase of making notes on paper, going back and reconsidering everything, reannotating it until they and their consultants are collectively satisfied that they've got it. And those records can be a source of insight to later scholars if they are in a form that can be preserved. Recently I had occasion to revisit data collected in field work decades ago, before practical archiving standards for language were worked out and more stable media came on the scene. The paper phase, especially the mundane realities that go along with paper, ink, and storage, stood out as a necessary prerequisite to being able to do anything at all with the data. In an isolated field situation, it was necessary to develop a disciplined approach to the handling of manuscript materials. Even in the so-called electronic age, we do well not to play down the handwritten parts of the process.
dc.language.iso eng
dc.rights Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
dc.title Preserving data: The paper phase
dc.contributor.speaker Grimes, Joseph 2009-03-12 2009-03-14
Appears in Collections: 1st International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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