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Linguistic and technical training as a community empowerment tool

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Title: Linguistic and technical training as a community empowerment tool
Authors: Vinas-de-Puig, Ricard
Balna, Mayangna Yulbarangyang
Issue Date: 14 Mar 2009
Description: This paper addresses linguistic technical training of members of the community, under a Participatory Action Research approach. We show how it can be a contributing factor to obtain an egalitarian relationship between the speaking community and the external researchers. Also, this training increases the self-sufficiency of the indigenous team, and facilitates their role as agents in research, while being an effective element to facilitate the community’s empowerment process and strengthen their agentive role in linguistic research. The project concerns the Mayangna community of North Eastern Nicaragua. The Mayangna linguists’ team, a team of indigenous linguists, had been established in the mid 1990’s and had been working on the collection of oral history, traditional folktales, and life stories. The team had also received linguistic training. At this point the need to consolidate the linguistic data and its analysis called for an optimization of the handling of the data. The external member of the team provided, then, the technical training for transfer and annotation of the linguistic data collected, which involved the following steps: (a) the use of (video, audio) equipment for (new) data recording, (b) the conversion of the collected data from analog to digital format, (d) the transfer of the linguistic data into ELAN software, and (c) its use for transcription and annotation. The external researcher arranged an ELAN template with the different fields relevant for the actual annotation: original text, sentence, word category, lexical meaning, inflectional information, and Spanish and English translations. The Mayangna team worked with this template in the training sessions, where the whole process (a-d above) was reviewed step-by-step. Once the training sessions were completed, the team of local linguists was able to do the actual recording, transferring and annotation tasks by themselves. These materials will be used in the bilingual educational system, in radio-broadcasting programs and for cultural revival activities. This experience of PAR, involving the equal collaboration of members of the Mayangna community and external researchers, provides an example of how a multi-faceted, continuous linguistic training enhances the process of decision making by the members of the speaking community, since the members of the community, as owners of the data, decide what kinds of elements are to be collected and analyzed and, eventually, what the research will focus on. Besides, this training component results in the empowerment of the language community, as it contributes to their self-sufficiency and autonomy as a linguistic team.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:1st International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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