Recording to revitalize: Designing documentation with language teachers in mind

Taylor-Adams, Allison
Taylor-Adams, Allison
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Starting Page
Ending Page
Alternative Title
Current literature on best practices in documentary linguistics outlines priorities for language documentation (e.g. Woodbury 2003, Himmelman 2006) and also emphasizes the importance in collaborating with communities when deciding what to record (e.g. Mosel 2006). However, documentation designed for analysis, and driven by a community’s immediate priorities, may still fail to provide the necessary resources for future language revitalization projects. This talk reports on the resource needs identified in interviews with current teachers of endangered and sleeping languages and highlights elements that are not currently prioritized in documentary best practices. Language pedagogy is a central component of many communities’ programs for maintenance and revitalization of their languages. This paper is based on interviews with several teachers of Native North American languages working within one region of the US. Some are non-Native specialists with formal training in language pedagogy, who assist community members in developing and teaching their languages; some are community members themselves. Previous studies (e.g. King 2003) have highlight failures to use best practices in teaching endangered languages in the classroom and have stressed the need for better training for community language teachers, a call that has been heeded over the years. The participants in this study have all received training in language pedagogy, and many of them also have graduate level training in linguistics. What they illustrate is that even the best trained teachers can only do so much in the absence of linguistic resources. Even the most thoughtful documentation project can leave gaps that challenge future teachers of the language. The scholarly needs of a trained linguist or the immediate needs of a community will not necessarily meet the future needs of teachers in revitalization programs. For example, a community may prioritize the recording of traditional stories and important ceremonies, but a language teacher will later discover a gap in vocabulary for everyday activities or informal conversation. Some of the languages represented in this study have been “sleeping” for a generation or more, a situation that many more communities will face in the coming years. The experiences and struggles of these language teachers, and the gaps they identify in the corpora available to them, highlight domains of language use that should be added to the priorities of both linguists and communities when designing documentation projects with future revitalization in mind. References Himmelman, N. P. (2006). Language documentation: What is it and what is it good for? In J. Gippert, N. P. Himmelman, & U. Mosel (Eds.), Essentials of Language Documentation. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. King, K. A. (2003). Language pedagogy and language revitalisation: Experiences from the Ecuadorian Andes and beyond. In Transcending Monolingualism: Linguistic Revitalisation in Education. Lisse, The Netherlands: Swets & Zeitlinger Publishers. Mosel, U. (2006). Fieldwork and community language work. In J. Gippert, N. P. Himmelman, & U. Mosel (Eds.), Essentials of Language Documentation. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Woodbury, A. (2003). Defining documentary linguistics. In Language Description and Documentation: Vol. 1. London: School of Oriental and African Studies.
Geographic Location
Time Period
Related To
Table of Contents
Rights Holder
Local Contexts
Email if you need this content in ADA-compliant format.