Documenting sociolinguistic variation in lesser-studied indigenous communities: Challenges and practical solutions

Date
2017-06-01
Authors
Mansfield, John
Stanford, James
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Publisher
University of Hawai'i Press
Abstract
Documenting sociolinguistic variation in lesser-studied languages presents methodological challenges, but also offers important research opportunities. In this paper we examine three key methodological challenges commonly faced by researchers who are outsiders to the community. We then present practical solutions for successful variationist research on indigenous languages and meaningful partnerships with local communities. In particular, we draw insights from our research with Australian languages and indigenous languages of rural China. We also highlight reasons why such lesser-studied languages are crucial to the further advancement of sociolinguistic theory, arguing that the value of the research justifies the effort needed to overcome the methodological difficulty. We find that the challenges of sociolinguistics in these communities sometimes make standard variationist methods untenable, but the methodological solutions we propose can lead to valuable results and community relationships.
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Citation
Mansfield, John and James Stanford. 2017. Documenting sociolinguistic variation in lesser-studied indigenous communities: Challenges and practical solutions. In Hildebrandt, Kristine A., Carmen Jany, and Wilson Silva. (Eds) Documenting Variation in Endangered Languages. Language Documentation & Conservation Special Publication no. 13. [PP 116-136] Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press
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