• Language documentation and revitalisation: some methodological issues

    Peter Austin (see profile) , Julia Sallabank
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
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    One of the main responses of academia to language endangerment has been the development of the sub-field of Language Documentation (LD, also called Documentary Linguistics). Himmelmann (1998: 161) presented its main goal as ‘to provide a comprehensive record of the linguistic practices characteristic of a given speech community’ Himmelmann (2006: v) restated this as a focus on ‘the methods, tools, and theoretical underpinnings for compiling a representative and lasting multipurpose record of a natural language or one of its varieties’. This approach emphasizes transparency and multifunctionality, as well as ethical engagement with a wide range of stakeholders, including speech community members. As Himmelmann (1998: 161) also pointed out, LD ‘differs fundamentally from... language description [which] aims at the record of a language... as a system of abstract elements, constructions, and rules.’ The reawakened interest in language practices in context can be traced to the Ethnography of Communication pioneered by Hymes (1964), Ethnopoetics and the study of verbal art developed by Tedlock (1983) and Hymes (1981), and the discourse-based approach of Sherzer (1987), who argues for a change in focus to contextualized language in use rather than fixed objects with grammatical structure. Language Documentation is generally understood as the creation of a corpus of archivable audio, video and textual recordings, and translating and annotating them, paying attention to relevant contextual metadata (Austin 2013). The corpus and analysis should be available and accessible to a wide range of users. These goals have been facilitated by advances in information and communication technologies and digital media, and by large infusions of funding, e.g. from the Volkswagen-Stiftung, the Arcadia Fund and the Documenting Endangered Languages Programme. Both of these developments have influenced the methodologies and directions of research.
    Last Updated:
    6 years ago


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