When? Tuesdays 3:30-5:00PM
Where? 1303 Dwinelle Hall
What? We are a working group dedicated to the critical examination of methodologies in language documentation, description and revitalization, as well as to the linguistic and ethnohistorical analysis that falls out from that work. Our aim is to learn from and ultimately improve upon methods for carrying out more rigorous, insightful and ethical linguistic and cultural fieldwork, and to help researchers implement those methods.
How? Fieldwork Forum is made possible through a Working Group Grant provided by the Townsend Center for the Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley.
Who? FForum is organized by Julia Nee and Erik Maier. We welcome all those interested in linguistic fieldwork, with all levels of experience, including those in other departments.
See a list of our past talks here
2017.09.19 Sawyer Scholarship Presentations (Meeting will be held from 4:00 to 5:00PM)
The word order of classifiers, adjective phrases, possessive phrases, and demonstrative phrases in Vietnamese noun phrase.
Hoa Luong (UC Berkeley)
This project presents basic characteristics on nominal word order in Vietnamese and provides descriptive facts that in Vietnamese, classifiers serve as prenominal modifiers whereas adjective phrases, possessive phrases, and demonstrative serve as post-nominal modifiers. The project provides worksheets for practicing syntactic distribution of these elements in Vietnamese noun phrases.
Effect of Speaker on Nonword Repetition Task in Monolingual and Bilingual Children
Claudia Valdivia (UC Berkeley)
Preliminary Schedule (Fall 2017)
2017.08.09 Discussion of Summer Fieldwork
2017.09.05 Emily Remirez (UC Berkeley)
Using OpenSesame in elicitation contexts
This presentation is intended as a hands-on, workshop style exploration of the experimental tool OpenSesame and one example of how it was used in an elicitation context. OpenSesame is a user-friendly tool that uses familiar drag-and-drop interfaces to build Python-based experiments that linguists and consultants can interact with to gather linguistic data of many types. The goal of the talk is to inspire discussion about uses of this tool in elicitation or fieldwork settings and to equip those who’d like to use it with the resources to do so. Slides from the talk, as well as additional tools and resources, can be found here.
2017.09.12 Robert Bringhurst
Literary Megafauna, Old-Time Linguistics, and the Dinosaur in the Room
For students of oral literature, the golden age of Americanist linguistics is 1890–1940: the half-century in which Boas, Bloomfield, Dorsey, Gatschet, Goddard, Hewitt, Uhlenbeck, and Boas’s many students and grand-students took thousands of pages of dictation in more than a hundred Native American languages. And to students of oral literature, languages, however fascinating in themselves, are more fascinating still when put to literary use. Arguably, then, the most important thing that North American linguists have done since is to analyze, edit, and study this vast literary corpus.
There are other opinions. To some linguists, literature is simply another field entirely, possibly as different from linguistics as astrology is from astronomy. And to some cultural theorists and identity politicians, “literature” is a phony colonial category, inapplicable and maybe downright threatening to Native American cultures.
My own view is that literature, like language, is a human universal, and that it is, like clean air and fresh water, a universal good. It can be poisoned and polluted, but a healthy cultural ecosystem will eventually restore it. (Healthy cultural ecosystems are admittedly now in very short supply.) Like Dell Hymes and Dennis Tedlock, I also think that the architecture of works of oral literature is linguistically just as interesting as the architecture of words, phrases, and sentences. In addition, it seems to me that literature, like language, is the magic food: a dish that even in tiny quantities nourishes all who partake yet is never consumed.
2017.09.19 Sawyer Scholarship Presentations (Meeting will be held from 4:00 to 5:00PM)
2017.09.20 GAIL Meeting (Meeting will be held at 6:00PM; details can be found here)
2017.09.29 Lev Michael (UC Berkeley)
2017.10.03 Andrew Garrett, Julia Nee, and Zachary O'Hagan (UC Berkeley)
Archiving your data in the California Language Archive
2017.10.10 Ryan Bennett (UCSC)
Previous Talks (Fall 2016 and Spring 2017)
2017.08.09 Discussion of Summer Fieldwork
2017.05.10 Terry Regier (UC Berkeley)
2017.04.26 Peter Jenks (Berkeley)
Writing grammars: Confessions of a syntactician
What is a "userfriendly" dictionary anyway?
In this talk I will report on a different kind of fieldwork relating to dictionary-making: not the perhaps more familiar kind where the linguist works with speakers to document the language and create a dictionary, but a secondary kind where the linguist works with community members to turn an existing dictionary made in the traditional way into a resource that can be used in local revitalization efforts.
I will first introduce the Blackfoot Language Resources and Digital Dictionary project (http://blackfoot.atlas-ling.ca), which I direct at the University of Lethbridge. This project began its life as a digital repatriation project with the back-digitization of an existing print dictionary. The next phase of the project works toward turning it into a digital resource that is helpful in revitalization work, in particular in Blackfoot language classes in local schools. The dictionary is part of a site that also includes grammar pages, a story archive and other resource pages and can be extended with other elements as it develops, such as lessons and games.
I will then present for discussion a few issues we are currently working through and which have not found a final solution. All these issues relate to the dictionary itself and our efforts to make it "userfriendly". Some questions include: Userfriendly for who? How best to handle issues around orthography? How much cultural and other encyclopedic information to include? How to prioritize the addition of media such as images, audio and video (especially in relation to limitations of funding and time)? How much and what kind of grammatical information to include? How to handle dialectal and generational variation? I will show what we have done so far, what we think already works pretty well, and what still needs further consultation with users.
2017.04.12 Brook Lillehaugen (Haverford College) Note: this meeting will be held through GAIL and will take place at a different time during the evening on 04/12.
Archives, morphological analysis, and XML encoding: interdisciplinary methods in the creation of an online corpus of endangered language texts
Zapotec (Otomanguean), an indigenous language family of Oaxaca, Mexico, has a long record of alphabetic texts, the earliest dating to 1565 (Oudijk 2008). Interpreting these colonial documents can be difficult because of the challenges of early orthography, grammar, and printing conventions. In this talk I describe how linguistic knowledge and interdisciplinary methods can be brought to bear on this corpus of texts in order to facilitate the use of the historical material by non-specialists. I describe the project Ticha: a digital text explorer for Colonial Zapotec (Lillehaugen et al. 2015), which allows users to explore multiple layers of these texts, including images of the original documents, transcriptions, translations into English and modern Spanish, linguistic analysis, and commentary.
Access to these texts has consequences outside of the field of linguistics, including history, in which indigenous Zapotec writings have been largely ignored, apart from the work of a small handful of ethnohistorians. Moreover, this historical corpus of texts exists alongside modern Zapotec speaking communities, many of whom do not know that these texts exist. There is great value in having a demonstrable written history, especially to speakers of a language that is marginalized. For speakers of Zapotec who are resisting language loss and discrimination, the fact that there are historical written texts can serve as a point of valorization, and the texts themselves can be important instruments for language revitalization.
2017.04.05 Robert Geary (Elem Indian Colony)
Robert Geary is a member of the Elem Indian Colony of Pomo Indians of Lake County, California. He is the tribal community language instructor, leader of the traditional ceremonial roundhouse, and the Founder and President of the Clear Lake Pomo Cultural Preservation Foundation. In 2001, Robert began learning and documenting the Xai-tsnoo language from the last two Southeastern Pomo speakers, Loretta Kelsey and Elvira (Patch) Wilder. Robert and Ms. Kelsey participated in the Master Apprentice Program under the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival and were consultants for a field methods class at UC Berkeley. Robert recently returned to college to pursue a degree in Native American Studies to help preserve his native culture and language. Robert will discuss his experience working with the last fluent Xai-tsnoo speakers, linguists, and archival materials to revitalize his heritage language.
2017.03.22 Gabriela Caballero (UCSD)
Writing grammars: tone and morphological structure in Choguita Rarámuri (Uto-Aztecan)
In this talk I report on some challenges that arise in writing a grammar of Choguita Rarámuri (CR), a tonal Uto-Aztecan language of Northern Mexico. CR exhibits a three-way lexical tonal contrast that plays a role in the morphological organization of the language: tone has a paradigmatic role, both in terms of its association to other aspects of word prosody and in an autonomously morphological way. Given that tone is also involved in the intonational encoding in this language,characterizing the ways in which tone participates in morphological structure vs. the lexical phonology and intonation raises questions as to how to structure its description: what is the best way of characterizing these complex interactions between different modules of the grammar? Are there specific formats that are preferable in terms of potential audiences (typologists, Uto-Aztecanists or language learners)? This talk also addresses the ways in which the reference grammar of CR will be linked to a documentary corpus in order to provide access to data on variation in prosodic structure.
2017.03.15 Chris Beier (UC Berkeley)
2017.03.08 Bernat Bardagil-Mas (UC Berkeley)
How to manage blind spot dangers in language description
This talk follows up on previous forums this semester on language description and grammar writing. In the last months I have become increasingly aware of the internal and external biases that a field linguist can be an unaware victim of. I would like to create a discussion about how certain conceptual and theoretical assumptions that operate under our radar can influence both our description of a language and the process of committing to a particular grammatical description. The discussion will kick off with approaches to grammatical relations by looking at particular cases of Amazonian languages, including Katukina-Kanamari, Trumai and Panará. The usual disclaimer holds: No real solutions should be expected.
2017.03.01 Hannah Sande (UC Berkeley)
Challenges in developing an orthography
As fieldworkers we are often confronted with the task of developing an orthographic system for the languages we work on. In this talk I detail the challenges that have arisen in working with the Guébie community to develop an orthography for use in community language materials. These challenges range from the representation of tone to differences of opinion between linguists and community members. I present the difficulties I have faced in developing a Guébie orthography in collaboration with community members, and I leave for discussion a number of unsolved problems in the Guébie orthography project, and in orthographic development in general.
2017.02.22 GAIL Meeting Note: this meeting will take place at a special time during the evening on 02/22.
2017.02.15 Ruth Rouvier, Amy Avishay, and Frederica Priyanto (UC Berkeley)
Language Documentation and Revitalization, and Impacts on Child Learners
Slides for this talk can be accessed here.
Documentation of endangered languages provides critical linguistic resources to efforts to support endangered language (re)learning in community and institutional contexts. However, to date there has been very little research focused on exactly how, why, and to what extent documentation benefits these efforts, and subsequently how to achieve better cohesion between documentation practices and revitalization goals. Similarly, there is little documentation of child language acquisition of endangered languages, important for understanding these unique language learning situations and for shedding light on language change in endangerment contexts. There are also questions regarding extra-linguistic benefits that may result from efforts to maintain or re-introduce an endangered language into the community using language documentation resources.
We discuss the preliminary findings of an interdisciplinary working group of researchers and practitioners who met in October 2016 to address the role of language documentation in language revitalization activities, and the impact of these activities on the crucial population of learners ages 0-5. The group is made up of researchers and educators from a variety of disciplines and communities, including descriptive and applied linguistics, public health, pedagogy, psychology, education policy, and child development. This group came together with the goal to build a network capable of moving forward with research on language endangerment and revitalization across disciplinary divides. We considered the impacts of language documentation and revitalization from an interdisciplinary perspective, including increased fluency and number of speakers; improved mental and physical health; improved academic outcomes (both in assessment scores and retention rates); sense of cultural identity and leadership skills; and stronger community and family connections. We reviewed existing research on these issues, and identified areas needing further exploration as well as methodological concerns for future research.
2017.02.08 Jed Pizarro (UCSC)
Out of the lab and into the field: An auditory masked priming study in Dabaw Bisaya spoken word recognition
Most of our knowledge about how humans process language comes from psycholinguistic data on Western languages (and a handful of East Asian languages). Traditionally, these behavioral data are collected in laboratory settings. Recently, there’s been a growing interest in “field psycholinguistics.” Researchers have started taking experiments out of the lab and applying laboratory methodologies to lesser studied languages. This movement, while promising, requires for existing methodologies to be adapted so that they become simpler, more portable, and less culturally entrenched. In this talk, I discuss one of the experiments that I conducted in Davao City, Philippines in January 2017.
The study had two goals: one empirical and one methodological. The first goal was to examine the effect of nasal substitution (NS), if any, on lexical access. NS is a pan-Western Malayo-Polynesian phenomenon where a prefix-final nasal fuses with a stem-initial obstruent (Zuraw, 2010). Does NS obscure the recognition of the verbal stem and thus, impede word recognition in real-time? Framed differently, can the hearer “undo” phonology quickly to access the putative parts of a complex word? I investigated this question with respect to NS in Dabaw Bisaya, a variety of Cebuano (Austronesian) spoken in Davao City.
The second goal was to explore auditory masked priming (AMP; Ussishkin et al., 2015), the auditory analog of visual masked priming (VMP; Forster & Davis, 1984), the technique commonly used to investigate morphological decomposition and more generally, lexical processing. The study sought to validate whether the robust priming effects found in VMP can be replicated using AMP. If validated, its implications are far reaching: we could use it to investigate morphological decomposition and lexical processing in child language, and languages with no standard orthography, those that are predominantly unwritten, and use such data to bear on theories of lexical access.
2017.02.02 Rosa Vallejos (University of New Mexico) Note: this meeting will take place at a special time, namely on Thursday 02/02 from 12:30 - 2:00.
2017.01.25 Andrew Garrett (UC Berkeley)
Writing Grammars: Lesson 1
The eponymous lesson(s), for myself, emerge from problems I've faced in grammar writing after struggling to think of the appropriate organization of linguistic analysis in a medium used by typologists, theoreticians, text scholars, and language teachers (and learners). The major issue I want to talk about is "emic" vs. "etic" approaches to derivational morphological, syntactic, and semantic description. If time permits, I'll also talk about paradigmatic vs. item-and-arrangement descriptions of inflectional morphology. No real solutions should be expected.
2017.01.18 Konrad Rybka (UC Berkeley)
2016.11.29: Myriam Lapierre (UC Berkeley)
The Role of Theory in Language Documentation: The Panará Project
In this talk we discuss the connection between language documentation, language description and linguistic theory, and we put forward the advantages of rethinking traditional approaches to language documentation into a process with a higher degree of involvement of theoretical linguistics.
We then discuss one such example in the authors’ ongoing linguistic work on Panará (Jê) in Central Brazil to document the language and develop materials for use by the community. A digital dictionary and an orthography reform are the concrete materialization of the Panará community’s desire and request. Developing a functional orthography is the first step necessary to text transcription, and consultation with native speaker consultants naturally informs the phonological description. In addition, recorded and transcribed texts provide documentation materials on Panará language and culture, which at the same time feed the digital dictionary with lexical entries, contexts of use and recordings. The linguistic analysis necessary to articulate the various parts of the Panará documentation project is at the same time directly tied to the authors’ own research interests.
The way in which the documentary, descriptive and theoretical elements are combined is fine-tuned to the specific needs and interests of both the speaker community and the researchers involved in the project, resulting in a process with a big community participation that still meets the scientific goals of the linguist's research.
2016.11.21: Ruth Kramer (Georgetown University) NOTE THIS MEETING IS ON MONDAY 2016.11.21 9:00-10:30AM
In Amharic, a bare noun can be interpreted as referring to one or more entities. In this talk, I investigate the properties of these number-neutral nouns and argue that, rather than being (pseudo)incorporated, they are DPs that lack a NumP projection. I then take a close look at the individual variation in the presence/properties of number-neutral nouns across speakers and speculate on why this variation occurs. I close with some reflections on doing fieldwork on Amharic and Ethiopian languages in general.
2016.11.15: Kelsey Sasaki (UC Santa Cruz)
Predicate Initiality in Hawai'i Creole
This work in progress investigates predicate-initiality and pronoun-doubling in Hawai'i Creole (HC). Initially documented by Sakoda and Siegel (2003), adjectival predicates can appear sentence-initially in simple declarative contexts. In my recent fieldwork, I found that only certain adjectival predicates can participate in the construction:
(1) Context: You are describing your friend Kimo/the house up the street to me.
a. Smat (ah) Kimo/him. 'Kimo/He is smart.'
b. *Yellow (ah) da house. 'The house is yellow.'
This work investigates (i) the semantic distinctions between the predicates that can be initial and those that cannot; (ii) diachronic analyses of the phenomenon, focusing on Japanese and Hawaiian as possible sources, and (iii) the phenomenon's relation to right periphery pronoun doubling in HC, which also occurs in regional Englishes. I discuss challenges that emerged in elicitation, including working with monolingual HC speakers and difficulties eliciting HC at all from HC/English bilinguals. I also seek feedback on designing a database for both the general public and linguists, developing HC learning materials, and filling out the HC predicate-initiality paradigm.
2016.11.01: Vera Gribanova (Stanford University)
Uzbek verbal and non-verbal predicate formation
2016.10.25: Andrew Garrett, Erik Maier, Zachary O'Hagan, and Ronald Sprouse (UC Berkeley)
Archiving your language materials in the California Language Archive
2016.10.18: Rose-Marie Déchaine (Univerisity of British Colombia)
2016.10.11: Amalia Skilton (UC Berkeley)
P'urhepecha Negative Shift and Cyclic Linearization
Janitzio P'urhepecha (island of Janitzio, Lake Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico) is a VO language, but negative objects (and negative nonsubjects more broadly) obligatorily appear to the left of the verb. On the basis of new field data, I explore the properties of this phenomenon (negative shift) and note a constituent-order paradox: a negative object must precede the verb; the verb can raise very high (to Mood); but a negative object cannot raise very high. I present a solution to this paradox in terms of cyclic linearization (Fox & Pesetsky 2005, Engels 2012, a.o.). On the methodology side, I discuss some challenges I have faced in investigating this phenomenon, including prescriptivism and interspeaker variation in the form of the negative phrases.
2016.09.27: Ethelbert Emmanuel Kari (University of Botswana)
On the Status of Subject Markers in African Languages
This paper discusses the status of subject markers in African languages, noting that although the grammatical functions of these morphemes are fairly clear, their status as affixes or clitics is not clear. Consequently, subject markers have been analyzed as affixes in some languages and as clitics in others, or even as affixes and clitics in the same language by different researchers working on the language. The paper adopts a descriptive approach. It highlights the fact that in some African languages, subject markers that were previously analyzed as morphological affixes have now been reanalyzed as clitics. It notes that subject markers (and object) markers in African languages appear to be more of clitics than morphological affixes. Given the analysis and reanalysis of subject markers as morphological affixes and/or clitics in the languages discussed herein, the paper recommends that researchers working on African languages having subject markers should look beyond some general or cross-linguistic diagnostic features and possibly combine such cross-linguistic criteria with language-internal pieces of evidence in establishing the status of these bound morphemes as genuine morphological affixes or as syntactic clitics.
2016.09.20: Jason Ostrove (UC Santa Cruz)
Much work has indicated that morphological (m-) case assignment is formally divorced from nominal licensing (Marantz 1991, Bobaljik 2008). The picture which emerges is that morphological case is assigned post-syntactically. Furthermore, recent work has indicated that other morphological processes like allomorphy selection and phi-feature valuation may be sensitive to linear order (Embick 2010, Arregi & Nevins 2012, Bhatia et. al. 2009, Bhatt & Walkow 2013). This talk explores the possibility that m-case is likewise sensitive to linear order (Adger 2000). I present novel Scottish Gaelic data collected in August, 2016 to argue that an adequate understand of these requires m-case assignment algorithms be sensitive to linear information. These data come from prepositional ("dative") case assignment, which is subject to tremendous cross-dialectal and cross-generational variation, requiring us to likewise confront questions of language change and dialectal landscapes.
2016.09.13: Virginia Dawson (UC Berkeley)
2016.09.06: No Meeting
2016.08.30: Welcome back!