When? Wednesdays 2:00-3:30PM

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 Tyler Lau. 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

Upcoming Talk

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.

Preliminary Schedule (Spring 2017)

2017.01.18 Konrad Rybka (UC Berkeley)

2017.01.25 Andrew Garrett (UC Berkeley)

2017.02.02 Rosa Vallejos (University of New Mexico)

2017.02.08 Jed Pizarro (UCSC)

2017.02.15 Ruth Rouvier (UC Berkeley)

2017.02.22 GAIL Meeting

2017.03.01 Hannah Sande (UC Berkeley)

2017.03.08 Bernat Bardagil Mas (UC Berkeley)

2017.03.15 Chris Beier (UC Berkeley)

2017.03.22 Gabriella Caballeros (UCSD)

2017.03.29 No Meeting - Spring Break

2017.04.05 Robert Geary

2017.04.12 Brook Lillehaugen (Haverford College)

2017.04.19 TBA

2017.04.26 GAIL Meeting

Previous Talks (Fall 2016)

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.

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.

2016.11.08: No Meeting (FForum members are invited to attend GAIL on the following Wednesday evening 2016.11.16)
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)

Embracing multi-functionality: a case study of Bantu noun-classes 
Numerous methodological issues arise when collecting data in domains where the target items are multi-functional. Although this is difficult terrain to navigate, it is well worth the effort in terms of the rewards gained relative to enriched descriptive, observational, and explanatory adequacy. This case study of multi-functionality will be based on Bantu noun-class morphology, drawing on data from Shona (southern Bantu) and Nata (eastern Bantu). Bantu noun-class prefixes have numerous functions including (this is not an exhaustive list):
(i) coding the canonical number and gender of underived nouns;
(ii) coding the contrast between underived count and mass nouns;
(iii) deriving de-verbal nouns, where they code the contrast between agent, theme, instrument, and event nominals;
(iv) contributing evaluative force, as when a noun-class prefix combines with a non-canonical noun;
(v) honorific marking, a special case of evaluative force, which also involves the combination of a noun-class prefix with a non-canonical noun.
The presentation has two goals. First, to discuss and get feedback on the most effective way of gathering a complete and representative data set of the different contexts where one encounters multi-functional noun-class prefixes. Second, to discuss the implications of the multi-functionality of noun-class morphology, as most treatments — whether phonological, morphological, syntactic, or semantic — do not take this into account in either the description or analysis of noun-classes. In particular, the multi-functionality of noun-class prefixes indicates that:
• their phonological behavior can be used to investigate the activity of  “minimal word size” constraints, as well as to investigate allomorphy across word-classes;
• their morphological status — especially as regards the divide between inflection and derivation — is less deterministic than most current accounts countenance;
• their organization both confirms and calls into question widely accepted notions of paradigm structure; 
• their syntactic deployment is much more flexible than most current accounts countenance;
• their semantic denotations are much more abstract than most current accounts countenance.
More broadly, though discussion will focus on Bantu N-class prefixes, the methodological problem of controlling for multi-functionality when gathering data presents itself in numerous domains. Consequently, in the interests of developing more granular descriptions, the challenges raised by systemic and pervasive multi-functionality is of vital interest to all fieldworkers. The presentation will close with general comments on the diagnostic tool-kit needed to detect, and play with, multi-functionality.

2016.10.11: Amalia Skilton (UC Berkeley)

Cushillococha Ticuna in a Canonical Typology of noun class
This talk describes for the first time the typologically unusual noun class (gender) system of the Cushillococha dialect of Ticuna, an isolate spoken in northwestern Amazonia. Corbett's (1991) typological survey of noun class presupposes that all noun class systems share two features: noun class (a) exhaustively partitions the lexicon and (b) is an invariant feature of lexical entries which cannot be manipulated to semantic or pragmatic effect. Neither of these generalizations, I show, holds in Ticuna. A large proportion of nouns are underspecified for class, and speakers systematically manipulate noun class agreement to convey both truth-conditional meanings, such as non-specificity, and non-truth-conditional ones, such as social deixis. This is troublesome for our understandings both of noun class -- can this analytic concept stretch to cover cases where agreement is meaningful? -- and of social deixis, which is often understood to hang on the conventional implicatures of specific lexical items (Levinson 2004, Potts 2005). I also comment on methods for successful elicitation of 'optional' agreement and information-structurally sensitive lexical items.

2016.10.04: Eric Zyman (UC Santa Cruz)

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)

Scottish Gaelic

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)

Investigating Indefinites
Cross-linguistic data on indefinite pronouns and determiners is important both for typological studies, and semantic and syntactic theory. In this talk, I discuss what to look out for when documenting a language's indefinites, along with how to collect that information. The discussion is organized around my investigation of indefinite pronouns in Tiwa, a Tibeto-Burman language of Northeast India. There will be room in the talk to bring up data you have/are encountering, so please feel free to bring any along.

 No Meeting
2016.08.30: Welcome back!