Fieldwork Forum (FForum)

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 documentation, revitalization, and revival, as well as 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 Edwin Ko. We welcome all those interested in linguistic fieldwork, with all levels of experience, including those in other departments. To join our mailing list, write to jnee at berkeley dot edu.

See a list of our past talks here

Upcoming Talk

TBA: Check back for our Fall 2018 schedule in August!


Preliminary Schedule (Spring 2017)

2018.01.17 Karee Garvin and Christine Beier (UC Berkeley)

A FForum discussion on ethical issues in fieldwork

Building on our dynamic and fruitful discussion on ethical issues in fieldwork in October, we invite you to participate in another discussion this Wednesday, centered on the two themes given below.  As before, we two will offer some introductory orienting remarks to get the conversation started; we will moderate the discussion as necessary; and notes from the discussion will be made available subsequent to the event.  

Theme 1, first half of meeting:  Having privilege in an underprivileged community

Theme 2, second half of meeting:  Negotiating self-representation in fieldwork settings

2018.01.24 Edwin Ko and Line Mikkelsen (UC Berkeley)

Reporting on the Expanding Linguistic Science By Broadening Native American Participation workshop

The Expanding Linguistic Science By Broadening Native American Participation workshop, which took place during the 2018 LSA Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, focuses on "identifying, valorizing, and disseminating the intellectual tools and cultural values of [Native] communities as a way to improve linguistic science." The goal of the workshop, as partially gleaned from the title, is to broaden Native American participation by better integrating their needs and values about language into this scientific enterprise. As participants of the workshop and as part of our commitment to disseminate the knowledge from this workshop widely, we share the highly stimulating discussions from the workshop that cover a variety of critical topics and domains.

2018.01.31 Juan Esteva Martínez (UC Berkeley)

Diidxa záa Language: Developing Technology to Preserve and Promote the Diidxa záa (Zapotec Indigenous Language).

The University of California, Berkeley (UCB), the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (ISSI) in collaboration with Kaltlamachtiloyaj tlen Nauatlachamanaltianij A. C. (KANA) or Institute for the Revitalization of the Nahuatl Language, the Joseph A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues, the Program for the Study and Practice of Indigenous Languages and Cultures (PSPILC), and the University of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (UNISTMO) propose a research project that will focus on the study, use, and revitalization of the Diidxa záa indigenous language of Mexico.  The purpose of this collaborative effort will be to develop and implement user friendly technologies (apps, websites, and databases) that will be used to teach and learn the Diidxa záa indigenous language.  The innovative component of this proposal is that it creates a bridge between the Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematic fields, the Social Sciences, and the Humanities.  Furthermore, the project will produce practical knowledge that will benefit the Oaxaqueño binacional community. In other words, the project will bridge knowledge from different areas such as Computer Engineering, Design Engineering, Linguistics, and the Humanities in order to establish a knowledge society that addresses the needs of the binational Diidxa záa knowledge communities.

2018.02.07 Denis Bertet (Université Lumière-Lyon 2, DDL research center, France)

How to make the most out of one morpheme: disentangling the inflectional morphology of Ticuna’s finite predicative head

In San Martín de Amacayacu Ticuna (SMAT; Colombian Amazon, isolate), object (OBJ) and subject (SBJ) indexes constitute two almost complete paradigms that regularly procliticize (among other proclitics) to finite predicative heads, with the former coming first and the latter second (e.g. ʨā=ʨíbɯ̀ (1SG.SBJ=eat), ‘I eat’; tá=ʨíbɯ̀ (3.C4.SBJ=eat), ‘he/she/it/they eat’; tɯ̄=ʨā=ʨíbɯ̀-ʔẽ́ʔẽ̄ (3.C4.OBJ=1SG.SBJ=eat-CAUS), ‘I feed him/her/it/them’ – tilde indicates nasality, accents transcribe tonemes, and “CX” stands for “nominal agreement class nºX”). However, each of these two paradigms displays some empty cells for certain persons or agreement classes. The language makes use of interesting morphological and tonological strategies to almost unambiguously compensate for these “lacks”. Analyzing these strategies will contribute to a synchronic and diachronic understanding of the intricate inflectional morphology and morphotonology of the finite predicative head in SMAT. Among other things, I will try to account for the observation that some morphemes can act both as OBJ or SBJ indexes depending on their morphosyntactic context. This talk will also “reveal” an intriguing case of nominal class agreement through tonal change. This work in progress will mostly be based on first-hand data collected in 2015-2017.

2018.02.14 No meeting

2018.02.21 Julia Nee (UC Berkeley)

A round robin presentation of didactic materials for endangered and less commonly taught languages and discussion of how we can share these resources

In this session of FForum, participants are invited (but not required!) to share materials that they have developed or used in teaching, revitalizing, or revalorizing endangered and less commonly taught languages.  We will also discuss the repositories for teaching materials that are available, as well as what we can do to archive and share our materials to allow other language teachers, activists, and learners to use our materials in their own ways.

2018.02.28 Sara Chase (UC Berkeley)

Coyote as teacher, theorist and language revitalist: Discussions on the xontehł-taw na:tinixwe mixine:whe immersion camp

Na:tinixwe Mixine:whe, or the language of the Hupa people in far Northern California, is currently endangered. With just a few first language speakers left, all over the age of 70, it is a critical time within the Hupa community to take action. The language did not become this way by chance, but was rather a result of settler colonial policies and ideologies that attempted to eliminate it through settler colonial schooling. Yet, through resistance and refusal, the Na:tinixwe have been able to hold on to their language, albeit in reduced numbers. This presentation will discuss a recent initiative within the community to strengthen revitalization efforts. The xontehł-taw language immersion camp, hosted in July of 2017, brought together elders, language teachers, parents, youth and 5-6 year olds to reclaim time and space for Na:tinixwe Mixine:whe. The curriculum was based off of a xontehł-taw (coyote) story told by one of the last fluent
speakers of the language. Each day these 5-6 year olds would listen to this story told by this elder in Na:tinixwe Mixine:whe and learn more phrases each day. They would also learn the traditional lessons of their Na:tinixwe ancestors: don’t be greedy, don’t deceive to get your way. These lessons are not only to taught as simple lessons for children, but also speak to the broader teachings of Na:tinixwe ancestors, these teachings are in direct opposition to those of settler capitalism: accumulate money and property, take any measures necessary. This presentation will share the knowledge gained through teachings these stories, its theoretical and practical implications. Lastly, it will discuss how community led language initiatives and linguists can partner to create meaningful curriculum and programming.

2018.03.07 No meeting

2018.03.14 Konrad Rybka (UC Berkeley) Note: This is a GAIL meeting that will take place at 6pm.

2018.03.21 Kayla Palakurthy (UC Santa Barbara)

Investigating Variation in Diné bizaad (Navajo)

This talk will discuss an ongoing project investigating synchronic variation in Diné bizaad (Navajo), a Southern Dene/Athabaskan language spoken in the American Southwest with data drawn from interviews conducted in 2016 and 2017 with 51 bilingual Diné bizaad/English participants. Though the Diné community has a rich shared linguistic and cultural tradition, variation among Diné speakers exists due to regional, generational, and sociocultural diversity. I will give an overview of recent analyses with a focus on variation in the usage of the Diné particle nít’ę́ę́’. I argue that there is evidence of earlier polygrammaticalization of this particle into a discourse sequencer, often indicating sudden or new events, and into a marker of habitual past time. Further, synchronic patterns point to ongoing changes in how the particle is used; younger speakers (<45 years old) show signs of phonological renewal, while increasing their frequency of nít’ę́ę́’ in the past time function. In addition to presenting results from the Diné language, I welcome broader discussion of methods for conducting variationist analyses in small indigenous communities and potential applications of this line of research to language maintenance efforts.

2018.03.28 No meeting (Enjoy spring break!)

2018.04.04 Maho Morimoto and Andrew Hedding (UC Santa Cruz)

Nido de Lenguas at UC Santa Cruz and Senderos

2018.04.11 Andrew Garrett and Erik Maier (UC Berkeley)

Karuk texts from 1901-1902: Language, philology, and narrative

In this presentation we describe an editorial project whose goal is to present Karuk-language versions of the four Karuk texts transcribed by A. L. Kroeber in 1901-2 work with Mrs. Bennett, Johnny Gorham, Martha Horn, and Little Ike. These constitute the earliest known documentation of Karuk above the sentence level. Because Kroeber did not know and had not worked much with Karuk, and unlike his fellow Boas student Edward Sapir wasn't a transcribing superstar, there are obvious challenges of interpretation. All four texts are narratives with echoes and iterations in later Karuk sources, facilitating the linguistic interpretation and affording some insights into narrative variation.

2018.04.18 Daniel Hieber (UC Santa Barbara)

Lessons from an isolate: Chitimacha diachrony in area perspective

Within historical linguistics, language isolates are often viewed as a problem. Their isolate status makes it difficult to peer into their history, and internal reconstruction is generally thought to be of limited utility. Campbell (2013:170–172) briefly discusses how historical linguists might productively gain insights into the diachrony of language isolates, but notes the “frequent sentiment that it is not to be tolerated that there should be languages with no relatives” (p. 170).

Chitimacha (ISO 639-3: ctm) is one such isolate from Louisiana. It was documented extensively by Albert S. Gatschet, John R. Swanton, and Morris Swadesh from 1881–1934 (Gatschet 1881a; Gatschet 1881b; Gatschet 1883; Swanton 1908; Swanton 1920; Swadesh 1939), and its last native speaker passed away in 1939. Very little has been published on the language, and the majority of what has been published reflects the sentiment mentioned by Campbell – attempts to resolve Chitimacha’s isolate status by incorporating it into this or the other language family (Swanton 1919; Swadesh 1946; Swadesh 1947; Haas 1951; Haas 1952; Gursky 1969; Brown, Wichmann & Beck 2014). None of these proposals has been widely accepted (Campbell & Kaufman 1983; Kimball 1992; Kimball 1994; Campbell 1997).

This talk attempts to view Chitimacha’s status not as a problem to be solved, but as a potential treasure trove of insights into the social and linguistic history of both the Chitimacha language and the Southeast U.S. more generally. Because of the limited accessibility of the Chitimacha corpus until recently, and the prevailing interest in language classification, the precise nature of Chitimacha’s participation in the Southeast linguistic area has until now remained largely uncertain. This talk uses language-internal evidence to shed some initial light onto that history and the relationship between Chitimacha and the other languages of the Southeast.

In this talk I examine the language-internal evidence for the diachrony of three major grammatical features of Chitimacha: positional auxiliary verbs, switch-reference, and agent-patient alignment. Using archival data from Morris Swadesh (1939), I show that each of these features has a clear, language-internal diachronic pathway, wherein existing lexical and grammatical material were recruited for these new functions. However, each of these features is shared by other unrelated languages of the Southeast U.S., suggesting that their development in Chitimacha was in fact motivated by contact. How then did Chitimacha borrow these structural features without borrowing any lexical or grammatical material?
Following Mithun (2012), I propose that multilingual speakers in the Southeast carried over discourse-level patterns of managing information flow into Chitimacha, and that as these discourse patterns became more frequent and routinized, they grammaticalized into major features of Chitimacha grammar. It is not grammatical structures themselves that are borrowed, but rather a preference for packaging information in discourse in ways that parallel grammatical structures in the original language.

The existence of these shared structural patterns between Chitimacha and other languages shows that Chitimacha is indeed situated firmly within the Southeast linguistic area. Chitimacha’s isolate status, rather than forming a barrier to our understanding of Southeastern history, in fact provides a unique window into the history of the Southeast, as well as mechanisms of contact-induced grammatical change.

2018.04.25 No meeting

2018.05.02 Zachary O'Hagan (UC Berkeley)

A Phonological Sketch of Atorai (Arawak, Guyana) Based on Unique Recordings

In 1965, G. Kingsley Noble, Jr. (1923-1994), then a professor at San Jose State University, carried out several weeks of linguistic fieldwork in the Rupununi river basin of Guyana, principally among speakers of Wapishana, an Arawak language. With the help of a Wapishana-speaking translator, Noble additionally recorded two speakers of Atorai (ISO 639-3:aox; aka Ataroi, Atorada, etc.), a related language now with only rumored native speakers (Meira, p.c.) -- they were elders Christine George and Felix Xavier. These reel-to-reel audio tapes were recently digitized by the Berkeley Language Center for the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages, making them widely accessible for the first time. The result is 2.5 hours of lexical elicitation -- resulting in well over 600 unique lexical items -- and a single 2-minute monologue. These  are the only known audio recordings of the language. And they significantly expand upon early word lists, which are otherwise the only source of documentation of this language: 18 items collected between 1817 and 1820 by Carl von Martius (1794-1868), published in 1867; 34 items collected between 1819 and 1820 by Jacob A. van Heuvel (c1787-1874), published in 1844; 192 items collected in 1832 by Johann Natterer (1787-1843), unpublished; 18 items collected between 1840 and 1844 by Robert Schomburgk (1804-1865), published in 1848; and 122 items collected between 1913 and 1916 by William Farabee (1865-1925), published in 1918.

As early as 1848, as part of a British government-sponsored expedition, Schomburgk warned of the small number of speakers of Atorai, writing that: "They belong to the Wapisiana-Parauana family, however they are now nearly extinct. I found in 1843 only seven adults of the pure Atorais [...]. Including those arising from an intermarriage between an Atorai female and a Wapisiana, and their sister-tribe the Taurais or Dauris, there might be about 100 individuals, comprising adults and children." By 1918, following on a University of Pennsylvania-sponsored expedition between 1913 and 1916, William Farabee wrote that: "At present they do not exist as a separate tribe and no longer speak their own language. They have been absorbed by the Wapisianas, whose language is in common use. Very few can speak Ataroi [sic] and the language will disappear with this generation. Only three individuals of pure blood -- one man, a woman relative, and her daughter -- and not more than a hundred half-bloods remain."
In this presentation, I offer a sketch of the segmental phonology of Atorai and situate it in the northern Arawak context, in which the language is shown to be significantly divergent from its nearest relative Wapishana. This is consonant with Schomburgk's characterization: "There is a greater difference than a mere dialectic variation between the Atorai and Wapisiana language; and in some words of similar signification there is neither a relation in the sounds nor in the syllables which express it." I compare the representation of Atorai forms across the 5 different sources; and I discuss the history of the Atorai people from an areal perspective, the ways in which Atorai has featured in classifications of Arawak, and the provenance and trajectories of the known documentation of the language.

2018.05.09 Flavia de Castro Alaves (Universidade de Brasilia and University of Oregon)

Dative Subject in Canela

A set of predicates (nominal and verbal) can occur in constructions that express mental or physical states in Canela. In these constructions, with one or two arguments, the experiencer is overtly marked by the dative postposition.

In this talk, I will present the different predicates that can occur in Cxn (i) and Cxn (ii): nouns and monovalent, bivalent and trivalent verbs. In addition, I will identify the pattern found in these constructions and evaluate the grammatical condition of the dative phrase. The syntactic tests applied to the constructions include reflexivization, imperative, negation, occurrence of the co-referential topic pronoun, control and deletion in coordinate and subordinate clauses, and switch-reference.

The properties of behavior and control displayed by the dative postpositional phrase show that the constructions (i) and (ii) share many of the syntactic characteristics of verbal sentences. Considering that the properties of behavior and control are the requirements for the category of subject, one can say that the dative postpositional phrase in constructions (i) and (ii) is the subject, not an oblique.

Such evidences are enough to argue in favor of the grammatical category of subject as a morphologically heterogeneous category in Canela, but at the same time is unified by its syntactic behaviors.

Previous Talks (Fall 2016 through Fall 2017)

2017.12.05 Nicholas Rolle (UC Berkeley)

Grammatical tone in Gbarain Izon

This talk will discuss contrastive tone in the Gbarain dialect of Izon [ijc], an Ijoid language of Southern Nigeria. Data was collected in Port Harcourt, Nigeria in the summer of 2017 for 6 weeks. I show that both lexical and grammatical morphemes fall into three major tonal classes depending on their surface tones in isolation and the systematic effect they have on adjacent words in a phrase. Tonal patterns form large tonal paradigms, which were elicited primarily with one highly proficient and consistent speaker. I will summarize these patterns, and present the following theoretical hypothesis: the ability for grammatical tone to overwrite lexical and other grammatical tone depends on the scope of its Cophonology. This is largely dependent on morphosyntactic hierarchical relations, but is not isomorphic with them. I will illustrate this with evidence from objects in specifier position, pre-nominal modifiers, tense/aspect enclitics, and relative clauses.

2017.11.28 Delfina de la Cruz and Ofelia de la Cruz Morales

KANA (Kaltlamachtiloyaj Tlen Nauatlachamanaltianij) and IDIEZ (Zacatecas Institute for Teaching and Research in Ethnology)

2017.11.21 Myriam Lapierre (UC Berkeley)

The emergence of quantity-insensitive iambic feet in Panará

This talk discusses the interaction of segmental and prosodic well-formedness in Panará. Specifically, I explore the possibility of accounting for the stress pattern of Panará without making reference to the notion of a foot. Findings show that, while it is indeed possible to account for the position of stress without reference to a foot, this prosodic category is necessary in accounting for the interaction between NC and geminate consonant faithfulness with prosodic well-formedness. Data from Panará suggests that words in the language ideally consist of a disyllabic foot with prominence on the right. In other words, words ideally consist of a quantity insensitive iambic foot, a foot type that has been argued against by a number of authors (Hayes 1995, van de Vijver 1995, van der Hulst 1996).

2017.11.14 Julia Nee (UC Berkeley) 

Path in South Bolivian Quechua

In this short talk, I present the motivations for my summer fieldwork on South Bolivian Quechua in Cochabamba, as well as the preliminary findings related to how path is syntactically and semantically expressed in the language.  

2017.11.08 Phil Cash Cash (University of Arizona) This is a GAIL meeting held at 6pm; more information here

The Sacred Earth

This talk opens with a traditional Ni·mí·pu· (Nez Perce) narrative that describes the origin of the name Hinmató·yalahtq’it belonging to the one known as Nez Perce “Young Chief Joseph” (1840-1904). The narrative as well as the name itself reinforces the link between sacred landscapes of the Pacific Northwest to the cultural identity of Young Chief Joseph in particular and to the Ni·mí·pu· (Nez Perce) peoples in general. It shows how these links are not just symbolic meanings of sacredness rather they embody organizing principles to enduring Indigenous human-environmental interactions. The talk ends with a translated political oratory attributed to Hinmató·yalahtq’it that was recorded to wax cylinder in 1907 (three years after his death in 1904). As an Indigenous oratory, it speaks of how notions of the sacred earth is embodied as a form of consciousness and as a powerful statement of Indigenous resistance. 

2017.11.07 Angel Sobotta (Lewis and Clark State College) and Milton Davis, Jr. (Colville Reservation)

Nez Perce language revitalization

2017.10.31 Tessa Scott (UC Berkeley)

The first summer of field work:  a discussion

The first summer of fieldwork brought rewards and challenges for me. In this talk, I will introduce you all to my field site, the consultants I worked with, and the language I documented, Ndengeleko. Then I will highlight three struggles I faced during my trip: feeling overwhelmed, feeling lonely, and feeling like an outsider (and how this last one interacts with being a young woman in the field). These are issues that are a natural part of field work, but they can be huge obstacles. The more we, as fieldworkers, can talk about the difficulties and how to overcome them, the more we can enjoy all of the rewarding experiences of fieldwork. It is my hope that the second half of this talk is a discussion about these and other struggles and crucially, about ways to deal with and overcome them.

2017.10.24 Karee Garvin and Christine Beier (UC Berkeley)

A FForum discussion of ethics in fieldwork

2017.10.17 Amalia Skilton (UC Berkeley)

Perceptual meanings in the demonstratives of Ticuna

In many languages, determiners, especially demonstratives, are said to encode whether the referent is visible (Anderson & Keenan 1985, Matthewson 1998).  Yet little is known about the semantics of visibility contrasts.  Drawing on fieldwork, I argue that the demonstratives of Ticuna (isolate; Brazil, Colombia, Peru) do systematically encode perceptual meanings, and that these meanings involve touch as well as vision.  The centrality of perception in Ticuna's demonstrative system challenges theories that treat demonstratives as simply indexing the location of an object in space.  Rather, demonstratives encode perceptual and attentional as well as spatial meanings (Hanks 2011; Peeters and Ozyurek 2016).

2017.10.10 Ryan Bennett (UCSC)

Expectation shapes speech perception in Kaqchikel Mayan: Psycholinguistics with ‘Small Data’

In this talk we explore the relationship between phonetics, phonology, and the lexicon in Kaqchikel, a Guatemalan Mayan language. The phonemic inventory of Kaqchikel includes a set of plain stops /p t k q/ as well as a set of 'glottalized' stops /ɓ t' k' ʛ̥ ʔ/. We investigated the perceptual similarity of these stops by means of an AX discrimination task conducted with Kaqchikel speakers in Guatemala. After connecting the patterns of perceptual confusion observed in this study to the synchronic phonology and diachronic development of Mayan languages, we consider whether perceptual similarity might be conditioned by two factors related to prior linguistic experience: (1) the acoustic similarity between phonemic categories, calculated from a one hour acoustic corpus of spontaneous spoken Kaqchikel; and (2) lexical statistics (phoneme frequency, functional load, etc.), calculated from a one million word written corpus. Our overall conclusions are (1) that experience-based lexical and acoustic factors do affect speech perception in Kaqchikel; (2) these factors most likely exert an influence through low-level perceptual tuning during perceptual learning; and (3) corpus methods can be robustly extended to psycholinguistic research on minority languages even when only limited and imperfect resources are available.

2017.10.03 Andrew Garrett, Julia Nee, Zachary O'Hagan, and Ronald Sprouse (UC Berkeley)

Archiving your data in the California Language Archive

In this presentation, we will provide an overview of what the California Language Archive is, what types of materials it houses, and why you may want to deposit your materials in the CLA.  We will walk through several collections in order to foster a discussion of how collections can be organized, and of how those organizational styles can serve different audiences.  We will also demonstrate features of the pre-archive, where you can deposit materials before they are ready to be permanently accessioned.  We hope that this session will serve to spark ideas about how to organize a collection, as well as provide the skills necessary to begin the pre-archiving process.  Information about the Prearchive process can be found here.  The form that serves as a first step in beginning a Prearchive with the CLA can be found here.  

2017.09.26 Lev Michael and Christine Beier (UC Berkeley)

Developing an analysis of tone in Iquito

Iquito (iqu, also Ikíitu) is a highly endangered Zaparoan language of Peruvian Amazonia. In this talk we present an analysis of the Iquito mixed stress-tone system and also describe the winding research trajectory that led to this analysis. Our goal is to not only provide an analytical overview of this complex prosodic system, but also to sketch the empirical and analytical challenges we faced, and how we overcame them, with the hope that aspects of our experience will be useful to others facing similarly challenging prosodic systems.

Iquito exhibits both stress and tone, with the two systems interacting through a requirement that each phonological word in Iquito exhibit an H tone: if a word lacks a lexically-specified H tone, one is assigned to the syllable bearing primary stress. There is a major split in the prosodic system between verbs and all other word classes. Understanding the verbal tone system requires distinguishing prefixal, derivational stem, and inflectional domains, with each domain exhibit different restrictions on the position and co-occurrence of tones within them. In addition, tones in each domain affect tones in adjacent domains differently. Morphology further complicates the picture, as verbal morphemes exhibit a variety of metrical and tonal behaviors, including tonal assignment to adjacent morphemes, and the conditioning of vowel length in neighboring morphemes. In addition, tonal patterns associated with certain inflectional suffixes are affected by the presence of post-verbal arguments.

We describe the process by which our understanding and analysis of this system evolved, which in large part involved shedding assumptions based on early successes in the analysis of non-verbal tone, and increasingly embracing the complex role of morphology and syntax in the analysis of verbal tone.

2017.09.20 GAIL Meeting (Meeting will be held at 6:00PM; details can be found 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)

The nonword repetition task, a diagnostic tool used by speech-language pathologists, has always used adult voices in the stimuli. Knowing that children hear much of their input from other children, this experiment aims to identify differences in performance when stimuli nonwords are read by a child versus an adult in 4-6yr old monolingual and sequential bilingual children. This work-in-progress presentation will cover preliminary findings.

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.

2017.09.05 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.

2017.08.29 Discussion of Summer Fieldwork

2017.05.10 Terry Regier (UC Berkeley) 

Semantic typology, efficient communication, and data from the field
Why do languages have the lexical semantic categories they do?  Word meanings vary widely across languages, but this variation is constrained.  I will argue that this pattern reflects a range of language-specific solutions to a universal functional challenge: that of communicating precisely while using minimal cognitive resources. I will (1) present a general computational framework that instantiates this idea, (2) show how that framework accounts for cross-language variation in several semantic domains, and (3) argue that pursuing these ideas properly requires fine-grained data from the field.  In particular, I will highlight a valuable kind of data that could in principle be brought back from the field, concerning local statistics of language use.  I look forward to exploring with you ways in which such data could be elicited.  I also hope to start a more general conversation about productive ways in which fieldworkers and computationally oriented linguists may interact.

2017.04.26 Peter Jenks (Berkeley)

Writing grammars: Confessions of a syntactician

Rice (2006) highlights the pitfalls of including both too much and too little formal theory into the process of grammar-writing. I describe some of the challenges I am grappling with in writing a descriptive grammar of Moro (Kordofanian:Sudan) as someone who also does research in formal syntax and semantics. I describe a metric which has guided my decision making: reference grammars should be both helpful and accessible to as many kinds of linguists as possible, a basic utilitarian measure of value. I contend that part of being helpful to those interested in formal syntax and semantics in particular is including data that are not typically included in descriptive grammars but which bear on crucial questions of syntactic analysis. I focus on two test cases: descriptions of quantifiers and descriptions of raising and control predicates.
2017.04.19 Inge Genee (Lethbridge & Berkeley)

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 (, 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)

Fun with homoFones!  The challenges of homophony in documenting Iquito (iqu; Zaparoan; Peruvian Amazonia)
A significant challenge in developing a complete and accurate description of Iquito (Ikíitu) grammar, as well as in faithfully transcribing, interlinearizing, and interpreting recorded Iquito texts, is posed by sets of homophonous and near-homophonous morphemes (and syllables) in the language, many of which are high-frequency in connected speech. In this talk, first I will give a bird's-eye view of the types and distributions of these elements in Iquito. Then I will delve into few illustrative cases  -- including 8 kinds of "na(a)", 6 kinds of "ma(a)" and the cluster ki(i)~kia(a)~kiyaa -- with the unifying goal of sharing some methodological perspectives and tools that have helped me better understand this always fascinating, sometimes inscrutable, phenomenon.

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)

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!