Fieldwork Forum (FForum)

When? Wednesdays 3:10PM-4:00PM

Where? Fall 2022 hybrid format (in-person in Dwinelle 1303 and via Zoom; email organizers for passcode)

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 Julianne Kapner and Wendy López Márquez. 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 <kapner at berkeley dot edu>.

See a list of our past talks here.

Upcoming Schedule

2023.04.05 Deborah Anderson (UC Berkeley) and Craig Cornelius (Google)

“Language Preservation and Documentation with Unicode: Character encoding, keyboards and fonts"

The Unicode Standard is the international standard for representing text electronically, and is the basis of standardized keyboards and fonts.  However, understanding how Unicode is organized and how characters are proposed and accepted can be puzzling. Beyond the complexities of the Unicode Standard itself, understanding how fonts work and how to create a keyboard and install it on a computer and device will be discussed. 


  • Deborah (Debbie) Anderson, Researcher, Dept. of Linguistics, head of Script Encoding Initiative project, Chair of Script Ad Hoc, and UC Berkeley’s representative to the Unicode Consortium
  • Craig Cornelius, senior software engineer at Google, supporting languages across all Google products. He contributes to the Unicode Standard.
  • Kamal Mansour, Linguistic Typographer, Monotype (retired)

Questions for Fforum participants.

In order to tailor the talk to Fforum members, it would be helpful to know specific questions or problems attendees may have had.  Please briefly describe any problems you have encountered or questions you may have and the script and language you are working on.  Responding to by 17 March will enable the speakers to adjust the presentation to address the questions. 

In-person presentation

2023.04.12 Antonio Victoria Sebastian (Center for Research and Advanced Studies in Social Anthropology, Mexico)

In-person presentation (Zoom attendees welcome) 

2023.04.19 No Meeting

2023.04.26 Rachael Samberg (UC Berkeley)

An introduction to privacy & ethics in linguistics research

The Institutional Review Board has signed off on your research because you’ve obtained consent for your elicitations or interviews. But does obtaining consent satisfy privacy laws? Is language considered “private” under the law? If not, what is the boundary between what privacy laws require and protect, and what ethical guidelines might suggest? In this forum, Rachael Samberg (JD, MLIS) will address the basics of privacy law and explore its applicability and limitations for linguistics research. The forum will then consider and give participants opportunities to discuss potential ethical paradigms that could be applied to address research concerns beyond what privacy law protects.

In-person discussion

2023.05.03 Last Meeting - Event with Language Revitalization Working Group

Recent Meetings

2022.08.31 Welcome back to Fieldwork Forum!

Join us for the first FForum meeting of the semester, where we will do a round robin to catch up on summer developments. All are welcome!

2022.09.07 Keren Rice (U. Toronto)

Ethics in linguistic work with Indigenous communities in Canada

For many years in Canada, Indigenous groups in Canada have been struggling to keep their languages alive. There are many linguists who have been deeply engaged in this effort, I being one of them. What I will focus on in this talk is what it means to do ethical work in Indigenous communities today. I will begin by situating myself in this work and then look at recent University of Toronto protocols that have been developed for research with Indigenous communities since the release of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I will then try to deconstruct what ethical linguistic research  in the community that I have been most engaged with in recent years. There are two words that I hear again and again: holistic and spirituality. The basic ethical principles relate to the host of r- initial words that we hear so often with respect to Indigenous research plus the concepts holism and spirituality. If there is time, I will end with some discussion of what the implication of this are for teaching linguistics, based on discussions a group of us at the University of Toronto have been having.
Presentation via Zoom

2022.09.14 No meeting

We encourage you to attend the opening meeting of Berkeley's Language Revitalization Working Group, which will be meeting at this time.

2022.09.21 Maksymilian Dąbkowski (UC Berkeley)

Postlabial raising and paradigmatic leveling in A'ingae: A diachronic study from the field.

This paper discusses and analyzes the variation between ai and ɨi in A’ingae (or Cofán, an Amazonian isolate, ISO 639-3: con) by comparing the data reported in Borman’s (1976) dictionary with contemporary productions. In Borman (1976), ai does not generally appear after labial consonants; the distribution of ɨi is not restricted. In some modern productions, postlabial ai is allowed when the diphthong crosses a morpheme boundary (a+i).
I propose that Borman’s (1976) distribution of ai and ɨi is a consequence of a diachronic change of ai to ɨi after labial consonants (*ai → ɨi / B _). The contemporary distribution reflects paradigm leveling and contact-induced replacement: Borman’s (1976) ɨi corresponds to contemporary ai if a is present in another related form. In novel productively-formed words, the availability of postlabial raising is speaker-specific.
The proposed sound change of postlabial raising (*ai → ɨi / B _) is unusual and lacks obvious phonetic motivation. I speculate that postlabial raising reflects postlabial rounding (*ai → *ui / B _) opacified by subsequent unconditioned unrounding and centralizing of the back round vowel (*u → ɨ). All the contemporary data were collected by the author.

In-person discussion (Zoom attendees welcome).

2022.09.28 Anna Macknick (UC Berkeley)

A discussion on relationships, positionality, and accountability in collaborative language work.

As linguists, we are well-trained in technical and theoretical aspects of language work in communities (so-called “fieldwork”). However, the ethical considerations involved in this research are often glossed over. Even when unintentional, leaving ethical considerations unexamined can lead us to cause harm in the communities we work with. The goal for this discussion is to explore and reflect on our positionalities as linguists, how they impact the ways we engage in language work, and how we can more intentionally cultivate relationships within language communities. We will begin with a short presentation on different models of language work, and then hold space to reflect, share experiences, and offer thoughts and ideas on how to develop more accountable relationships in our work. 

In-person discussion (Zoom attendees welcome).

2022.10.05 Rebecca Jarvis, Julianne Kapner, and Katherine Russell (UC Berkeley)

Shared Experiences: A discussion of collaboration in fieldwork

Collaboration in the field can take many forms: every kind of work that involves working closely with a community is inherently collaborative, whether that collaboration involves stakeholders in the community, fellow researchers, and/or other members of a research team like students, liaisons or interpreters. This collaborative setup can be both an asset and a challenge. In this discussion, we use our experiences in collaborative fieldwork in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in Summer 2022 as a starting point for a general discussion on collaboration in fieldwork and the various forms it can take. We encourage participants to bring their own experiences and questions to share with the group. We hope that this will be a useful chance for people to share ideas and hopefully come away with ideas for their own field situations.

In-person discussion (Zoom attendees welcome).

2022.10.12 James Kari (U. of Alaska Fairbanks)

Features of the Lower Tanana Dene Dictionary (to appear in 2023) and Geolinguistic Evidence of Dene/Ahtna Presence at High Water Levels of Glacial Lake Atna

It has been my honor to work since 1972 with many Alaska Dene intellectuals. The cornerstones of my research on Alaska Dene languages have been topical vocabulary research, cumulative place names lists, word formation, high-level narratives, and integrated-root morpheme

Kari 2019 introduces a Saprian theory The Proto Dene Lex Loci with 67 Dene place names in four languages of the Tanana and Copper River Bains. A group of about 20 Ahtna place names termed "the Nen' Yese' Ensemble" are overtly descriptive of the geology and hydrology at the Tyone Spillway. One subset of 9 to 10 names plausibly were coined during "a first season on the NYE" (starting at Hogan Hill, K'ey Tsaaygha). Another subgroup of 10 or 11 names has four pairs of patterned duplications that indicate spatial-temporal seriation; plausibly these were coined prior to, during, and after the names of the NYE (11,000 to 9,000 years ago) in the time frame of the major GLA drainage shift from the Susitna R Basin to the Copper R Basin.
Several features of the Lower Tanana Dene Dictionary can promote comparative Dene research or can broaden interdisciplinary discussions of Alaska and Beringian prehistory and the Dene-Yeniseian Hypothesis.

In-person presentation (Zoom attendees welcome).

2022.10.19 Wendy López Márquez and Tzintia Montano Ramirez (UC Berkeley)

Doing fieldwork as a linguist and a community member: Experiences from a native speaker and a non-native speaker

In this talk we will present the methods that we employ when working with our respective communities. As when preparing a field for planting, we also prepare our field sites before gathering data and doing elicitation. We follow a Mexican indigenous strategy when entering our communities: “First, visit the speakers with a Padrino/Madrina and then visit them without the Padrino/Madrina”. We will discuss how this strategy has been helpful for Wendy (a native speaker) and Tzintia (a non-native speaker) to build respectful and trusting relationships with the communities.

In-person talk (Zoom attendees welcome).

2022.10.26 Jaime Pérez González (UC Santa Cruz)

On the grammaticalization of aspect in Mocho’ (Mayan)

This article presents an alternative analysis of the grammatical aspect of Mocho’ (Mayan). Based on a language-driven perspective, I demonstrate that this language has a split aspectual system motivated by transitivity and, partially, by person. In this split, Mocho’ exhibits two sub-paradigms of aspect that is triggered by the type of verb that heads the clause. On the one hand, when the head of the predicate corresponds to a canonical direct transitive verb, the language will display three aspectual distinctions. On the other hand, when the head of the predicate corresponds to an inverse-like transitive verb, the language will show a binary opposition. Interestingly, intransitive verbs can follow any of these patterns depending on the person marker that they take. This study contributes to the understanding of aspect shifting not only for Mayan typology, but for the development of theories of aspect in general.

2022.11.02 Zachary O'Hagan (UC Berkeley) with Emanuele Fabiano (Universidade de Coimbra) and Joshua Homan (Universidad San Francisco de Quito)

Disease and Violence in Shift from Omurano to Urarina on the Urituyacu River in Peru

Omurano is a language isolate of the Loreto region of Peru with documentation limited to approximately 250 lexical items listed in Tessmann (1930:455-458) and some 40 roots and 15 (interrelated) phrases remembered in 2013 (O'Hagan in press). In this presentation, I discuss the findings of fieldwork carried out in 2013 and 2022 with speakers of Urarina (isolate), many with Omurano ancestry, on the Urituyacu River. Omuranos were already a small group at the time of their first known mention in 1743, restricted to the headwaters of the Nucuray and Urituyacu rivers (and possibly the Tigrillo and Chambira to the east). They subsequently avoided sustained interactions with Jesuits, and were restricted to a single settlement on the upper Urituyacu by the mid-1920s, with some individuals intermarried with Urarina speakers in other communities. By 1945, this community had disappeared primarily due to disease, and around 1953 a raid carried out by Kandozis (speakers of a third isolate) removed remaining Omurano speakers from the community of Triunfo. I also review grammatical features evidencing the status of Omurano, Urarina, and Kandozi as isolates, despite centuries of contact.

In-person presentation; Zoom attendees welcome.

2022.11.09 Rachael Samberg (UC Berkeley)

Understanding & managing rights issues in linguistics research

This forum will demystify “who owns what” in linguistics research, and what rights you and your speakers or interviewees have to the content and data you create. You’ve gotten IRB approval to work with speakers to elicit content. But IRB approval centers on federal regulations around consent to participate, not intellectual property and information policy rights issues critical to your work. Is there copyright in your elicitations and recordings, and if so, who owns it? What rights do you have to publish elicitations or interview recordings, transcriptions, and translations in journals? What about archiving the content online for the world? How should you structure agreements with speakers to address these issues? We’ll address these copyright and information policy issues in linguistics research projects holistically and sequentially so that you can manage your data for the entire lifecycle of your research.

In-person presentation; Zoom attendees welcome.

2022.11.16 No Meeting

2022.11.23 No Meeting (Thanksgiving Break)

2022.11.30 No Meeting (Presentation rescheduled because of the UAW Strike)

2022.12.07 No Meeting (Presentation rescheduled because of the UAW Strike)

2023.01.18 Melissa Gomes (UC Davis)

Konkani in America: A Mixed Methods Approach to Understanding Heritage Language Maintenance

Konkani is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by an estimated two million speakers and is an
official language of the state of Goa, the smallest state of India. Unlike the majority of India
which was under British control for about 100 years, Goa was a Portuguese colony for nearly
400 years. The resulting linguistic history of Goa and by extension Goan-Americans presents a
unique case study for the phenomena of language shift and language maintenance (LSLM). The
Goan diaspora in America has never been studied as a linguistic group, so this study provides
both a foundational description of the status of Konkani as a heritage language (HL) in America
and an investigation into the factors contributing to LSLM of Konkani among Goan-Americans
and what we can learn about LSLM from this community.
In this talk, I discuss using both a quantitative survey of Konkani usage distributed among 120
Goan-Americans and a qualitative interview with five Goan-American parents to delve deeper
into issues of HL transmission and how the depth of the qualitative interviews placed within the
larger breadth of the quantitative surveys helped me create a fuller, more productive picture of
Konkani in America.

In-person presentation (Zoom attendees welcome)

2023.01.25 Margarita Martínez (U. de Ciencias y Artes de Chiapas, Tuxtla Gutierrez Chiapas)

¿Ser investigadora desde adentro es más fácil?: Experiencias de colaboración en el trabajo de campo para la documentación lingüística comunitaria

En esta charla, se presentarán una serie de experiencias metodológicas usadas cuando realizamos trabajo de campo con nuestras comunidades. Abordaré la experiencia de dos proyectos de documentación lingüística desde dos comunidades tsotsiles, una colaborando sólo entre mujeres y otro donde colaboré con hombres. De manera concreta, discutiré sobre cuáles son las implicaciones y los retos de ser mujer, tsotsil e investigadora, que irrumpe en los espacios sociales y comunitarios que son exclusivos de los hombres. Finalmente, propondré un acercamiento a las comunidades de estudio de forma humanamente significativa para construir relaciones de reciprocidad con la comunidad de estudio para subsanar en la medida de lo posible las viejas relaciones e ideologías acerca del robo del ch’ulel y del extractivismo cognoscitivo para que las nuevas generaciones puedan continuar con el camino de la investigación desde adentro sin tanta complicación como la que actualmente he enfrentado.

Presentation in Spanish via Zoom (in-person attendees welcome)

2023.02.01 Gilles Polian

The Tseltal Multidialectal Dictionary

The Tseltal Multidialectal Dictionary (TMD, paper version: 2018; online version: 2019, is a product of the Tseltal Documentation Project (2006-today) hosted at CIESAS-Sureste, Chiapas, Mexico. Tseltal is a Mayan language spoken by half a million people in central and eastern Chiapas state, in southeastern Mexico. It presents a dialectal continuum of at least 20 local varieties. The TMD intended to cover a significant part of this dialectal variation, which was one of the major challenges for its production and what makes its originality: it encompasses a wealth of dialectal diversity both in form and meaning with a concern of not showing favoritism for a particular dialect over others. This talk will illustrate how this purpose was implemented, and it will also highlight some other characteristics of this still ongoing lexicographic project:

-Its link to the large corpus produced by the documentation project and to its sister project: the Tseltal Linguistic Atlas.

-The treatment of the semantic richness of Tseltal in specific lexical categories and the treatment of culturally emblematic vocabulary, such as calendrical terms and terms pertaining to the ritual and spiritual world.

-The compromise between the general lexicographic endeavor and the need to give precedence to certain kinds of lexical and/or dialectal data in the workflow, as it is not possible to register everything at the same time.

- Paper vs online dictionary: pros and cons.

Presentation via Zoom (in-person attendees welcome)

2023.02.08 TBD

2023.02.15 No Meeting – Phonetics Job Talk

2023.02.22 Tracy Burnett (UC Berkeley)

"Is there an easy way to archive materials that makes them easy to learn from in the future?"

Grappling with untranslated interview data in different dialects of nomadic Tibetan, travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a directive from an interviewee that our team "share his interview as far and wide as possible," and a diaspora eager for exposure to oratory from home, we developed "Dito: dialect interpretations and translations online," a web application designed to satisfy all parties.  Dito creates ease in remote, team-based language transcription and translation in any Unicode script(s) and returns downloadable data, an interactive audio experience, and monolingual or bilingual typing training, listening comprehension, and reading comprehension activities that users may choose to share with collaborators or the public.  In this talk, I will introduce my initial research project, discuss my subsequent motivation to develop Dito, and demonstrate how Dito's features and workflows address fundamental goals of accessibility, user ownership of data, centering of original worldview and speech, simplifying remote transcription and translation, utilizing existing file formats, and prioritizing language revitalization.  I will conclude with a discussion of--and invitation for feedback about--our ongoing considerations of informed consent, security, ethics, development, and the user experience.

In-person presentation (Zoom attendees welcome)

2023.03.01 Danny Law (UT Austin)

Presentation via Zoom (in-person attendees welcome) 

2023.03.08 Lucero Flores Nájera (U. of Veracruz)

La documentación lingüística en comunidades nahuas de Tlaxcala y Veracruz 

El náhuatl es la ‘lengua indígena’ con más hablantes en México, 1,651,958 según el INEGI (2020). Asimismo, cuenta con una gran variación interna, al punto que podría haber distintas lenguas (Canger 1980). El INALI reporta la existencia de 30 variantes lingüísticas de la agrupación náhuatl.  

El objetivo de esta presentación es mostrar los escenarios de documentación lingüística en tres comunidades nahuas: San Isidro Buensuceso, Tlaxcala, Rafael Delgado, Veracruz e Ixhuatlancillo, Veracruz. Estas poblaciones son bilingües (náhuatl-español); sin embargo, el bilingüismo varía significativamente dentro de las comunidades, de un hogar a otro e incluso de un miembro de la misma familia a otro, dando como resultado una situación de “varilingüismo”, el cual indica diferentes niveles de competencias en ambos idiomas (Youssef 1991a, 1991b, 1996; Minks 2010). La descripción y documentación lingüísticas en estas comunidades es de suma relevancia no solo para el mejor conocimiento de la gramática, sino sobre todo para la adecuada aplicación de estrategias para el fortalecimiento y/o revitalización de estos dialectos nahuas.  

Presentation via Zoom (in-person attendees welcome) 

2023.03.15 Gabriela Garcia Salido (U. Nacional Autónoma de México) and Michael Everdell (UT Austin)

Evidentiality as the source of discourse-genre: Evidence from O'dam (Durango, México)

In this talk we discuss the origins and synchronic behavior of the two reportative evidential particles, sap and sak, in O'dam (Southeastern Tepehuan). We propose that the Southern Tepehuan discourse genre sapook (morality fables) led to the development of a two-way distinction in evidentials tied to speaker experience. This contrasts with previous work, which has analyzed sap versus sak based on common ground information, wherein sap is signals reported information that is new to the common ground and sak signals reported information old to the common ground (Willett 1991). We support our synchronic analysis with a comparison between the reportatives (and evidentials more broadly in O'dam) and the demonstrative and modality systems.

Presentation via Zoom (in-person attendees welcome)

2023.03.22 Ambrocio Gutierrez Lorenzo (CU Boulder)

Tetyōp ní ruyn garěnkā xkál nyén tsæ’ dixhsa, dixhsa ni rinnidan lo basa LLwa’
Rææ guyá diidx xī rénnélāzá txi rusæ̂æda nǣ txí rukwâa dixhsa txirú xá rizāká gáknǣ dzɨ̂ɨyn ni
rūnyárǽ ká tetyōp gîts ni gáknǣ gákllí dixhsa xtêendān. Zǔyzá tetyōp dîidx xá nā gákú te bēnny
rínnii dixhsa pær gusæ̂ædu te dixhsa ni rinnīidān garěnkā sté gedx. Zēgákzá, zigixhlæ̂’zá tubru’ xī
rûyn garěnkā díxhsa xtêen tega dgêdx kūd kásæ̂æda ddîidxrǽ, kani nnyátú, zegā’tæ̂æ xkal nā
tsæ̂’ ddíxhsa, tubrū’zī rídxaayn, sul xkal ribekydān tsê’n rûyndēn túbru’ garěnkā.

Algunas diferencias en el sistema de sonido en tres lenguas zapotecas del Valle de Oaxaca,
En esta plática discutiré mi enfoque actual sobre los proyectos de investigación que persigo y
cómo éstos puede derivar en materiales que puedan apoyar la enseñanza del dixhsa (zapoteco).
También comentaré la perspectiva de ser un miembro del grupo lingüístico, pero no miembro
de la comunidad. Finalmente, presentaré algunos hallazgos sobre la variación de los sistemas de
sonido de tres variedades de dixhsa, como mostraré, a pesar de que estas variedades tienen
(casi) el mismo sistema fonológico, éste se ha reanalizado de manera diferente en cada

Some differences in the sound system of three Zapotec languages of the Valley of Oaxaca
In this talk I will discuss my current approach to research projects and how these can lead to
materials that could potentially support the teaching of Dixhsa (Zapotec). I will also discuss
fieldwork from the perspective of being a member of the language group, but not a member of
the community. Finally, I will present some current findings on the variation of the sound
systems of three varieties of Dixhsa, as I will show, even though these varieties have (almost)
the same phonological system, this has been reanalyzed differently in each variety.

Presentation via Zoom (in-person attendees welcome) 

2023.03.29 No Meeting (Spring Break)