When? Wednesdays 3:10PM-4:00PM
Where? Fall 2022 hybrid format (in-person in Dwinelle 1303 and via Zoom)
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 wellstood at berkeley dot edu.
See a list of our past talks here.
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)
Presentation via Zoom
2022.09.28 Maksymilian Dąbkowski (UC Berkeley)
Postlabial raising and paradigmatic leveling in A'ingae: A diachronic study from the field.
2022.10.26 Jaime Pérez González (UC Santa Cruz)
2022.11.02 Zachary O'Hagan (UC Berkeley)
2022.11.09 Rachael Samberg (UC Berkeley)
2022.11.23 No Meeting (Thanksgiving Break)
2022.11.30 James Kari (U. of Alaska Fairbanks)
Presentation via Zoom
2022.12.07 Gabriela García Salido (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)
2022.04.27 Samuel Akinbo (U. of Minnesota)
Evaluative and Noun-class in Fungwa
In this talk, I describe and analyse the evaluative derivations in Fungwa, which is a Kainji language with about 1000 speakers in Nigeria. Like all Kainji languages, Fungwa has noun-class prefixes which are paired based on number marking and semantic tendencies. A noun-class prefix can secondarily function as an evaluative marker in the language, but Fungwa has independent evaluative markers that can cause a noun to bear the prefixes of another noun class. The interaction between noun-class prefixes and independent evaluative markers indicates that class features are associated with nouns but can be overridden by evaluative markers.
2022.04.20 No Meeting
2022.04.13 Richard Bibbs (UC Santa Cruz)
Wewewa Pronominal Marking
Wewewa [weɪd͡ʒeɪwa] pronominal marking both lacks a formal description, and an analysis for the restrictions on pronominal marking co-occurrence. Wewewa pronominal marking is very similar to that of closely related Kambera, but does differ in terms of co-occurrence restrictions and morphological shape. I propose that Wewewa pronominal marking is best understood as pronominal cliticization rather than morphological agreement. I also provide arguments for why Wewewa pronominal marking is difficult to capture in some popular theories.
2022.04.06 Pamela Munro (UCLA)
"Personal DPs" in Yuman Languages
A set of pronominal prefixes marking object and subject (in that order, when relevant) may be reconstructed for Proto-Yuman (Hinton and Langdon 1976), with the subject prefixes for intransitive verbs also used to mark possessors on nouns. Crawford (1966) and Halpern (1946, 1947) have previously noted the existence of another sort of personal prefixation on nouns, used to indicate that those nouns stand in apposition to pronouns (in the Yuman equivalent of a phrase like we the people); these prefixes may also be used on relative verbs (in phrases much like we who are about to die salute you): I call these specially marked nouns and relative verbs "Personal DPs". In this paper I examine additional examples of constructions with this restricted type of personal agreement, primarily drawn from my own fieldwork on the Yuman languages Mojave, Maricopa, and Tolkapaya Yavapai, and I propose a reconstruction of this special set of agreement prefixes. The reconstructed prefixes in this set are most similar to the reconstructed Yuman object prefixes, a fact which (surprisingly?) may suggest a connection with the Yuman copular construction.
Crawford Jr., James Mack. 1966. The Cocopa Language. University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D. dissertation.
Halpern, A. M. 1946. "Yuma III: Grammatical Processes and the Noun." IJAL 12: 204-12.
Halpern, A. M. 1947. "Yuma VI: Miscellaneous Morphemes." IJAL 13: 147-66.
Hinton, Leanne, and Margaret Langdon. 1976. "Object-Subject Pronominal Prefixes in La Huerta Diegueño." In Hokan Studies, ed. M. Langdon and S. Silver, pp. 113-28. The Hague - Paris: Mouton.
2022.03.30 Chris Beier & Hannah Sande (UC Berkeley)
Discussing issues of gender and sexuality in the field
As well-trained as we may be in linguistics and field methods, when we go into “the field” we go as whole people, and our fieldwork engages and impacts us as whole people. Women who do fieldwork face a particular set of challenges that our professional training typically does not address directly. Our goal for this meeting is to explore some of the most common challenges women encounter when doing fieldwork, especially when working alone; and to discuss strategies for meeting such challenges with confidence and fortitude. We will preface the group discussion with some experiences and insights we two have gained through our own fieldwork — Hannah in West Africa and Chris in Amazonia.
2022.03.23 No Meeting (Spring Break)
2022.03.16 Miriam Aguilar (Naso; Universidad de Panamá) & Tulio Bermúdez Mejía (U. of Chicago)
Centering Indigenous Methodologies in Linguistic Fieldwork: Creating the Naso Cultural Encyclopedia
In the Naso territory settled by Panama, there exists an abundance of knowledge and information that Nasos protect from outside individuals and organizations who exploit them for personal interests. There has been collaboration with linguists from different places like United States, Europe, and other countries who have helped create Naso alphabets and pedagogical materials like a Bible, grammar, and short stories. The field of language documentation emphasizes collaborative research methods that balance linguistic projects with supplemental goals such as pedagogical materials. These field models center academic goals and the Indigenous goals are secondary.
However, Nasos’ disapproval of these projects is due to non-Nasos leading these projects who don’t know the language or culture, which renders those materials illegitimate. In response to this, a group of Naso university students got together to lead a project with the support of Naso elders in order to document our language and culture ourselves, through the Naso Cultural Encycopedia, with the financial support of an Endangered Languages Documentation Program grant (2015-2018) and technical support of the linguist Tulio Bermúdez. We argue that linguists should use this method in field research, and that goals of linguists such as gathering data for analysis can be met while centering Indigenous goals. We propose a model of linguistic fieldwork called Native–Authored Research where the primary goal is decided, led, and produced by Indigenous people, and the linguist’s role is to provide ancillary training in linguistics and technology, as well as securing ample financial support through grants. We show how linguistic research can come out from these projects, such as Aguilar’s B.A. thesis and Bermúdez’s Ph.D. dissertation.
2022.03.09 Joshua Birchall (U. of New Mexico)
In this talk I discuss the preliminary results of two ongoing projects in Brazil to develop community-oriented language materials through incorporation of archived multimedia: a dictionary with the Oro Win (Chapacuran) and a cultural encyclopedia with the Aikanã (isolate). Both of these projects are being prepared using Markdown, a text-based markup language that is quickly become the standard for internet publishing. This talk outlines an open-source workflow using Markdown that can immediately produce html and (non-multimedia) pdf versions of these materials and discusses the possible role of local publishing in the toolkit of documentary linguists.
2022.03.02 Peter Jenks (UC Berkeley)
Interrogating the "field"
Indigenous scholars and activists have repeatedly pointed out that the traditional assumptions of linguists conducting what we typically call "fieldwork" operate from a colonial, "linguist-centered" perspective. In many ways, this perspective is embedded in the name "fieldwork" itself: a separation between the subject, a researcher, and languages which are in the "field" — a space by definition separate from and not part of the academy. In this discussion, I'll highlight some of the criticisms that have been made about this approach, including ways that these criticisms apply to my own work, and invite discussion of 1) where genuine conflicts exist between "traditional linguistic research" and community-oriented research methodologies—and where resolution might be possible—and 2) how we talk about "fieldwork", and what kinds of steps might be taken in teaching field methods to undergraduate and graduate linguistics students. Recommended reading includes Tsikewa 2021 and this recent interview with Hannah Gibson.
2022.02.23 Gabriel Gallinate (UT Austin)
Venting and shielding as represented in writing systems: the case of three languages of the Bolivian Amazon
In this presentation, I will discuss theoretic notions about partially nasal plosives and partially oral nasal consonants focusing on three Bolivian languages and how community members represent these segments orthographically.
The presence of prenasalized voiced plosives in Maropa (Takanan) can be analyzed as venting (Gallinate 2020), while the postoralized nasals as in Yuqui (Tupí-Guaraní) and Ese Ejja (Takanan) can be classified as shielding (see Blanco Valdez 2021 for a discussion on Ese Ejja). Both of these concepts are relevant characterizations of the complex nasal-oral consonants in a fair number of languages in South America (Wetzels & Nevins 2018; Lapierre & Michael 2017).
Some intriguing questions are how communities agree upon which symbol best represents either the prenasalized plosives or the postoralized nasals (given that plosives and nasals tend to be associated to graphemes as <b> and <m> respectively in Bolivia, on the basis of Spanish orthography). Furthermore, do the representations they choose match what has been theorized about these segments in the aforementioned languages, and what do these orthographies inform us about phonological representations? And lastly, whether rigorous studies on these sounds can guide the process of writing system elaboration.
Blanco Valdez, Diego. 2021. La Desnasalización en Ese Eja (Takana). Universidad Mayor de San Marcos, B.A. thesis. Lima, Perú.
Gallinate, Gabriel A. 2020. General Notes on Maropa Segmental and Prosodic Phonology, with Remarks on the Affricate Series. In Con-Sciencias Sociales 22, 8-22. Universidad Católica Boliviana San Pablo. Cochabamba.
Lapierre, Myriam & Lev Michael. 2017. Nasal Segments in Tupí-Guaraní: A Comparative Synthesis. CILLA VIII, University of Texas at Austin. October 26, 2017.
Wetzles, W. Leo & Andrew Nevins. 2018. Prenasalized and Postoralized Consonants: The Diverse Functions of Enhancement. Language 94(4), pp. 834-866.
2022.02.16 Lise Dobrin (U. of Virginia)
Is the aim accuracy or insight? Transcribers as cultural and linguistic filters
Any time transcription is done by a human being, future users of the transcribed materials will have to do the interpretive work of trying to understand the traces that person left on the resulting texts. This need not be seen as a drawback. While one might think that the ideal transcriber would be a machine, the fact that transcribers are themselves interpreters can also be productive of insight, as their judgment adds a potential source of information for those who come after them.
In this presentation I explore discrepancies between text and audio that resulted from choices made by the unnamed transcriber of a set of legacy Bukiyip Arapesh (Papuan: Torricelli) texts that were collected by SIL linguist Robert Conrad in the early 1970s. Reading the transcripts against the original recordings allows us to correct the timeline of language shift and more fully appreciate what the speaker was trying to express. I will show that it also provides insights into structural features of Arapesh at a time of rapid language change. (See the related paper, which was recently published, here.)
2022.02.09 Elizabeth Wood (UT Austin)
Describing complexity in naturalistic speech data: Status suffixes in Chichicastenango K’iche’
Larsen, Thomas Walter. 1988. Manifestations of Ergativity in Quiché Grammar. PhD thesis.University of California, Berkeley.
2022.02.02 Edwin Ko (UC Berkeley)
The diachrony of suppletion in Crow: Some reflections on contact-induced change
2022.01.26 No Meeting
2022.01.19 No Meeting
2021.12.01 Rodrigo Ranero (UCLA)
An I-language approach to optional agreement in Tz’utujil
I discuss the virtues of adopting an I-language approach to linguistic description and analysis (Paster 2019). I argue that adopting this approach—which focuses on the mental grammars of individual speakers—can readily accommodate the existence of microvariation at the idiolectal level among members of a speech community. I show that pooling acceptability judgements across consultants can obscure the grammatical knowledge of individual speakers, potentially leading to the analysis of grammatical systems that are not, in fact, a part of anybody’s grammar. I illustrate my point through the results of a project analyzing the conditions governing optional predicate agreement in Santiago Tz’utujil (Mayan) (Levin et al. 2020, Lyskawa & Ranero 2021), comparing my approach to previous work that has addressed the phenomenon in related languages (e.g., England 2011).
England, Nora C. 2011. “Plurality Agreement in Some Eastern Mayan Languages”. International Journal of American Linguistics 77(3). 397–412.
Levin, Theodore, Paulina Lyskawa & Rodrigo Ranero. 2020. “Optional agreement in Santiago Tz’utujil Mayan is syntactic”. Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft 39 (3). 329–355.
Lyskawa, Paulina & Rodrigo Ranero. 2021. “Optional agreement as successful/failed AGREE: evidence from Santiago Tz’utujil (Mayan)”. Linguistic Variation.
Paster, Mary. 2019. “Analyzing interspeaker variation in Maay”. Loquens 6(2).
2021.11.24 No Meeting (Thanksgiving)
2021.11.17 Melvatha R. Chee (U. of New Mexico)
A Diné Field Linguist’s Eye-Opening Experience
Diné Bizaad is much more endangered than previously thought, as Diné children are no longer learning to speak their heritage language at home. Navajo is often described as thriving with an estimated number of 150,000 speakers. Navajo is taught in classrooms and is a well-researched Indigenous language. Is Navajo truly thriving? My field experience has revealed that Navajo is not as healthy as it is believed to be.
During this talk, I will present issues that reflect a decline in the intergenerational transmission of Diné Bizaad. I will share the challenges I encountered in locating child speakers, the language attitudes about learning Diné Bizaad, the issue of what defines a Navajo speaker, and the work to motive speakers to record themselves at home. I encountered many challenges during my fieldwork, but I also found one positive common denominator that sustained Diné Bizaad in the homes that I visited. All families that participated in my research were involved in some aspect of Diné culture. The most unexpected finding was learning that Diné Bizaad is endangered.
2021.11.10 Nadine Grimm (U. of Rochester)
Reflections on gender and other social identities in fieldwork
In this talk I discuss the impact of a fieldworker's gender and gender identity on their overall fieldwork experience and integration into the community. In contrast to other fieldwork-based disciplines, especially anthropology, linguistics has had relatively little to say about this issue, which is, however, crucial for the researcher's wellbeing and safety in the field and ultimately affects the quality of the research.
I dissect the concept of gender and its cross-cultural applicability, putting forth that gender can never be seen in isolation, but is just one social role, along with age, race, and socio-economic status (Crenshaw 1991). The combination of a person's social roles determines their power status and has consequences for a researcher's expected behavior within the community, which most likely differs from a researcher's home society. Drawing on my own fieldwork experiences of cumulatively more than two years in West and Central Africa, I discuss measures for successful community relations and dealing with unwanted behaviors.
2021.11.03 Anna Björklund (UC Berkeley)
Notes from the archives: the road towards Nomlaki language revitalization
Nomlaki (ISO: nol) is a Wintuan language native to the northern Sacramento Valley. For all three Wintuan languages (Wintu, Nomlaki, and Patwin), no native speakers are still living. Intergenerational transmission has been disrupted for several generations, and the languages are preserved only in archival notes and recordings. However, revitalization efforts for Nomlaki are ongoing. I first teamed up with the Nomlaki revitalization group at Breath of Life 2020, and have continued regularly working with them ever since. Revitalization of Nomlaki poses a particular challenge because archival materials are comparatively scant, an issue exacerbated by how often the Wintuan languages are conflated with each other in field notes.
This presentation will discuss the joys and challenges of the Nomlaki revitalization journey so far, especially in regards to i) searching for archival documentation, ii) creating and participating in language pedagogy, and iii) using the archives for academic research.
2021.10.27 No Meeting
2021.10.20 Danielle Ronkos (Datapeople) & Zach Wellstood (UC Berkeley)
The making of the Sikles Language Portal: a community-facing thematic web dictionary
Tamu Kyuii, or Gurung, is a Tibeto-Burman minority language of Nepal. The Sikles Language Portal is a community-facing thematic web dictionary that includes written language and recordings of the variety of Gurung spoken in Sikles Village. This project began in 2013 as a documentation project at the Endangered Language Alliance in collaboration with a native speaker of Sikles Gurung who had relocated to New York City, and continued when we travelled to Nepal in 2017 to work with Gurung speakers still living in Sikles. The Sikles Language Portal was created in 2020-2021 with data drawn from word lists and narratives recorded with six speakers of Sikles Gurung.
In this talk we discuss methodological and design decisions made in creating this mobile-friendly web portal for use by the community, including (i) the development of a practical orthography using both Devanagari and a romanized equivalent, (ii) the separation of lexical entries into thematic categories (rather than alphabetical ones) while also preserving inter-speaker variation, and (iii) the conversion of our FLEx database into a MySQL database. We will also demo an alpha-release of the portal and solicit feedback and input from the audience.
2021.10.13 Hannah Sande (UC Berkeley)
Introducing Twisted Tongues: An online alternative to FLEx
This presentation will involve an interactive demonstration of the Twisted Tongues data management tool for fieldworking linguists. This tool serves as an online alternative to FLEx and other data management tools. The following features will be highlighted: Online real-time collaboration options, search functions, export functions, automatic dictionary creation, and flexibility of data input options. Discussion about additional features or tools to consider integrating into the site is welcome!
2021.10.06 Alex Elias (UC Berkeley)
Rapid speech phenomena in Tahitian
The Polynesian languages, including Tahitian (te reo Mā’ohi), are widely reputed for their phonological simplicity and tiny segmental inventories. This reputation for simplicity belies the complex rapid-speech phenomena that occur in Tahitian, which have not been well described. On the surface, Tahitian has glottalized, aspirated and breathy consonants created by metathesis of laryngeals /ʔ/ and /h/. Extreme vowel coarticulation effects lead to a much larger surface inventory of vowels than the 5-vowel phonological analysis would suggest. This talk will summarize these findings (and others) that resulted from my field trip to the Tahitian-speaking island of Taha’a in French Polynesia.
2021.09.29 Aaron Broadwell (U. of Florida)
Making historical texts in indigenous languages accessible to communities: A Zapotec case study
Caseidyneën Saën is a set of open educational resources on Colonial Zapotec funded by an ACLS grant and created by a team including activists, educators, academics, and students. Here, we present this resource as a case study that contributes to larger conversations related to (1) communities working with historical corpora in their languages (e.g. Leonard 2011, Hinton 2011) and (2) the role digital scholarship can play in such projects (e.g. Czaykowska-Higgens et al. 2014).
Zapotec languages (Otomanguean) are indigenous to Oaxaca and are also spoken in diaspora communities, including in the greater Los Angeles area. Historical forms of Zapotec are attested in an expansive corpus written during the Mexican Colonial period. The online, digital resource Ticha (https://ticha.haverford.edu) makes these manuscripts accessible to the public by providing open access to high-resolution images, transcriptions, translations, linguistic analysis, and historical context. The continued development of Ticha is embedded in pedagogical practices and committed to co-creation with Zapotec individuals and pueblos. InCaseidyneën Saën, a collection of public-facing teaching materials, we use the resources available on Ticha to teach about Zapotec language, culture, and intellectual history.
2021.09.22 Jack Martin (William & Mary)
85 Years after Haas: Collaborative Documentation of Muskogee (Creek) Oral History
From 1936 to 1940, Mary R. Haas worked extensively on Muskogee (Creek) in Oklahoma, collecting numerous paradigms, a vocabulary, and texts (see, e.g., Haas and Hill 2015).
The current project was initiated by Chief Leonard Harjo of the Seminole Nation in 2014. The Seminole Nation had just opened an elementary school (Pumvhakv School) that taught children through immersion. Chief Harjo wanted us to document oral history in the language, with the goal of giving these children something to study in twenty years.
The project was funded by NEH. We have so far conducted 32 video interviews (18 hours). The first drafts of transcriptions and translations are being done by community members: students taking immersion courses at Bacone College paired up with elders.
I will spend the first portion of the talk discussing our methods. I will then discuss some findings, particularly regarding “men’s and women’s speech” in Muskogee.
2021.09.15 Ronald Sprouse (UC Berkeley)
Computing needs of Linguistics Department field research
This meeting will be a discussion of ways to support the computing needs of field researchers in the Linguistics Department. It will involve a demonstration of a cloud-based virtual machine running FLEx that could be used for collaborative work on a language project, or by individuals who otherwise do not have access to FLEx (i.e. Mac users).
As a department we have access to a pool of cloud compute resources, and we will discuss ways to allocate these resources in order to address needs for field research effectively. If you have questions about how to address computing issues that slow down your research or ideas about how cloud (or other) resources could be useful to you, please bring them to the discussion.
2021.09.08 Zachary O'Hagan (UC Berkeley)
Note that this talk will be in-person only, not hybrid (i.e. not available remotely).
Lessons from the Preservation of the Ashaninka Collection of Gerald Weiss
Anthropologist Gerald Weiss (1932-2021) spent 43 months conducting fieldwork in Ashaninka communities on the Tambo River in Peru between 1961 and 1980. His research included general ethnography (e.g., cosmology, manufacture, kinship; see Weiss 1969), history, language, and ethnobiology, resulting in a large collection of sound recordings, photographs, notes, diaries, manuscripts, material cultural objects, and biological specimens. In May, Weiss's children donated everything but the material cultural objects to the California Language Archive. In this presentation, I describe the contents of the collection and the context in which it was created, give examples of the ways in which Weiss's wide-ranging scholarly connections (e.g., with scientists at the Systematic Entomology Laboratory) and meticulousness are relevant for documentary linguists today, and illustrate how the collection is valuable for the documentation of related languages such as Caquinte (see O'Hagan 2020). I also situate Weiss's collection among other endangered archival collections, advocating for more engagement on the part of active scholars with archival materials in private hands. This will be a hands-on event with many objects to circulate, including the material cultural collection, donated to the Museo Nacional de la Cultura Peruana in Lima but temporarily in my keeping.
O'Hagan, Zachary. 2020. Focus in Caquinte. PhD dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.
Weiss, Gerald. 1969. The Cosmology of the Campa Indians of Eastern Peru. PhD dissertation, University of Michigan.
2021.09.01 Welcome back!
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!