Fieldwork Forum (FForum)

When? Wednesdays 11AM-12:30PM

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, Edwin Ko, and Raksit T. Lau. 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

2019.04.10 Writing for Readers: Creative Work and Revitalization

In this presentation, I reflect on my choice to utilize Nez Perce language and aesthetics in my creative writing. I will be showing examples from pieces in my forthcoming collection, The Beadworkers: Stories, including the play, Antikoni. In particular I will discuss how linguistic decisions shaped the work, and talk about the failures and successes of working through translation. I hope to encourage creative writing as a practice of indigenous language revitalization.

Spring 2019 Schedule

2019.01.30 Ronald Sprouse (UC Berkeley)

Talk about recording equipment

Notes from the meeting may be found below:

Considerations for field recordings:

Recording equipment used by UC Berkeley linguists:

2019.02.06 Meg Cychosz (UC Berkeley)

Daylong recording methods and child learners: New challenges in linguistic fieldwork 

How does the linguistic environment interact with human development? To answer this question, I have been working with bilingual children who are learning Quechua and Spanish in southern Bolivia. The project incorporates a relatively new methodological tool in child development and human speech research: daylong audio recordings. This talk will focus on these aspects of my research - work with children and daylong recording methods - as both are still fairly rare in linguistic fieldwork. Together we will learn about the benefits and challenges of this type of data collection.

2019.02.13 Andrew Garrett, Dmetri Hayes, and Ronald Sprouse (UC Berkeley)

Toward a 'pretty good' lexical service

We present ongoing work toward a 'pretty good' lexical service, a means of searching and retrieving lexical entries for a wide variety of languages and writing systems with good results and with minimal required configuration for data providers. Our goal is to provide researchers with a simple way to publish lexicons for research purposes and as a benefit to the language communities themselves.
We demonstrate how this lexical service can be incorporated into online applications, most prominently a public website for searching and displaying lexical entries. Researchers will be able to participate in this lexical website by providing lexical data in a format that we describe. We expect good results for those researchers who only provide data, and we show how results can be improved by describing the data more fully and providing other configuration details. We also show a second application, this one a language learning app optimized for mobile devices, that uses the lexical service.
This work is in progress, and we seek feedback from potential users of the lexical service.

2019.02.20 6th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC) practice talks

"Communication Based Instruction and Evaluation of Language Revitalization"

Julia Nee

This project examines the development, implementation, and evaluation of a summer language revitalization camp for children in the Zapotec-speaking community of Teotitlán del Valle, Mexico in summer 2018. I analyze evaluation methods (socio-linguistic interviews and naturalistic day-long recordings) for course outcomes and describe effective aspects of the course.

"Interactive Maps, Place, and Context"

Anna Berge (Alaska Native Language Center) and Edwin Ko (UC Berkeley)

We describe two documentation projects, on St. Paul Island in Alaska and on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana, involving the collection and mapping of places, the stories associated with them and their geography. We use Esri Story Maps to create web-based maps with narrative texts and multimedia content.

"The Konkow Maidu Website Project"

Kate Hedges, Todd Gettleman and Leanne Hinton

Fifty years ago, Russell Ultan wrote his Berkeley Ph.D. dissertation on Konkow Maidu. Using his dissertation, student papers and recordings, we are trying to turn these materials into a user-friendly searchable database within a website that also provides an audio dictionary and a set of grammar lessons for Konkow language learners.

2019.02.27 No meeting (ICLDC)

2019.03.06 Edwin Ko & Tyler Lemon (UC Berkeley)

Active-Stative Agreement and Multiple Exponence in Crow

Crow is a Siouan language spoken in southern Montana by roughly 3,000 speakers (Golla et al. 2007).  Like most other Siouan languages, Crow is polysynthetic and exhibits active-stative alignment in its agreement system.  In an active-stative language, intransitive verbs generally fall into one of two main classes: active intransitives and stative intransitives.  Active intransitive verbs cross-reference their subjects like the subjects of transitive verbs (via 'A-set' markers), while stative intransitives cross-reference their subjects like the objects of transitive verbs (via 'B-set' markers).
In this talk, we report on our ongoing efforts to describe and analyze the agreement patterns found in a variety of constructions (e.g. (in)transitives, ditransitives, benefactives, etc.). In particular, we focus on agreement asymmetries whereby external/active A-set morphemes exhibit multiple exponence while internal/stative B-set morphemes do not. These facts about active-stative agreement, multiple exponence, and the relation between them raise interesting questions about the nature of the processes underlying the agreement system in Crow.

2019.03.13 Jenna Burrell (UC Berkeley)

Which digital tools and design methods best enhance cultural revitalization efforts?

In cultural revitalization efforts, what types of digital tools are appropriate? What methods for deciding how, when, and where to leverage digital technology best respect tribal sovereignty, leadership and governance structures, and support possibilities to not simply design for but design with these communities? How can digital design skills be extended to community members to disrupt processes that reconsolidate power over cultural materials into the hands of technologically skilled outsiders? I will discuss a still nascent journey between UC-Berkeley students and faculty and members of the Manchester/Point Arena and Kashaya Bands of Pomo Indians from the Sonoma/Mendocino county region to pursue digital technology projects aligned with their cultural revitalization goals. Our project is intended to (a) help bridge physical distance between these communities and UC-Berkeley based archives of pertinent linguistic resources and multimedia cultural materials, (b) enliven archival materials to realize the community’s self-defined goals and (c) find the best opportunities for digital technology application that enhances these aims. I will discuss a number of ideas that have shaped directions for our emergent project thus far including: indigenous data sovereignty, land-centered literacies (Noelani Goodyear-Ka’opua), and Linda Tuhiwai Smiths’ outline for an ‘indigenous people’s project.’

2019.03.20 No meeting 

2019.03.27 No meeting (spring break)

2019.04.03 Lance Twitchell (University of Alaska Southeast)

Haa Dachxánxʼi Sáani Kagéiyi Yís: Haa Yoo Xʼatángi Kei Naltseen – For Our Little Grandchildren: Language Revitalization Among The Tlingit
This presentation examines the historical and current work done in Tlingit language communities. From documentation and translation efforts, to curriculum develop, to the recent construction of language nests, this presentation covers the Tlingit language revitalization movement activities in Tlingit country.


2019.04.04 Tasha Hauff (UC Berkeley) 

*Note this meeting is part of the GAIL talk series which will take place on Thursday, April 4th at 6PM at Leanne Hinton's house. For information about how to get there, please email

The Product of all our Hard Work: a Case Study in improving Lakota Language Education in K-12 Classrooms

Native communities are spending great time energy and resources to revive the state of their languages, to get them spoken in their communities, and to ensure that next generations have access to the values, ideas, worldviews, and other gifts their language contain. One of the methods Native communities use to do this is by teaching their languages as a subject in existing K-12 institutions. Based on interviews and two years of participant observation, this talk examines the limits and possibilities recent tribal-wide efforts to improve the K-12 Dakota/Lakota language programming in K-12 schools on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.  While D/Lakota language had been taught, minimally, in these institutions for decades, major efforts to reform language education in this capacity started in 2006. These efforts included partnering with a non-tribal non-profit, developing language curriculum and classroom materials, coordinating among nearly all the K-12 institutions on the reservation, and developing teacher-training programs. The tribe has spent over a decade designing and implementing various improvement projects, which included a collaboration with the Lakota Language Consortium, yet there has been little documented progress. Nevertheless, Standing Rock’s story presents important lessons for tribes looking to revitalize Native language through schools and offers important lessons for teacher preparation programs looking to foster culturally and linguistically revitalizing pedagogy. Finally, while the results of these efforts to improve K-12 language education have not been as great as anticipated, the projects, partners, and programs developed to reach these goals have become the cornerstone of the larger language revitalization movement at Standing Rock that extends beyond the K-12 institutions and out in to the community more widely.

2019.04.10 Beth Piatote (UC Berkeley)

Writing for Readers: Creative Work and Revitalization

In this presentation, I reflect on my choice to utilize Nez Perce language and aesthetics in my creative writing. I will be showing examples from pieces in my forthcoming collection, The Beadworkers: Stories, including the play, Antikoni. In particular I will discuss how linguistic decisions shaped the work, and talk about the failures and successes of working through translation. I hope to encourage creative writing as a practice of indigenous language revitalization.

2019.04.17 Chris Beier (UC Berkeley)

What is the 'Where Are Your Keys?' method of endangered language learning and teaching, and how might my work benefit from it?

This week in FForum, we'll have a discussion of the 'Where Are Your Keys?' method for teaching and learning endangered languages. Our discussion will depart from this reading, co-authored by Evan Gardner, the original developer of WAYK, and his colleague Susanna Ciotti, from the 2018 Routledge Handbook of Language Revitalization

Rooted in both ASL (American Sign Language) and the TPR (Total Physical Response) method for language learning, Gardner and Ciotti (2018: 137) describe WAYK as "a collection of Techniques for rapidly creating fluent speakers and teachers of endangered languages." It is an approach that is growing in popularity, especially in northern North American and Canadian language contexts.

If you know very little about WAYK and are curious to know more prior to our discussion, please also visit and explore I encourage all of us to have a look at the WAYK Techniques Glossary prior to our discussion, in order to gain a sense of exactly what it is involved in using the WAYK method.

The core goal of this discussion will be to explore whether, and how, this method could be useful in the language learning/teaching situations we ourselves are involved with; and to explore how it could, or might have to be, adapted in order to be appropriate to different cultural contexts, especially outside of North America. Our discussion will greatly benefit from Edwin Ko's knowledge of and experiences with using WAYK, and anyone else who also has direct knowledge of using WAYK is especially encouraged to co-lead us in this discussion.

2019.04.25 Adam Benkato (UC Berkeley)

*Note this meeting is at a different time and place: Thursday 04/25 from 4PM-5:30PM in 3401 Dwinelle

A new copula in an Arabic dialect & fieldwork as a heritage speaker 

With the exception of Standard Arabic, little research on copulas in Arabic has been done. Through my ongoing and intermittent fieldwork on the Arabic dialect of Benghazi (Libya), I've noticed the development of a new copular verb deriving from the verb "to stay". This talk will present my initial findings and rough analyses of the phenomenon, with the hope of drawing attention to an understudied aspect of Arabic syntax and ultimately contributing to research on copulas in general. Moreover, as a heritage speaker of the Benghazi dialect of Arabic, I'd like to reflect on the advantages and challenges of returning to one's roots for academic research purposes, and offer some thoughts on how knowing the local language and context focuses, broadens, and complexifies my linguistic work.

2019.05.01 Bernat Bardagil-Mas (UC Berkeley)

The language of the Manoki

In this presentation I will discuss an ongoing project to document and describe the language spoken by the Manoki (Iranxe) in western Mato Grosso, Brazil. The Manoki variety of Mỹky (ISO: ire, isolate/ unclassified) is highly endangered, with no more than one dozen fluent speakers. The talk will touch on the sociolinguistic situation of the language, its genetic and areal relationships, and some aspects of its grammar including segmental and suprasegmental phonology, the morphosyntax of nouns and verbs, and sex indexicality. 

2019.05.02 Eugene Buckley (University of Pennsylvania)

*Note this meeting is part of the GAIL talk series which will take place on Thursday, May 2 at 6PM. 

Change and contact in Pomoan stress patterns

The Pomoan family of languages in Northern California consists of seven members, which probably began to diverge at least two thousand years ago. The proto-language can be reconstructed with fairly simple stress on the second syllable of the word; since many words have a one-syllable prefix, this is often the first syllable of the root. The daughter languages have sometimes maintained a close variant of this pattern, but there have also been diverse changes: Eastern Pomo often has unpredictable stress on unprefixed disyllabic roots; Northeastern Pomo is more variable; Southern Pomo has regular penultimate stress; and Kashaya has a complex iambic system with left-edge extrametricality and rightward accent shift from long vowels. In this presentation I describe the situation and explore the nature of reanalysis by language learners that must have occurred in order for the new patterns to arise. Since the Pomoan languages are situated in a diverse linguistic region – they are in contact with each other and with members of three other language families – I also consider the role of language contact in these changes.

2019.05.08 Raksit T. Lau (UC Berkeley)

Fall 2018 Schedule

2018.08.23 Welcome back!

Join us as we spend our first meeting of the year introducing ourselves and discussing any fieldwork that we have been doing. Whether or not you were recently in the field, join us in welcoming our new colleagues and sharing some light snacks.

2018.08.30 Erica Carson Jr. (Redwood Valley Rancheria)

k'edi wa:dim (Walk Well): Reflections on Learning and Teaching Northern Pomo

In this talk, Erica Carson Jr., a member of the Redwood Valley Rancheria, discusses experiences from her personal journey learning and teaching Northern Pomo, a dormant language of Mendocino County, California.

2018.09.06 California Language Archive 'Archiveathon'

Join us for an hour and a half of archiving fun! We will be accompanied by Ronald Sprouse, Andrew Garrett, Edwin Ko, Zachary O'Hagan, and Julia Nee, among other experienced users of the California Language Archive (CLA), to talk about and answer any questions related to the process of archiving. If you already have a collection, bring your data along and start putting it into the Pre-Archive; we'll answer any questions you have along the way. If you haven't used the CLA before, we'll be there to explain what it's all about and help you set up a collection if you are interested. 

2018.09.13 No meeting

2018.09.20 No meeting

2018.09.27 Martha Schwarz (UC Berkeley)

A Kumal Fieldwork Report + Discussion

This week, I’ll report on some of the phenomena I investigated in Kumal (an Indo-Aryan language of Nepal) this summer. I’ll introduce you to the field site, and then present some facts on agreement especially in sentences with non-canonically case-marked subjects, in which verbs appear to variably agree with either subject, object, or even interlocutor. In the second part, I hope to open a discussion about something I have struggled with while doing fieldwork — namely establishing a role as both a guest and a fieldworker, especially when your consultants are also your hosts. I’m curious to hear from others: what are your living arrangements while doing fieldwork? How does that influence the dynamics? Have you ever made a conscious decision to change this?

2018.10.04 Saul Schwartz (UC Berkeley)

The Afterlife of a Formerly Endangered Language: Producing Chiwere as Cultural Heritage

This talk is based on my collaborative ethnographic research on Chiwere language documentation and revitalization. Chiwere is a "dormant" Siouan heritage language for three federally-recognized Iowa and Otoe-Missouria tribes based in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. In this talk, I describe how language activists seek to invest Chiwere with cultural significance for community audiences and thereby give the language an afterlife as linguistic and cultural heritage, even though it is no longer used for everyday communication. I take an ideological and social constructivist approach to the relation between language and culture, focusing on how particular discourses and practices linked to language documentation and revitalization produce the idea that Chiwere has cultural significance. My first set of examples involves a local morphological speech genre in which activists challenge word-for-word semantic transparency between Chiwere and English and instead analyze Chiwere words into their component morphemes in order to reveal ancestral cultural knowledge and practice. My second set of examples center on the cultural politics of obscenity in Siouan languages. Some activists believe that Chiwere and other Siouan languages lack a vocabulary that corresponds to the English category of "bad words." They tie this linguistic difference to a traditional view of bodies and sexuality that is distinct from that of the dominant Christian society. In both sets of examples, activists present linguistic differences between Chiwere and English, which they then map onto cultural differences between the traditional Chiwere-speaking elders of previous generations and the surrounding settler colonial society. In this way, Chiwere's cultural value is made socially available for community audiences who rarely if ever encounter Chiwere as a communicative code in the course of everyday life. I conclude with some thoughts on how this linguistic anthropological line of inquiry might be of interest to documentary linguists who find themselves navigating the complicated social, cultural, and political currents of language revitalization movements.

2018.10.11 Screening of Dizhsa Nabani - Living Language

*Note this meeting is held in the Matrix Conference Room (8th floor of Barrows Hall).

4:00 - 5:30pm Screening of Dizhsa Nabani - Living Language

5:30 - 6:00pm Q-and-A session with faculty and students in the Indigenous Language Revitalization Designated Emphasis

2018.10.18 Andrew Garrett (UC Berkeley)

*Note this meeting is part of the GAIL talk series which will take place on Wednesday 18th, October at 6pm at Leanne Hinton's house. For information about how to get there, please email

Yurok rhotic vowels and vowel harmony

Spoken in NW California, the Yurok language (Algic) has no remaining elder first-language speakers, but has an active language revival program with good second-language speakers and some young first-language speakers. In phonology, Yurok is well known for a vowel harmony process whereby non-high vowels (a, a:, e, o, o:) may become rhotic (ɚ, ɚ:) in words that contain a rhotic vowel. According to prior descriptions (e.g. Robins 1958), high vowels (i i: u u:) are unaffected. In this presentation, I will discuss the domain of harmony and the matter of high vowels. I will show that some Yurok speakers had rhotic high vowels that are the result of vowel harmony and even underlying rhotic high vowels that trigger vowel harmony. The work reported here is based on legacy data (notes and recordings) as well as more recent (2001-2007) recordings, and was partly collaborative with language teachers in the context of Yurok Tribe language workshops. This talk will be broadcast to Yurok language teachers and activists.

2018.10.25 Sean Brown (Owens Valley Paiute/Nüümü), Vince Medina (Muwekma, mak-'amham), Line Mikkelsen (UC Berkeley, "serineq qaammallu"), Lou Montelongo (Eastern Band of Cherokee, “Di-de-yo-hv-sgi”), and Beth Piatote (Nez Perce,  Antikoni)

*Note this meeting is held in 554 Barrows Hall.

The Many Lives of Indigenous Languages

This event celebrates the many lives of indigenous languages through short presentations and concludes with refreshments and a QA session about the newly created Designated Emphasis in Indigenous Language Revitalization at UC Berkeley.

2018.11.01 Catalina Torres (University of Melbourne)

Laboratory phonology in the South Pacific: Word prominence in Drehu (New Caledonia)

Methods from laboratory phonology have substantially helped advance our understanding of phonetics and phonology. However, these methods have been implemented on a restricted number of languages, mostly spoken by populations in industrialised countries, neglecting so a large number of populations and languages, especially in remote areas. In this talk, two experiments investigating prominence marking in Drehu will be presented. Drehu, like many other languages from the Melanesian linkage, represents an understudied language regarding its phonetics and prosody. Impressionistic descriptions of its phonology (Lenormand 1954, Tryon 1968) state the language has word initial stress. New findings on Drehu word prominence as well as advantages and limitations in the study of prosody through the lens of laboratory phonology will be discussed. 

2018.11.08 Kate Lindsay (Stanford)

Sociolinguistic Field Methods in Papua New Guinea

To what extent can the results of variation studies in large-scale speech communities be extended to small-scale speech communities? Many sociolinguistic differences would lead us to reject the "uniformitarian principle" that allows us to extrapolate across space and time (Labov 1972), for example: rates of linguistic change, rates and types of multilingualism, and conditions of language acquisition are all different between WEIRD and small-scale societies like in southern New Guinea. In this talk, I will discuss how I planned, collected, analyzed, and interpreted a sociolinguistically annotated corpus of Ende, a Pahoturi River language of southern New Guinea, taking into account the unique characteristics of this community. Together, we can discuss the advantages and difficulties for engaging in this type of research in small-scale speech communities.

2018.11.13 Haley De Korne (University of Oslo)

*Note this meeting is at a different time and place: Tuesday from 4:00 - 5:30pm and in Dwinelle 1229.

Language reclamation as a socio-political practice: Strategies of engagement in multilingual environments

What does it take to alter current processes of language endangerment and displacement? What can meaningfully support speech communities who experience discrimination and struggle to revitalize and reclaim their unique ways of communicating? There are multiple possible responses to these questions, ranging from addressing political and economic inequalities, to changing education systems, and shifting monolingual societal paradigms. In this talk I will draw on ethnographic and action research on the teaching and learning of Isthmus Zapotec (diidxazá) in Oaxaca, Mexico (2013- 2018) in order to examine language reclamation strategies as socio-political practices which may be pursued by a wide range of social actors. I will discuss the inherently multilingual nature of language reclamation environments and the implications this has for reclamation initiatives, in particular education initiatives. Additionally, I will present a repertoire of language advocacy strategies through which diverse social actors are engaging in language reclamation, highlighting the importance of factors of time, place, visibility and historicity in these strategies.

2018.11.15 Kate Hedges and Leanne Hinton (UC Berkeley) *Note this meeting is part of the GAIL talk series

The Konkow Project

The Konkow Maidu Cultural Preservation Association (KMCPA) is creating a searchable database and website to help language learners and researchers better utilize the Konkow materials of Russell Ultan, who did fieldwork on language in the 1960’s. His recordings, dissertation and student papers are in the Survey and online. We also have two stories with sentence by sentence translations that were provided to the Association by the Long Now Foundation. The team consists of Kate Hedges (secretary of KMCPA and the person developing the online database and website), Leanne Hinton (handling the linguistic analysis) and Todd Gettleman (in charge of inputting the language data and working with the team on the creation of lesson, exercises and language games for language learners.

Leanne and Kate will present the components of the database and website. Leanne will also report on the complex pronominal system of Konkow, which is one of the requirements of the DEL grant* funding this project. 

*Our thanks to the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

2018.11.22 Happy Thanksgiving - No meeting!

2018.11.29 Julia Nee (UC Berkeley)

Zapotec language revitalization: Fostering inter-generational language transmission

Teotitlán del Valle Zapotec (TdVZ) is an endangered language spoken in southern Mexico. Over the past few years, I have worked with community members and the local government to offer Zapotec language camps for kids ages 5-12 in Teotitlán. In each class, students spend about an hour in the classroom learning vocabulary and phrases related to a particular communicative goal, then they are taken on an excursion to use the language they’ve learned in context with native Zapotec speakers. The idea is that this format will encourage the use of Zapotec between students and native speakers in contexts beyond the classroom. So far, camps were offered in summer 2017 and 2018; another camp is scheduled for winter 2019. In this talk, I’ll present an overview of the communication-based instruction used in the curriculum as well as some of the specific activities that have been used in the class. We’ll also consider some of the issues that arise in attempting to create “authentic” materials for language revitalization when none yet exist. I’ll also share the results of the pilot evaluation of the camp, which shows that students are bringing the materials that they create in class home and are using them outside of the classroom to practice their Zapotec knowledge. Finally, I’ll present the plans for the winter 2019 Zapotec camp and strategies for its evaluation.

2018.12.06 Quirina Geary (UC Davis/Amah Mutsun Tribal Band)

A Collaborative Effort: The Case of Mutsun

For over a century, academics and tribal communities have had working relationships to document endangered languages. This talk engages in the broader conversation of methodologies in language documentation and revitalization using the successful model of collaboration between non-native professional academics and the Mutsun tribal community.  I will share the multiple measures used in the decision-making and problem-solving processes including conflict resolution.