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 Tyler 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

Please check back soon!

Preliminary 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.

2018.12.13 No meeting