Fieldwork Forum (FForum)

When? Thursdays 3:40PM-5:00PM

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 Edwin Ko, Wesley dos Santos, and Emily Drummond. 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 eddersko at berkeley dot edu.

See a list of our past talks here.


Upcoming Talks


2019.11.21 Emily Drummond (UC Berkeley)

Syntactic ergativity without ergativity

In this talk, I present preliminary data on the Nukuoro ergative extraction construction, which is marked with passive morphology. Unlike many syntactically ergative languages, Nukuoro does not mark morphological ergative case, though it was historically present in the language and appears in other Polynesian Outliers. Furthermore, Nukuoro appears to have innovated the ergative extraction restriction fairly recently, given that it does not appear in closely related languages. I will describe the basic ergative extraction pattern, which differs from other well-known extraction restrictions (e.g., Mayan), outline the diachronic puzzle of case loss plus innovation of syntactic ergativity, and discuss the challenges of conducting fieldwork on a language undergoing rapid language shift due to contact.

Upcoming Schedule


2019.11.28 No meeting (Thanksgiving)


2019.12.05 Myriam Lapierre (UC Berkeley)


2019.12.12 No meeting (RRR Week)


Past Talks: Fall 2019


2019.08.29 Welcome back!

Summer fieldwork updates

Join us for the first FForum meeting of the semester, where we will catch up on summer fieldwork developments. All are welcome!


2019.09.04 Teela Huff and Nick Carrick (UC Berkeley)

The Xavante Documentation Project

[Note: This talk is at a different date, time and location: Wednesday 9:30-11am in 1229 Dwinelle.]

With the funding provided by the Sawyer Fellowship, undergraduate students Teela Huff and Nicholas Carrick under the guidance of graduate student Myriam Lapierre went to Mato Grosso, Brazil and conducted linguistic fieldwork with the Xavante community of Etenhiritipa. The Xavante language, or A’uwẽ as it is called by native speakers, is a Central Jê language spoken in west-central Brazil. In the upcoming semester, the goal of this project is to input all of this fieldwork data into a FLEx database that then can be archived in the California Language Archive as well as be utilized to create a dictionary for the Xavante community. The project will then focus on the creation of a preliminary phonological analysis as well as incorporating Xavante lexical items into a pre-existing database to perform historical reconstruction of Macro-Jê.


2019.09.12 Virginia Dawson (UC Berkeley)

Documenting Tiwa kinship terms

In this talk, I will (i) provide the first systematic description of the kinship system of Tiwa (Tibeto-Burman; India), and (ii) facilitate a discussion of methodology in documenting kinship in a fieldwork setting. In addition to discussing Tiwa's core kinship system and related social categories, I will also describe a series of kinship nouns in Tiwa that denote sets of people in a particular relationship to one another, and the interesting ways in which they interact with numeral modification.


2019.09.19 No meeting


2019.09.26 Edwin Ko (UC Berkeley)

Northern Pomo language revitalization: The function of digital technology

Northern Pomo is a language traditionally spoken in Northern California. Today, there are no longer any fluent speakers but there is still a community who identifies with the language and who wishes to learn and revitalize it. In March and June of 2019, I co-hosted, with Erica Carson Jr. (Redwood Valley Rancheria) and Julia Nee (UC Berkeley), two language camps at the Redwood Valley Rancheria to teach Northern Pomo to learners of various age groups and of multiple tribal affiliations. On each day, students spend about six hours in the classroom engaging in a variety of interactive, collaborative games and activities. Because the language is no longer actively spoken, learning Northern Pomo relies on the use of digital technology to obtain rich linguistic input. Therefore, we also taught learners how to interact with digital resources within a blended learning environment where learners use digital resources while also interacting face-to-face. 
In this talk, I’ll present an overview of the activities that have been used at the camp that was offered in June of 2019. We’ll consider some of the issues that arise in using digital technology in language revitalization efforts. I’ll also share some results of my analysis of the interactions at the two camps, which show that digital technology places its user in the center of the language learning activity. Finally, I’ll discuss some of the affordances offered by a blended language learning environment in language revitalization vis-à-vis training and evaluation of digital tools, and community building.

2019.10.3 Nay San (Stanford) and Daan van Esch (Google)

Accelerating transcription of fieldwork data using machine learning

In our talk, we'll introduce Elpis, a user-friendly toolkit designed to help linguists transcribe fieldwork recordings faster. Elpis facilitates the transcription process by making it easy to train and apply a machine-learning speech recognition model on linguistic fieldwork data. We will describe the history of the Elpis project and its development, and provide some example scenarios in which Elpis has been applied so far. We will also introduce the current user interface and describe at a very high level how the underlying machine learning technology works. We will also describe what other possibilities language technology offers for accelerating the annotation and analysis process in general.


2019.10.8 Wendy López Márquez (UC Berkeley)

Los aplicativos en el popoluca de la Sierra

[Note: This talk was given in Spanish and had a different date, time, and location: Tuesday 1-2pm in 1229 Dwinelle.]


2019.10.10 Jim McCloskey (UC Santa Cruz)

Working on Irish [CANCELLED due to power outages]

This talk deals with the challenges and opportunities of doing linguistic work on contemporary Irish. Some of those challenges and opportunities are particular to the oddities of the Irish situation, but some have broader application, having to do in particular with doing theoretical work in the context of language death and potential revitalization.


2019.10.17 Zachary Wellstood (UC Berkeley)

Developing the next generation of researchers investigating Khoisan languages

In this talk, I will describe my fieldwork experience helping to document a Central Khoisan language named Cua, spoken in southeastern Botswana. I will briefly describe the broader linguistic context in Botswana and how this relates to Cua's present situation. The focus of this talk will be on project goals and outcomes (such as oral texts), methodology, and challenges. My involvement in this fieldwork is part of a collaborative NSF grant: Developing the next generation of researchers investigating Khoisan languages. Our team invites undergraduates and first-year graduate students from any university in the United States (i.e. Cal!) to apply to join us for six weeks of fieldwork next summer (2020). Undergraduate students are encouraged to attend this talk for information about applying!


2019.10.24 Sandy Chung (UC Santa Cruz)

Getting beyond dissonance in fieldwork

One familiar difficulty in linguistic fieldwork is that consultants' grammaticality judgments do not always align. The dissonance can be particularly troubling when the consultant in the minority is one of the linguist's main consultants. The best resolution would affirm all consultants' judgments, without having to resort to individual variation as the 'explanation'. In this talk, I discuss two cases of non-aligning grammaticality judgments from my fieldwork on Chamorro, an Austronesian language of the Mariana Islands, in which data from other sources—corpora and behavioral experiments—lead to a better understanding of what is going on.


2019.10.31 Wendy López Márquez (UC Berkeley)

A linguist native speaker's perspective on language documentation and description

In this talk, I will share my experiences doing fieldwork on my native language Nuntajɨɨyi (Mixe-Zoque). I will specially describe my participation in the Documentation of five Zoquean languages spoken in Mexico. This documentation project allowed me to work with my own community and speakers outside my community. The collection of texts that resulted from the project has been a major source for grammatical descriptions. 


2019.11.07 No meeting


2019.11.14 Margaret Noodin (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

Ojichaagwag Waaseyaaziwag (Radiant Souls): Four Women Masters of Social Self-Expression (Emma Goldman, Margaret Sanger, Gertrude Bonnin, Maude Kegg)

[Note: This talk is at a different time and location: 4pm-5:30pm in the Multicultural Community Center in the MLK Jr. Student Union.]

Margaret Noodin is a Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she also serves as Director of the Electa Quinney Institute for American Indian Education. She is the author of Bawaajimo: A Dialect of Dreams in Anishinaabe Language and Literature and Weweni, a collection of bilingual poems in Ojibwe and English. Her poems are anthologized in New Poets of Native NationsSing: Poetry from the Indigenous AmericasPoetryThe Michigan Quarterly ReviewWater Stone Review and Yellow Medicine Review. She is a strong advocate for education and community engagement through relevant research and teaching. In Milwaukee she works with the First Nations Program in the Milwaukee Public Schools, the Milwaukee School of Languages, the Milwaukee Indian Community School and the Urban Ecology Center. To see and hear current projects visit www.ojibwe.net where she and other students and speakers of Ojibwe have created a space for language to be shared by academics and the native community.