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


~Winter break (no meetings)~


2023.01.18 Melissa Gomes (UC Davis)

In-person presentation (Zoom attendees welcome)


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

Presentation via Zoom (in-person attendees welcome)


2023.02.01 Gilles Polian

Presentation via Zoom (in-person attendees welcome)


2023.02.08 TBD


2023.02.22 Tracy Burnett (UC Berkeley)

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)

Presentation via Zoom (in-person attendees welcome) 


2023.03.15 TBD


2023.03.22 Ambrocio Gutierrez Lorenzo (CU Boulder)

Presentation via Zoom (in-person attendees welcome) 


2023.03.29 No Meeting (Spring Break)


2023.04.05 TBD


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

Presentation via Zoom (in-person attendees welcome) 


2023.04.19 Claudine Chamoreau (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France)

Presentation via Zoom (in-person attendees welcome) 


2023.04.26 TBD


2023.05.03 Last Meeting (TBD)


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
dictionaries.

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)