Fieldwork Forum (FForum)

When? Wednesdays 3:10PM-4:30PM

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 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 Talk

2020.4.22 Wesley dos Santos (UC Berkeley)

A linguistic survey meets the Kawahiva communities

[Note: Due to public health concerns, this talk will be given remotely via Zoom. A link will be sent out to the FForum mailing list; if you are not on the mailing list but would like to attend this talk, please email Wesley dos Santos: wesleynascimento at berkeley dot edu.]

The Brazilian decree n. 7.387, December 9th set up the National Survey of Linguistic Diversity to serve as an instrument of documentation of the native languages. Among the different parts of the country to be surveyed was the state of Rondônia. In this talk, I present my own experience in being part of the research team responsible for the survey of three indigenous communities from Rondônia who speak Kawahiva, the language’s name of the Amondawa [ISO code: adw], Karipuna [ISO code: kuq] and Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau [ISO code: urz]. Information about the language endangerment and documentation modules of the survey will be presented throughout.  

Upcoming Schedule

2020.4.29 Andrew Garrett (UC Berkeley)

Text editions as inside-out grammars: Karuk texts from 1901-02

In 1901-02, ten Karuk-language traditional stories were dictated by Julia Bennett, John Gorham, Martha Horne, and Little Ike to A. L. Kroeber; they remain unpublished. An edition of these stories (current work in collaboration with Julian Lang and Erik H. Maier) includes detailed line-by-line linguistic commentary on each text. In this presentation I will describe how such a text edition is like an "inside-out" grammar of the language, seeking to explicate for each word and sentence its syntagmatic content as well as the paradigmatic alternative set that it invokes, so that readers and language learners can appreciate the choices made by story-tellers in the expression of their intended meanings. As I will discuss, such an inside-out approach to linguistic description has some advantages and some disadvantages relative to conventional structurally-oriented grammars.

Past Talks: Spring 2020

2020.1.22 Gabriella Licata (UC Berkeley)

Opposing overt and covert language attitudes: Implications for the revitalization of Genoese

The assessment of language attitudes is an essential metric for gauging the linguistic vitality of an endangered language, as community perception will have immediate impact on its use and maintenance. The effects of social variables such as gender can be qualitatively and quantitatively assessed to reveal perceptions of various social groups, and in turn shed light on who can access positive indexical fields when using the given variety (Eckert & McConnell-Ginet, 1999). Genoese (a Gallo-Italic language of Northern Italy)—like many other Romance languages in Europe with little to no institutional protections in place—is definitely endangered as defined by UNESCO parameters (Brenzinger et al., 2003), lacking transmission to younger generations. The quantitative results of a recent sociophonetic experiment I carried out in Liguria demonstrate that Genoese-speaking women are rated more negatively than their male and Italian-speaking counterparts in regards to how they are perceived to sound when speaking Genoese. In accordance with the gender paradox (Labov, 2001:261-293), women will avoid speaking Genoese if doing so results in no positive social gains. While women continue to be primary caregivers and language socializers of children in Italy, I argue that the results of this study further thwart intergenerational transmission of Genoese, threatening efforts of revitalization.

2020.1.29 Round Robin: Summer fieldwork 2020

Everyone is invited to present their plans for fieldwork this summer for discussion and feedback. Presenters are encouraged to ask questions about elicitation tools, fieldwork methodology, or/and recording equipment. Anyone who wants to attend but not present is also welcome.

2020.2.5 Tyler Lemon (UC Berkeley)

Administered fieldwork: Documenting Uab Meto with a team and external logistical support

In this talk I will describe my experiences conducting fieldwork in Indonesia last summer.  I participated in an NSF-funded program led by Peter Cole and Gaby Hermon (University of Delaware) that took four American linguistics grad students and put each of us on a team with two Indonesian college students who were native speakers of one of the local languages.  A significant amount of the overhead logistical work was handled by Indonesian professors associated with the program.  I will discuss the many advantages of this approach as well as a few difficulties associated with team coordination, linguistic analysis, and the language barrier.  I will also provide a brief overview of some interesting aspects of Uab Meto, including metathesis, topic and focus, and agreement.

2020.2.12 Mary Hermes (University of Minnesota)

Forest Walks in Ojibwemowin: Documentation and Analysis for Reclamation

[Note: This talk is at a different location: the Social Science Matrix conference room on the 8th floor of Barrows Hall.]

In this field work talk I will describe what happens when you start with a principle of indigenous reclamation, instead of a linguistic documentation paradigm.  What are the guiding principles and the detailed decisions that came out of thinking of documentation as an act of reclamation? Both theoretical and practical directions will come out of this talk. "Forest Walks" are a corpus of 14 walks conducted in an endangered language, Ojibwe, with a First Speaker and youth who have learned as a second language at an immersion school.  The walking is done on Ojibwe reservation land. Dyads were instructed to "talk about whatever they liked." Yielding a rich data set of what Ojibwe language, between generations and outside of schools, looks like on land. Early implication of analysis done using microethnography and micro-interactional methods, shows that the collaboration, silence, and the land as an interlocutor are all things we can see in this data. Through a learning science lense, we see everyday discourse patterns described.

2020.2.19 Ana Lívia Agostinho (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina)

Fieldwork and language contact in the Gulf of Guinea

There are four genetically-related Portuguese-based creoles native to the Gulf of Guinea: Santome, Angolar, Lung’Ie – spoken in São Tomé and Príncipe – and Fa d’Ambô – spoken in Equatorial Guinea. In this talk I will present my experience conducting fieldwork with the languages of the Gulf of Guinea for the past 11 years. I will describe the social-historical context of the emergence of these languages and their current linguistic situation. I will also discuss issues on language planning and policy as well as on the use of creoles in media and education in São Tome and Príncipe, focusing on my research and on the material I have been developing for Lung’Ie, the most severely endangered language of the region.

2020.2.26 Myriam Lapierre (UC Berkeley)

Challenges of literacy education and orthography development in the Amazonian indigenous context: A case study from Panãra

In this talk, I discuss the methodology that I employ to develop an orthography for Panãra (ISO code kre), a Jê language spoken in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Panãra, like most Amazonian languages, has no previous written tradition, which results in a very particular set of challenges for orthography development, the most salient of which is inconsistency in sound-symbol correspondence across speakers. The methodology, inspired by Nevins & Moore (2011), focuses on determining and following native speaker intuitions about what seems like a correct representation of sounds. This process was implemented during a series of four ten-day workshops led in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 in the Panãra village of Nãnsêpotiti. Community members were invited to participate in the workshop, mostly designed around open discussions aiming to assess the most preferred sound-symbol correspondence for all phonemes in the inventory of the language. From these discussions, the Panãra orthography has been largely emergent over the years. Following the consensus decisions taken during the workshops, writing standards were implemented and practiced, and rates of literacy have increased substantially among the Panãra over the last five years.

2020.3.4 Line Mikkelsen (UC Berkeley)

Publishing based on fieldwork

Professional linguists engaged in fieldwork often publish based on this fieldwork. This raises non-trivial questions about how publishing fits into linguist-community collaborations and relationships. The purpose of the meeting is to have an open conversation about these issues, learn from each other in this domain, and arrive a a better understanding of how these issues can guide the choices we make as professional linguists. We will start the conversation by sharing individual publication experiences and then move into discussion of themes that emerge from those experiences.

2020.3.11 Tessa Scott (UC Berkeley)

Dialectal variation in Mam syntax

[Note: This talk was given remotely via Zoom.]

2020.3.18 No FForum [Cancelled due to public health concerns]

2020.3.25 No FForum (Spring break)

2020.4.1 Alternative summer arrangements amidst COVID-19

[Note: This talk was given remotely via Zoom.]

As many of us work in communities where most of the remaining speakers are members of the at-risk population for COVID-19, we have the ethical, social, and legal obligation to comply with regulations suspending in-person research indefinitely. Consequently, this will likely have direct implications on our ability to conduct in situ fieldwork this summer. Such disruptions to our summer plans can be unsettling. In this meeting, we will discuss ways of spending the summer "productively"—with an understanding that productivity appears in many forms—in the event that our summer fieldwork plans fall through.

2020.4.8 No FForum

2020.4.15 Nicolas Arms (UC Berkeley)

Coordination and omnipredicativity in ‘Weenhayek: Some preliminary notes

[Note: This talk was given remotely via Zoom.]

In ‘Weenhayek, a Mataguayan language of the Bolivian Chaco, symmetric coordination is achieved by means of a particle (wet) that one often also finds intervening between categorially distinct, and ostensibly non-coordinated, constituents (e.g., a verbal predicate and its NP “subject”). Drawing on preliminary data from fieldwork with ‘Weenhayek speakers in Tuunteyh (Villa Montes) and ‘Iilakyat (Capirendita), I will attempt in this presentation to sketch out a hypothesis that constructions of this latter sort are in fact true biclausal coordinate structures, and that their consistently monoclausal Spanish translation equivalents may, in turn, reflect attempts to accommodate a discursively salient implicature afforded by what Launey (1994, 2004) has termed “omnipredicativity.” Throughout the presentation, I will try to highlight some methodological challenges posed by the use of translations more generally in the course of investigating phenomena at the semantics–pragmatics interface.

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 where she and other students and speakers of Ojibwe have created a space for language to be shared by academics and the native community.

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.

2019.11.28 No meeting (Thanksgiving)

2019.12.05 No meeting 

2019.12.12 No meeting (RRR Week)