Fieldwork and Language Documentation

Grenoble colloquium

April 18, 2019

The 2018-2019 colloquium series continues this coming Monday, April 22, with a talk by Lenore Grenoble (Chicago). Same time as always, same place as always: 3:10-5 p.m., 370 Dwinelle Hall. The talk is entitled Documenting Contact and Change in Siberian Multilingual Contexts, and the abstract is as follows:

Multiple indigenous languages in Eurasia are undergoing change and loss as speakers shift to Russian. The language ecologies of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) provide an excellent testing ground for hypotheses about the causes and effects of contact-induced language change. The Sakha language (Turkic) is spoken by a (slim) majority of residents of the Republic, with an estimated 500,000 speakers; several minority indigenous languages are spoken as well. All are undergoing language shift, to varying degrees. Russian, although not the language of the ethnic majority in Sakha, is pervasive with its status as a national language, and as the language of higher education and media. Although we might predict that the use of Sakha supports use of areal features, but that does not appear to be the case today. In this talk I discuss a large, ongoing project that uses mixed methods to document contact and change. Here I focus on the use of experimental methods, with particular attention to word order several Altaic languages: Sakha (Turkic) and Even and Evenki (Tungusic). All three languages show changes from inherited patterns to more Russian-like morphosyntax, including a shift from SOV word order to SVO and word order driven by information structure and changes in clause-combining strategies, as well as some evidence of contact effects in the varieties of Russian used by Sakha speakers. Preliminary work suggests that these changes take place sporadically in the speech of of Even and Evenki speakers, and that language shift probably impedes them from becoming grammaticalized. This hypothesis needs more systematic testing with a combination of experimental and sociolinguistic field data. More research is also needed to see if the innovations are diffusing across speakers of Sakha and whether these changes are indicative of imperfect learning and language shift rather than contact-induced convergence.

Berkeley linguists at SAIL

April 10, 2019

This weekend is the Symposium for American Indigenous Languages (SAIL) at the University of Arizona. Berkeley will be represented by postdoc Bernat Bardagil Mas, giving a talk entitled Language documentation as anticipated historical linguistics? and grad student Zachary O'Hagan, leading a plenary workshop called Using the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages - California Languages Archive.

Survey updates

April 2, 2019

Zach O'Hagan writes with the following news from the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages:

LSA proceedings published

March 25, 2019

The 4th volume of the Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America has just been published, showcasing research presented in January at the 2019 Annual Meeting. In the collection are three papers by students and faculty: 

Congrats all!

Linguists keep busy

March 21, 2019

Last weekend was a busy one for Berkeley linguists, with department members at conferences in Dwinelle Hall dedicated to Celtic and Amazonian languages as well as attending conferences in other locations! 

Numerous Berkeley attendees at the Symposium on Amazonian Languages (SAL III)

Symposium on Amazonian Languages III

Virginia Dawson and Samantha Wathugala at Formal Approaches to South Asian Languages 9, Reed College, Portland (after presenting their paper, In support of a choice functional analysis of Sinhala ðə)

Dawson and Wathugala at FASAL

And to cap things off with some true linguistics in action: here's Susan Lin presenting Linguistics: making sense from noise at the East Bay Science Cafe, last Thursday (March 14). 

Susan Lin presenting

Bardagil Mas in Finland

March 19, 2019

This coming week in Helsinki, postdoc Bernat Bardagil Mas will present a talk titled Rethinking the documentation trilogy in endangered language research at a conference called Descriptive grammars and typology. Congrats, Bernat!

Group in American Indian Languages (GAIL)

The Group in American Indian Languages (GAIL) meets twice each semester and brings together individuals interested in indigenous languages of the Americas for a potluck dinner and presentation.

News about recent and upcoming events can be found below, and a list of past talks can be found here.

Survey updates

March 14, 2019

Zach O'Hagan writes with the following news from the Survey of California and Other Indian Languages:

  • Nicholas Rolle (PhD 2018) archived 28 file bundles of sound recordings and field notes in two collections related to Izon and Kalabari (Ijaw; Nigeria), based on fieldwork in Port Harcourt in July and August 2017. A focus of these elicitation sessions is tone, especially grammatical tone. Now a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Program in Linguistics at Princeton University, Dr. Rolle's recent dissertation, Grammatical Tone: Typology and Theory, can be found here. An accomplished Africanist, NikRo is also a budding Amazonianist, having collaborated with Marine Vuillermet, a postdoc in this department in 2013 and currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Laboratoire Dynamique du Langage (Lyon), on the morphologically conditioned assignment of accent in Ese Ejja (Takanan; Peru, Bolivia).
  • William Sturtevant's (BA 1949, Berkeley) 1951 recordings of Mikasuki (Muskogean; Florida) have been made unrestricted.

Berkeley linguists publish in LD&C

March 6, 2019

The journal Language Documentation & Conservation has recently released a special publication entitled Reflections on Language Documentation: 20 Years after Himmelmann 1998, including three papers by faculty or alumni: 

Survey updates

February 28, 2019

Some updates from the Survey of California and other Indian Languages:

  • Tessa Scott archived 34 file bundles related to Ndengeleko (Bantu; Tanzania), from her fieldwork in 2017 and 2018. The audio recordings consist primarily of elicitation (accompanied by scanned and typed field notes), with four short texts and discussions with speakers of consent for the project.
  • George Kamau (BA 1962) was discovered to be the language consultant for Prof. William Shipley's winter-spring 1962 field methods course on Kikuyu (Bantu; Kenya), then listed as 220B "Linguistics Laboratory." His recordings are items 002-005 here. In 1959 Mr. Kamau was part of the first cohort of 81 Kenyans brought from Nairobi to various universities in the US as part of a series of airlifts sponsored by the African American Student Foundation. The goal was to educate a generation of young Kenyans for post-British rule. Barack Obama, Sr. was part of the same cohort.
  • Last week it was reported that Prof. Wallace Chafe, at Berkeley from 1962 to 1986, passed away on February 3. Recordings from the second field methods course he taught here, on Dakota (Siouan; US) in fall-winter 1963-4, are items 012 and 013 here.