Language Documentation & Conservation, vol. 1, no. 2 (2007)


Natqgu Literacy: Capturing Three Domains for Written Language Use
Brenda H. Boerger

This article is a field report on the results of the Santa Cruz, Solomon Islands, Natqgu Language Project that encourages the Natqgu-speaking community to begin using the written vernacular in three domains where English and/or Solomon Islands Pijin were already well established: church, school, and home, and where written Natqgu had rarely been used. Ten factors contributed to recovering significant portions of these domains for written Natqgu over a twenty year period: a new orthography, literacy courses led by a national, sufficient vernacular literacy materials, vernacular literacy classes in two primary schools, a desire to learn song lyrics, later island-wide involvement of teachers and the distribution of literacy materials to their schools, the addressing of perceived language inferiority, promoters of written Natqgu in spheres of influence, computer technology, and friendly competition to gain reading fluency. A model incorporating analogous factors could contribute to language conservation efforts elsewhere in the world. The use of written Natqgu can be expected to continue on the island, since the domains that have been established for its use represent three major arenas of Santa Cruz society. It is also expected that increased use of written Natqgu will undergird spoken Natqgu and contribute to its long-term stability and vitality.

The Use of Perception Tests in Studying the Tonal System of Prinmi Dialects: A Speaker-centered Approach to Descriptive Linguistics
Picus Sizhi Ding

Contrary to previous description based on the Mandarin model of syllable-tone system, Xinyingpan, a dialect of Prinmi (a Tibeto-Burman language of China), has been discovered to possess a melody-tone system (or “pitch-accent” system) akin to that of Japanese. Targeting the crux of the unusual characteristics of this melody-tone system, where neutralization of two tonal categories in citation form is possible, this study uses perception tests to explore (dis)similarities among the tonal system of Xinyingpan Prinmi and those of other dialects. The perception tests consist of several minimal pairs of words contrasting solely by tone in a sentence frame. Results from more than twenty native speakers of fifteen Prinmi dialects from Ninglang, Lanping, and Yulong counties in Yunnan show that at least three minimal pairs of words in other dialects use the same tonal patterns for contrast in connected speech as in Xinyingpan. Evidence for the contrastive status of the pairs of words was attained directly from speakers who helped to prepare materials for the perception tests. This paper will also discuss some effects of language shift, such as linguistic attrition, observed in the empirical study.

The Gbe Language Continuum of West Africa: A Synchronic Typological Approach to Prioritizing In-depth Sociolinguistic Research on Literature Extensibility
Angela Kluge

For large language continua, such as Gbe of West Africa, a major challenge stakeholders concerned with language planning issues are facing is the question of the extensibility of written materials. To adequately inform language development program decisions in terms of literature extensibility, ideally, in-depth sociolinguistic studies would be conducted in all of the varieties involved, an undertaking that proves rather unfeasible for large continua.This paper proposes that when applying a multifaceted approach to linguistic data interpretation, such in-depth sociolinguistic studies may be unnecessary. This paper compares the findings of synchronic analyses of lexical and grammatical features elicited among 49 Gbe varieties to the outcomes of more recent Rapid Appraisal sociolinguistic surveys, and the findings of two diachronic studies. In considering the different approaches as complementing rather than contradicting each other, the proposed multifaceted approach exemplifies how different outcomes from various studies may be used to inform focused in-depth sociolinguistic research. Such research would in turn directly influence language program development decisions as to the extensibility of already existing literature to the remaining speech communities of the continuum.

Bislama into Kwamera: Code-mixing and Language Change on Tanna (Vanuatu)
Lamont Lindstrom

People throughout Vanuatu frequently mix Bislama (that country’s national Pidgin) into their vernaculars. Extensive code-mixing is an obvious indicator, and sometime cause, of language change or even language replacement. This paper discusses several sorts of Bislama code-mixing on Tanna among speakers of that island’s Kwamera language. It assesses levels and kinds of Bislama use in four village debates, tape-recorded in 1982 and 1983. Among other uses, Kwamera speakers mix Bislama when interjecting, reiterating, reporting speech, neutralizing marked vernacular terms, and qualifying what they say. The paper concludes with some remarks on the phonological, morphological/syntactic, and lexical/semantic consequences of recurrent language mixing—on how Islanders’ insertions of Bislama into their oratorical and everyday talk may or may not be effecting linguistic change in Kwamera. Bislama, so far at least, has enriched more than it has impoverished Tanna’s linguistic ecology. Speakers’ frequent Bislama mixes have not yet seriously undermined their vernacular.

Fostering the Growth of Budding Community Initiatives: The Role of Linguists in Tokelauan Maintenance in Hawai‘i
Yuko Otsuka and Andrew Wong

This paper discusses our involvement in the language revitalization project initiated by the Tokelauan community in Central O‘ahu, Hawai‘i. Nearly 1,000 people of Tokelauan descent live in Hawai‘i. Several elders have observed that a language shift from Tokelauan (Polynesian) to English and/or Hawai‘i Creole English is taking place in the community. Our involvement in the project illustrates several fundamental issues about language revitalization: (1) the need for collaboration not only between linguists and community members, but also among linguists with different areas of expertise, (2) the significance of balancing the needs of the community with those of researchers, (3) the importance of publicizing our research, and (4) the question of who is responsible for protecting the language right of immigrant populations.

Collaborative Linguistic Fieldwork: Practical Application of the Empowerment Model
Racquel-Maria Yamada

Academic linguists working to document and describe minoritized and endangered languages share with speech community members a devotion to the language of study. For the academic, language provides a window into cognition and the capacity of the human mind. For the speech community member, language represents cultural heritage and, for many, a tie to place and a sense of identity. Both parties have a vested interest in the documentation, description, and preservation of lesser-spoken languages as a way to perpetuate global linguistic and cultural diversity and maintain ties to heritage. Many who conduct linguistic fieldwork with endangered languages have noted that the needs and desires of the speech community are often subordinated in favor of those of the academic linguist. Some academics fear that time spent meeting community needs diminishes the field-worker’s academic productivity. This paper describes several collaborative, community-based projects that address the needs of both academics and the speech community, using case-study examples from the author’s own fieldwork with a Kari’nja community in Suriname. In discussing each project, emphasis is given to practical methods of meeting needs of both the academic and speech communities, and to how this ensures more balanced participation of each in the linguistic fieldwork endeavor.


Review of EUDICO Linguistic Annotator (ELAN)
Reviewed by Andrea L. Berez

Review of Audiamus 2.3
Reviewed by Amanda Brotchie

Review of LexiquePro
Reviewed by Valérie Guérin and Sébastien Lacrampe

Review of Fontographer
Reviewed by: Mia Kalish


Review of A Hausa-English Dictionary
Reviewed by William R. Leben

Review of When Languages Die
Reviewed by Keren Rice