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Re: OT: Fieldwork terminology for a story

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  • Dirk Elzinga
    There s a nice book by Bert Vaux (and someone else whose name I can t remember). Claire Bowern s book was already mentioned. However, beyond the pretty general
    Message 1 of 9 , Mar 24, 2013
      There's a nice book by Bert Vaux (and someone else whose name I can't
      remember). Claire Bowern's book was already mentioned. However, beyond the
      pretty general advice in those books you pretty much just make it up as you
      go along. Every language is different and there really isn't a
      "one-size-fits-all" method. Having said that, I will say that I have found
      it helpful to get a short narrative early on (after about a month of
      phonetic / phonological / lexical work). It provides a nice springboard for
      grammatical elicitation, since after you analyze the text, you can use
      sentences from it to run through verbal / nominal paradigms. The sentences
      already have a context since they came from a narrative to begin with, so
      you don't have to go through all kinds of contortions to create contexts
      for grammatical elicitation.

      However, for me the most important thing is to make friends with your
      consultant(s). It sometimes slows down the work--my primary Goshute
      consultant liked to chat, and one of my Ute consultants really likes it
      when we go out for breakfast (my treat, of course), but it's always worth
      it in the end. (I hope I don't have to explain why.)


      On Sun, Mar 24, 2013 at 7:03 PM, MorphemeAddict <lytlesw@...> wrote:

      > On Sun, Mar 24, 2013 at 8:56 PM, George Corley <gacorley@...> wrote:
      > > I'm really glad to have gotten a couple of field linguists right off the
      > > bat. Maybe you guys would be interested in reading early drafts for me
      > and
      > > helping me with some details. There are obviously parts of the
      > experience
      > > I'll just have to imagine (my field linguist is a simulated
      > consciousness,
      > > and he's involved in the discovery of an intelligent alien species), but
      > > for certain parts of it your experience would probably help me out quite
      > a
      > > bit. I don't have any real experience or knowledge of how fieldwork
      > > progresses, so I may be getting things horribly wrong from the outset.
      > >
      > > Is there anything like "Field linguistics for dummies", with a
      > step-by-step procedure for studying/capturing languages?
      > stevo
    • Roger Mills
      I ve noticed the change in terminology over the years. When I came along, in the late 60s/early 70s, _informant_ was just about the only term used. Gradually
      Message 2 of 9 , Mar 25, 2013
        I've noticed the change in terminology over the years. When I came along, in the late 60s/early 70s, _informant_ was just about the only term used. Gradually I''ve seen _consultant_ take over.  At first I thought it was some sort of PC-ism, but even in my experience, I worked with several people who were indeed "consultants" (and so acknowledged them in my diss.), in that they were truly experts in their languages. Others, however, were just answering my questions (and incidentally picking up a little English in the process); but nowadays, when I remember :-(, I use consultant.

        --- On Sun, 3/24/13, Dirk Elzinga <dirk.elzinga@...> wrote:

        From: Dirk Elzinga <dirk.elzinga@...>
        Subject: Re: OT: Fieldwork terminology for a story
        To: CONLANG@...
        Date: Sunday, March 24, 2013, 8:35 PM

        I always refer to the people I work with as "consultants." It seems to
        capture the relationship well; they have specialized knowledge that I would
        like to know, and I'm willing to compensate them for their time and
        expertise. The term "informant" is still used, but I don't like the
        connotations of passivity that the term carries. (A couple of decades ago,
        and maybe still in some parts of the world, it could also carry dangerous
        political connotations, especially if the field linguist was American.)
        Some linguists have even gone so far as to refer to the people they work
        with as "teacher," but that doesn't describe *my* working relationship with
        them, no matter how much I am learning.

        Informally, I refer to them as "friends," because that's what they
        are/become to me.


        On Sun, Mar 24, 2013 at 5:48 PM, Leland Paul Kusmer <me@...>wrote:

        > When I took my first field methods class (not too long ago), we
        > consistently talked about our speakers as "informants", so that is still in
        > common use. That said, there tends to be a move these days towards getting
        > speakers more involved (i.e. involved as more than just research subjects,
        > often as language activists or documenters in their own right),
        > particularly in endangered language work, which is the domain that
        > "consultant" is definitely the most PC term. (I use consultant myself, when
        > I remember.)
        > -Leland
        > On Sun, Mar 24, 2013 at 3:52 PM, George Corley <gacorley@...> wrote:
        > > I am writing an indeterminate-future short story featuring a field
        > > linguist, and I'm curious what y'all's thoughts might be on terminology
        > to
        > > use, particularly those on the list who are trained linguists.
        > >
        > > My understanding is that a field linguist's contacts within a speech
        > > community are traditionally called "informants", but recently I have read
        > > that there is some debate as to whether this term is appropriate, as it
        > > might have negative connotations among the lay public, or feel too
        > > impersonal.  I'm currently vacillating as to whether my linguist
        > character
        > > should be using "informant" or another alternative (I'm currently writing
        > > the story using the term "consultant").
        > >
        > > I'll note that I am not doing any conlanging for this book, but there is
        > an
        > > alien language featured (it is a signed language, and no actual words of
        > > this language will appear in the text).  As the language itself is not
        > > driving the plot, I only have a rough idea of what it will be, and
        > haven't
        > > even really thought about how it will differ from human languages (other
        > > than a small bit of phonetics, of course -- these creatures have two
        > > forelimbs and two antennae that are used in production).
        > >
        > > Any and all suggestions welcome.
        > >
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