Language Documentation

Language documentation seeks to capture and preserve the linguistic practices of a language community with audio and video recordings. The types of recordings normally gathered in a language documentation project are elicited wordlists, communicative events, and analytical discussions about the language, as described below.

  • Elicited wordlists include collections of semantic categorization, such as standardized word lists, numbers and colors, typologies of living things or objects, and paradigms of grammatical categories. These form the basis of the lexicon which is to be used in later analysis of the running text found in communicative events.
  • Communicative events, also called speech events, include all the forms normally used by speakers of the language, including the every day unplanned speech events such as dinner table conversations, as well as the more planned types of discourses, such as speeches before a group of listeners. The set of communicative event recordings would comprise the largest number of recordings in the documentary corpus.
  • Analytical discussions are commentaries by community members about the language, culture, or context that come up in during fieldwork. These may be guided by the researcher and contribute to understanding the corpus as a whole. These are often conducted in a language of wider communication, and may therefore not require further transcription or translation.