Lessons from a Dialect Survey of Bena: Analysing Word Lists

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Statement of Responsibility:
Mitterhofer, Bernadette
Series Issue:
SIL International
Publisher Place:
Dallas, Texas
Part Of Series:
SIL Electronic Survey Reports 2013-020
131 pages

In my work with SIL in Tanzania the analysis and comparison of wordlists is a quite frequent task. For this reason I started to look into different methods of analysing wordlists. The data collected during a sociolinguistic survey of the Bena language provided a good opportunity. Unlike after other surveys, we did not come back with a good general idea of the linguistic layout of the area, and the sociolinguistic data we collected was not very straightforward.

When someone begins to learn a new language, he usually starts with words and some phrases to build up vocabulary before learning all the intricate rules of the language. Likewise, linguists, especially those working on formerly “unknown” languages start with the elicitation of a wordlist. For the analysis of a language, a wordlist is a good starting point and analysing wordlists has always been a part of the work of linguists. One of the reasons for using word lists is that in order to understand one another, speakers have to recognise the words the other speakers are using.

In the interest of making this work available without further delay, we are posting it as it was accepted by the institution that granted the degree without further peer review.

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Language surveys
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