Language documentation generally starts with examining one aspect of a language, for example a specific lexicon (e.g. the names of plants) or a particular use of the language (e.g. the structures and words used for spatial orientation) and builds up gradually to a full picture of the language in all its complexity.
Documenting means that you work with speakers of a lesser-known language (ideally your own language) to produce high quality video and audio recordings, which are then transcribed, annotated, and possibly translated into a language of wider communication so that other linguists can use them. More importantly, though, these materials can then be used by the speakers themselves in any way that they may wish. It may not be up to you to save any language! But starting to document a language can be a first step towards a revalorisation of its speakers’ knowledge, the promotion of its usage in the community, or the development of some materials for schools.
Projects in this area require a good grasp of linguistic analysis (a high grade in LN411 or equivalent).
Current USP projects in this area:
“Navigating the Weather (NaWA)” (Candide Simard & Apolonia Tamata, in collaboration with activists and members of the Uto ni Yalo Trust, and associate researchers Andrea Deri, anthropologist- specialist in climate change, and Caroline Giraud, expert on communication and community engagement). Learn more below.
“Digital documentation of the botanical knowledge of Northern Khmer speakers” (Candide Simard & external colleagues). This project works with the villagers of Surin in Thailand in collaboration with the RILCA institute at Mahidol University, Bangkok, to document their knowledge of the plants and trees in the neighbouring forest, and to understand how much of this knowledge is passed on to the children… and in what language.
Current/former PGR students working in this area:
- Losalini Rokosuli (MA by SRP, Laucala, Fiji) The semantics of navigations in dialects of the Fijian language
- Peter Sasabule (MA, Solomon Islands) Documentation of Roviana, New Georgia, Western Solomon Islands
- Jim Gure (Ma by SRP, Vanuatu) Lexical innovations in Raga, North Pentecost, Vanuatu