Fieldwork today

Mark P. Line mline at
Tue Feb 4 21:41:23 UTC 1997

I am fascinated and flabbergasted at this discussion of linguistic
fieldwork. I never knew that there was such a virulent undercurrent of
enthusiasm for fieldwork and data-based linguistics (I hesitate to say
"empirical" linguistics at a time when introspectively premised syllogisms
are accepted by mainstream scholars as "empirical") in nooks and crannies
around the world, as we've seen in recent days on this list.

It almost makes an old cynic like me want to break down and cry. ;)

Obviously, all this enthusiasm constitutes an enormous, but diffuse and
untapped, resource. The question, of course, is upon what this enormous
resource might be brought to bear. What comes to mind immediately is the
apparent need for assistance -- RESPECTFUL assistance, mind you -- to
endangered language communities that wish to take action that involves
linguistic description (primers; dictionaries; hell, _orthographies_;

Hmm. The Summer Institute of Linguistics is organized in a way that I
could envision being suitable for marshalling the expertise and enthusiasm
we're seeing here, but SIL follows a Christian agenda that is certainly
not my own and which is at least (not wanting to tread on any more toes
than necessary) unnecessarily restrictive for the task of trying to
revitalize endangered languages in a wide variety of social contexts.

Maybe what we need is a completely secular organization, perhaps set up
along similar lines as SIL, to put professionals and well-trained amateurs
into the field for short-term or long-term duty. Or is it only fervent
Christians with a missionary agenda who are motivated to live in the
jungle on native food, enjoy the rewards of linguistic fieldwork, and earn
peanuts (or mongongo nuts, as the case may be)?

-- Mark

(Mark P. Line   ----   Bellevue, Washington   ----   mline at

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