Fwd: Digital Language Documentation

Donald Z. Osborn dzo at BISHARAT.NET
Sat Oct 9 10:55:59 UTC 2004

The following item from the Linguist list may be of interest.

Although the request for info concerns primarily American languages, the subject
reminds me of a set of tapes of interviews with Sahelian people in the 1980s
about changes in their environment. This material was used for an English
language publication on that topic and the tapes were archived. Apparently at
least some of the tapes are still extant, but I'm not sure of their condition
or the possibilities for digitizing the audio (the latter contingent mainly on
funding), which was in the interviewees' languages. This doesn't concern
endangered languages but it would still be a shame to lose these voices.

Don Osborn

Date: 03-Oct-2004
From: Jeff Good <good at eva.mpg.de>
Subject: Digital Language Documentation

As part of work I am doing with several colleagues on the state of archiving of
digital resources, particularly in Americanist linguistics, I would like to
solicit any stories or anecdotes that list members have either (i) about data
that was unfortunately lost because of shifts in technology or media
degradation or (ii) an unexpected use that data was able to be put to because
of the use of good (especially ''best practice'') digital archiving methods.

To be more concrete, on the negative side, this could be a story about, for
example, how a dictionary for an endangered language was lost because of the
degradation of a floppy disk or because no program could be found to read an
old computer file. On the positive side, this could be a story about how a
well-structured and carefully maintained lexical database was able to be put to
multiple uses, for example to produce both an academic and a pedagogical

While we are particularly interested in cases from American languages, we
such a collection of stories to be of potential value to the general linguistic
community and, therefore, are collecting any relevant stories and
anecdotes--even if we don't use them all in our own research, they may, for
example, be valuable to the E-MELD project (http://www.emeld.org/).

Since a story of ''lost'' data could potentially be embarrassing, I would be
happy to keep such a story anonymous in the summary post of responses to this
query if requested.

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics

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