[RNLD] Re: How many hours of recorded speech? - more context

Claire Bowern clairebowern at GMAIL.COM
Tue Aug 28 14:46:17 UTC 2012

Hi Lindsay,
Since your speakers are already in high demand, is there a way to
integrate recording with the activities they are already doing? For
example, recording master-apprentice tasks might be a great way to get
recordings of the language of everyday activities without putting an
extra burden on speakers. Also, if they are in high demand, maybe they
would appreciate some weekends away together where they could talk to
each other in the language without a lot of researchers and others
around (except the person operating the recording equipment)?
If I remember right from CoLang, there's already quite a lot of
linguist-oriented documentary materials for your language. So maybe
the way to set priorities and targets would be to identify a bunch of
activities that the language team would like to be able to discuss in
the language. Then you could say something like "We are done with this
project when we have enough recordings that someone who wanted to talk
about X, Y, and Z would have the vocabulary and grammar to do so."
That's pretty vague, but it would give you an idea. To take a small
example, if I want to order a take-away pizza over the phone, there
are some words and grammar constructions that i need to know (e.g.
'pizza', some types of pizza, I need to give my address and phone
number, ask how much it is, when it will arrive, whether I want garlic
bread and drinks, etc).

On Tue, Aug 28, 2012 at 10:31 AM, Lindsay Marean <lmarean at bensay.org> wrote:
> I'm grateful for the many responses I'm receiving to my questions, which
> I've posted to three different listservs that deal with endangered language
> documentation and revitalization.  In a few days I'll compile the responses
> from all three lists (ILAT, RNLD, and ENDANGERED-LANGUAGES) and make them
> available to others who may be interested in reading them.
> Meanwhile, although I think the question of "what is sufficient?" is broadly
> relevant to language documentation, I'd like to provide a little more
> information about my own situation.
> I have an MA in linguistics, a few years of fieldwork experience, and some
> additional training in language documentation.  I'm working on my own
> heritage language, a North American indigenous language that I've been
> studying for 13 years.  Our few remaining fluent speakers are in high demand
> as teachers and consultants for summer language camps, master-apprentice
> programs, community and distance language classes, and research and
> documentation projects.  Recently we have decided to make documentation of
> natural speech one of our priorities.  However, "as much as you possibly can
> for as long as you possibly can" seems too naive an approach for us to take,
> because our documentation time comes at the expense of other projects that
> are also important.  We also don't want to leave our language
> underdocumented by neglecting a particular area of language use or by simply
> not recording enough.
> If you write a descriptive grammar or compile a dictionary, there's a point
> where you can say that you are "finished enough" to publish (of course there
> will be aspects of the grammar the you didn't touch on or fully account for,
> and your dictionary will be missing lots of words) and move on to a new
> project.  We won't stop recording our elders once our documentation project
> is over, but we'd like an idea of when we can consider our collection "big
> enough" to shift our focus to other priorities.
> Again, thank you for your many and carefully considered responses to my
> questions!
> Lindsay
> On 8/27/12 12:39 PM, Lindsay Marean wrote:
>> I'm helping to document a language with few first-language speakers
>> living.  We want to record them speaking naturally (and transcribe and
>> translate the recordings), and we hope to use this documentation as the
>> basis for more language description in the future.
>> I'm looking for people's opinions, experiences, and citations - how many
>> hours of recorded speech are minimally "enough" to most likely represent the
>> grammar of the language?  Are there particular discourse types that we
>> should be certain to record, besides narratives and conversations?
>> Best regards,
>> Lindsay

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