[RNLD] Melbourne Linguistics in the Pub Tuesday 24th November 2015: Here to help? – balancing research aims and community-oriented efforts in the field

Ruth Singer ruth.singer at gmail.com
Fri Oct 30 00:48:43 UTC 2015

*Announcement: Melbourne Linguistics in the Pub Tuesday 24th November 2015*


This month we are trying out a new pub, the University Hotel, Lygon St,
Carlton which has more cheap(ish) food options than Naughton’s

*Tonya Stebbins* (Monash University/Languagewise) will be leading the
discussion, she has written widely on her experiences of doing fieldwork
with a range of communities

*Topic: *Here to help? – balancing research aims and community-oriented
efforts in the field

Field linguists are also often well-intentioned, hoping to contribute to
the betterment of the world. This may be something they want to achieve
only through their academic research and teaching. But many would also like
to make a practical contribution to the community they research. Field
linguists often work with communities who are disadvantaged and feel a
strong desire to try and do something to redress the disadvantage. This can
take the form of providing support for language maintenance activities
(Newman 2003) or general volunteering such as collecting donations of
secondhand clothes, helping out with classes at the local school or driving
people to the next town.

There has been quite a bit written about these competing pressures and
demands on a linguist. Newman suggests that due to time constraints on
fieldwork “‘the good-hearted, well-meaning linguist, to whom we can all
extend our admiration, will do less of a job of basic documentation than
one would have hoped for’”(2000:6). Matras (2005) warns against the dangers
of linguists taking the role of saviours, stepping in to ‘save’ a language.
Stebbins (2012) agrees that the role of the linguist is highly contested
and she looks at how power imbalances hamper linguists’ efforts to
contribute positively to the community they work with. However Stebbins
also argues that much what we do as linguists in the field is negotiable so
there is the possibility of creating a third space between the community
and academia, where people can engage on a more equal footing.

Background readings:
Matras, Yaron. 2005. Language contact, language endangerment, and the role
of the “salvation linguist.” Language documentation and description 3.

Newman P. 2003. The endangered language issue as a hopeless cause. In M.
Janse and S. Tol (eds.) 2003. Language Death and Language Maintenance.
Theoretical, Practical and Descriptive Approaches. Amsterdam: John
Benjamins, 1-13.

Stebbins, Tonya. 2012. On Being a Linguist and Doing Linguistics:
Negotiating Ideology through Performativity.
http://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/handle/10125/4501 (29 October, 2015).

Walsh, Michael. 2005. Will Indigenous Languages Survive? *Annual Review of
Anthropology* 34(1). 293–315. doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.34.081804.120629.

Check RNLD MLIP page later for readings (to be uploaded soon):

Date:      Tuesday 24th November

Time:       6:00 - 8:00 pm
Venue:     Function room (upstairs)

              *University hotel* (NOTE NEW VENUE)

*Address: *272 Lygon St, Carlton VIC 3053

*Phone:   *(03) 9347 7299 <file://localhost/javascript/void(0)>

                http://www.unihotel.com.au/ (menu available online)

LIP is an occasional gathering of language activists and linguists in
Melbourne and is coordinated by the MLIP committee: Ruth Singer (Melbourne
Uni), Harriet Sheppard, Jonathan Schlossberg, Alan Ray, Giordana
Santosuosso and Jonathon Lum (Monash Uni)

Contact Ruth Singer (University of Melbourne) with any questions:
*rsinger at unimelb.edu.au
<rsinger at unimelb.edu.au>*
You can receive these announcements by signing up to the RNLD mailing
list: *http://www.rnld.org/node/5

Dr Ruth Singer
DECRA Postdoctoral Fellow
Linguistics Program and Research Unit for Indigenous Language
School of Languages and Linguistics
Faculty of Arts
University of Melbourne 3010
Tel. *+61 3 90353774*
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