Urituyacu River, Loreto, Peru

Fieldwork Forum (FForum)

Department of Linguistics
University of California, Berkeley

When?Tuesdays 12:30pm - 2pm
Where?1229 Dwinelle Hall
What?We are a working group dedicated to the critical examination of methodologies in language documentation, description and revitalization, as well as to the linguistic and ethnohistorical analysis that falls out from that work. Our aim is to learn from and ultimately improve upon methods for carrying out more rigorous, insightful and ethical linguistic and cultural fieldwork, and to help researchers implement those methods.
How?Fieldwork Forum is made possible through a Working Group Grant provided by the Townsend Center for the Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley.
Who?FForum is organized by Hannah Sande and Amalia Skilton. We welcome all those interested in linguistic fieldwork, with all levels of experience, including those in other departments.

Spring 2016

May 3Claire Bowern (Yale)
Language change, change across the lifespan, and the Bardi historical record
Bardi is a Non-Pama-Nyungan language from Northern Australia. Linguists have been visiting the community for over 100 years and recording the same families; this now places us in the position of being able to study both inter-generational changes across speakers and changes across the lifespan of the last speakers. In this talk, I present recent work on recent changes in Bardi phonetics, morphophonology, and morphosyntax. I show that some of the morphosyntactic features that make Bardi so different from its neighbors (and more polysynthetic) are recent innovations in the last generation of Bardi speakers. I show further changes which have lead to complexification of Bard phonotactics, even as the language falls out of use. Finally, I use data from phonetics to study changes across the lifespan of the most frequently recorded speakers.

Jan 26Jack Merrill and Nico Baier (UC Berkeley)
Contraction in Lalane Noon Verbal Paradigms
In the Lalane dialect of Noon (Cangin: Senegal), the consonants /h, s, y, ʔ/ are subject to intervocalic deletion, which leads to a system of inflectional (and derivational) morphology in which V-initial suffixes may coalesce with a preceding stem, yielding a ‘contracted’ form. This presentation first provides a description of this previously undocumented phenomenon based on our own fieldwork. Notably, this phenomenon is not encountered in any dialect of Noon described in the existing literature (Soukka 2000, Lopis 1981). We then explore the various phonological, morphological, and frequency-based factors which influence the application of intervocalic deletion in Lalane Noon, and evaluate how this data fits with existing theories of paradigm-building, contrasting 'syntagmatic' approaches such as that of Albright (2002) with 'paradigmatic' approaches like that of Ackerman and Malouf (2013). On the fieldwork front, we will discuss our methodologies in collecting these data, and how data collected in this manner from a single speaker should be interpreted and presented in the context of the language as a whole.

Feb 2Jeanette King (University of Canterbury)
Corpus analysis to support teachers in Maori immersion classrooms
Fieldwork usually involves the researcher being physically present to collect language data. The Tuhinga Māhorahora and Comparative Language Input Project (CLIP) are both focussed on Maori language immersion classrooms in Christchurch, New Zealand where we have been collecting children’s writing in Māori and, more recently, teacher speech. Māori immersion classrooms are one of the most important initiatives in the revitalization of the indigenous language of New Zealand. In this talk I will describe the backgrounds to these projects, how the data is collected without the university research team even visiting the school, ELAN data transcription protocols, and the use of the LaBB-CAT corpus analysis tool. An important part of these projects is to give feedback to Māori immersion teachers, most of whom are second language speakers, about ways to strengthen and vary their language output.

Feb 9Andrew Garrett (UC Berkeley)
Preparing an accessible edition of Yurok texts
With the help of (many) students (over the years), I am preparing a small edition of Yurok texts spanning over a century and in various genres. The intended audiences include teachers, advanced learners, and academic and non-academic researchers and thus there are many constraints on format and content. I'll talk about some of the problems I'm working through, and I'll look forward to suggestions and ideas for improvement.

Feb 16No regular meeting: Wednesday evening GAIL meeting

Feb 23Group Discussion: Fieldwork in language contact situations
Based on Claire Bowern's paper, available here

Mar 1Nick Kalivoda (UCSC)
Agreement and Anti-Agreement in Teotitlán del Valle Zapotec
Zapotecan languages are traditionally said to lack φ-agreement, but to possess prosodically deficient pronouns that are enclitic on the verb (see Marlett 1993 and many others). I present evidence from Teotitlán del Valle Zapotec (TdVZ) that at least this language exhibits φ-agreement with pronominal subjects, based on the co-occurrence of overt postverbal pronouns and φ-marking on V. TdVZ is also shown to have an Anti-Agreement Effect (Ouhalla 1993) reminiscent of that found in certain Italian dialects. In addition, the language lacks agreement with R-expressions, which I interpret as resulting from a person-probe on T, rather than a general φ-probe. In terms of fieldwork methodology, I will present my use of contextual felicity judgments, and will discuss the difficulties of interpreting interspeaker microvariation in morphosyntax.

Mar 8Amalia Skilton (UC Berkeley)
Assertive questions in Máíhɨ̃ki
Recent cross-linguistic research of the pragmatics of questions (Stivers et al. 2010, de Ruiter 2012) suggests that “assertive questions” – syntactic questions which are heard as asserting rather than requesting information – are a pragmatic universal. Yet it remains unclear what social actions assertive questions accomplish, and how hearers distinguish them from information-seeking questions, in languages other than English. I address this gap with data from Máíhɨ̃ki (Western Tukanoan, Peru). Máíhɨ̃ki speakers conventionally use assertive questions to accomplish all of the social actions ascribed to assertive questions in English by Heritage (2002, 2012) and Koshik (2002, 2005); in addition, they employ assertive questions to do a large class of actions, such as marking epistemic modality, for which English speakers tend to use other lexical and grammatical resources. Drawing on Brown and Levinson’s (1978) model of linguistic politeness, I show that the contexts in which Máíhɨ̃ki speakers issue assertive questions are uniquely characterized by the presence of an imminent threat to the speaker’s positive face. Furthermore, I argue that assertive questions have become a conventional means of facework in Máíhɨ̃ki because of their preference structure (Schlegoff et al. 1970), not because they are syntactic questions (contra Brown and Levinson 1978: 136). I will also comment on challenges and strategies for the study of politeness in language documentation generally.

Mar 15Justin Spence (UC Davis)
Collaboration in Linguistics: Breath of Life and Beyond
For researchers engaged in language documentation projects, it is generally expected that some portion of their effort will involve collaborations with members of speech communities that go beyond the traditional roles of linguist/researcher versus speaker/consultant. However, a number of recent articles (e.g., Leonard and Haynes 2010, Crippen and Robinson 2013, Bowern and Warner 2015) have explored problematic issues surrounding the notion of collaboration in this context: what activities count as 'collaborative,' the extent to which collaborative projects benefit language revitalization efforts and count toward academic hiring and promotion, and whether or not collaboration is an ethical imperative in all situations. The present talk engages with this broader conversation by focusing on the Breath of Life Language Restoration Workshop for California Languages, a longstanding collaborative effort between professional linguists and California’s Native American communities. Held every two years at UC Berkeley, Breath of Life offers training and support for people who are engaged in language revitalization projects in their communities. Just as importantly, however, Breath of Life is an opportunity for linguists to develop an appreciation for different perspectives on language from people outside their field: what language is for, why revitalization matters, various intellectual and institutional barriers to achieving language-related goals, and so on. It also provides a concrete model for collaborative practice that can be (and has been) replicated in other contexts. Particular emphasis in the presentation will be placed on ways that participation in Breath of Life enriches the professional and intellectual development of members of the academic community.

Mar 22No meeting due to Spring Break

Mar 29Kenneth Baclawski Jr (UC Berkeley)
Eastern Cham Presyllable Variation
For a morphologically isolating language with zero bound morphemes, Eastern Cham (Austronesian: Vietnam) displays a surprising amount of apparent allomorphy. This allomorphy typically consists of variation in the initial consonant of disyllabic roots (e.g. canung ~ tanung ~ kanung ‘bed’, which Alieva (1991) considers free variants). Alieva (1991, 1994) proposes a register-based explanation: presyllables are largely exclusive to the formal, written register, in contrast with the monosyllabic colloquial register. Since the mere existence of a presyllable indexes the formal register, some presyllable consonants have become underspecified. Brunelle & Văn Hẳn (2015), however, assert that consonant variation persists in the colloquial register, probably subject to sociolinguistic factors. In this talk, I will present the results of a nascent dialectology project, drawn from interviews with 32 native speakers from the Cham villages of Ninh Thuận province, Vietnam. Initial results disprove Alieva’s hypothesis, as the colloquial register systematically retains consonant variation (e.g. *rătha > mthã ~ nthã ~ pthã ~ rthã ‘Sambar deer’). Additionally, I will lay out a more complete picture of the parameters of this variation. While the literature assumes that most historical presyllables have simply been deleted in the modern colloquial register, I conclude that some remnant is nearly always present, either as a consonant cluster or as a geminate consonant (e.g. *mɨ̆nuyh > nːuyh). Finally, I will discuss some of the difficulties and benefits of undertaking a dialectology project in the field. In part due to these difficulties, the precise distribution of inter- and intra-speaker consonant variation remains unexplained.

Apr 5Amy Rose Deal (UC Berkeley)
Counting Nez Perce cases (or adpositions?)
Is there a distinction between cases and adpositions? I present some hard-won field data from Nez Perce which suggests that the answer is no. In particular, I showcase a series of oblique markers in Nez Perce which both spread by concord (like cases) and assign case to their complements (like adpositions).

Apr 12No regular meeting

Apr 19Group Discussion: Summer fieldwork plans and fears

Apr 26Hannah Sande, Peter Jenks, Juwon Kim, and Maytas Monsereenusorn (UC Berkeley)
Building an online Moro database
Based on collaborative work with Angelo Naser, a Moro speaker from Sudan, we have created a database of 3319 glossed and translated clauses from 23 texts. There are two sides to this project, both of which we will discuss in this talk: 1) Collaborating with a consultant who writes Moro texts while we gloss them, and 2) Displaying the data in a user-friendly website useful for both linguists and the speaker community. Over the past seven months we created a functional website of Moro stories and a dictionary built from the morphemes used in those stories. We are working to make the basic structure of this website available to linguists generally by creating an import feature for LingSync, Dative, or FLex data.