Of the 6,000-7,000 languages now spoken globally, it is estimated that 90% will be replaced by dominant languages, and that the majority will be extinct by the end of this century. The loss of language entails the loss of cultural, ecological, and a myriad of other types of knowledge. For the scientific community, it is akin to losing a species. One area in which government agencies, scholars, and community members have placed great effort is developing long term digital language resources grounded in documentation, preservation and maintenance. As a result of this work, progress has been made in terms of best practices and policies for developing long term web-based language resources that have the potential to stifle language loss. In order to apply and expand the knowledge garnered over these last few years in this area for the purpose of documenting and preserving languages, a two-day planning session is proposed that brings together members of geographically diverse language communities in the United States and linguists. The project will answer two questions: (A) In what ways can the academic community and language communities work together to document and archive endangered languages using digital and online resources; (B) How best are language data storage and retrieval, community needs, and scientific inquiry integrated to preserve language loss and advance understanding. The culmination of the planning session will be: (1) identification of community infrastructure needs to support online and digital documentary resources; (2) identification of educational needs in terms of best practice for documentation and archiving; (3) identification of language resource and development of documentation plans for needed resources; (4) development of curriculum and resources (5) development of proposals for further funding for the implementation of documentation, archiving and curriculum for best practices.

Project Report

Of the 6,000-7,000 languages now spoken globally, it is estimated that 90% will be replaced by dominant languages with the majority extinct by the end of this century (Krauss, 1992; UNESCO, 2003). Increasingly, communities have been working to develop resources for language maintenance and revitalization efforts to stem the loss of these languages (cf. Teaching Indigenous Languages http://jan.ucc.nau.edu. jar/TIL.html). One area in which government agencies, scholars, and community members have placed great effort is in the development of online resources (cf. Bird and Simons 2003; Albarillo and Thieberger 2009; Penfield et al. 2006; Hinton and Hale 2001, among others). As a result of this work, great progress has been made in terms of best practices and policies for developing long term web-based language resources (cf. esp. Chang 2010). In an effort to apply, expand, and use this knowledge that has been garnered over these last few years in this area, a two day planning session was held at the campus of the University of Arizona. The planning session brought together endangered language community members and scholars from the Maka, Southern Ute, Pascua Yaqui, and the Tohono O’odham communities. The communities represented geographically diverse language communities in the United States. In addition, linguists working with the American Indian Language Development Institute (AILDI), University of Arizona, the Three Rivers Language Center, and Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne organized and participated in the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was twofold. The first was to share resent findings in regards to the best practices of web archiving for endangered language communities. Each of the participating communities has an active language program, an archive and internal IT support or technological capacity to support language documentation and web archiving. Second, all members explored the possibility of a grant proposal to bring a cohort of 15-18 endangered language community members to AILDI for 2 to 4 consecutive summers to learn and develop strategies for creating online language resources in accord with community based best practices, documentation, archiving, and pedagogical needs. Six projects were identified as fitting within the scope of the NSF DEL grant based on the needs identified by the participant members. conduct fieldwork to record in digital audio and video format one or more endangered languages; carry out later stages of documentation including the preparation of lexicons, grammars, text samples, and databases; digitize and otherwise preserve and provide wider access to such documentary materials, including previously collected materials and those concerned with languages which have recently died and are related to currently endangered languages; further develop standards and databases to make this documentation of a certain language or languages widely available in consistent, archivable, interoperable, and Web-based formats; train native speakers in descriptive linguistics; create other infrastructure, including workshops, to make the problem of endangered languages more widely understood and more effectively addressed. It was suggested that a grant based on the meeting would be grounded in 6 above in such a way that it would allow for the training of community members to do 1-5 with tangible outcomes (e.g. development of best practices, online language resources, video/digital audio documentation). The outcomes of the grant would be products meaningful to the communities in the spirit of 1-5 and in the letter of 1-5 as interpreted from a community perspective. That is, while linguists may have, for example, a desire to have digital audio and video of endangered languages (1 above) for various linguistic purposes, communities may wish to have such resources for teaching purposes and may go about fieldwork from the perspective of developing teaching resources. The outcomes of such an approach would be meaningful digital audio and video language lessons and material meaningful to linguists as a secondary outcome. A list of twenty-five community needs, desires, and related issues identified in the discussion with the various participants was developed in regards to the development of online digital language resources in the spirit of digital language archiving. Further, the participants identified the need to recognize five elements that would impact community collaboration in the development of online digital language resources in the spirit of digital archiving best practices. These are the following: (1) each community has different needs and would be at different stages in terms of issues regarding language resources (e.g. in terms of teaching, archives, museums, politics); (2) each community should be viewed as independent, and have independence in any collaboration with outside institutions and individuals; (3) each community must have a controlling stake in any community projects; (4) there is a need for flexibility by all participants in any collaborative efforts; and (5) all participants expressed a willingness to work with AILDI, but might not be able to come to Arizona to work with AILDI thus the potential for online training would be desired.

Agency
National Science Foundation (NSF)
Institute
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
Type
Standard Grant (Standard)
Application #
1126997
Program Officer
Shobhana Chelliah
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
2011-03-15
Budget End
2012-02-29
Support Year
Fiscal Year
2011
Total Cost
$4,891
Indirect Cost
Name
University of Arizona
Department
Type
DUNS #
City
Tucson
State
AZ
Country
United States
Zip Code
85721