Broadening access to UCLA Phonetics Data

With National Science Foundation Support, Dr. Peter Ladefoged will organize and catalog the archives of the UCLA Phonetics Lab into an on-line relational database. These archives contain recordings and supporting materials of languages from all over the world made over the last 50 years. Recordings of 96 languages have been used in recent research and it is estimated that there are 260 - 300 languages in the collection altogether. The collection includes around 20 languages that are endangered or now extinct, mainly investigated during the course of an NSF sponsored project on Recording the phonetic structures of endangered languages (1991-1999). Most of these recordings have 3-12 speakers, with an average of 6 for each language, all of them having extensive word lists and shorter pieces of connected speech designed to give a complete demonstration of the sounds of the language. The majority of the other languages are represented by recordings of focused word lists made by one or two speakers. Many of these languages are little known and not easily accessible. The data will be organized and catalogued in a relational database that will be searchable by the scholarly public through a web site on the servers of the UCLA Center for the Digital Humanities. There will be backup on other sites, and CDs will also be kept in the UCLA Phonetics Lab, with duplicate copies in UCLA's Charles E. Young Research Library.

All the material on line will be available for downloading by qualified scholars. This will enable scholars to hear and analyze the sounds of a wide variety of languages. The archive will also enhance the teaching of linguistics. The broader impact will lie in creating a library of linguistic phonetic data that will be of use not only to scholars in linguistics but also to many people who are concerned with aspects of endangered languages and minority cultures. Virtually all the speakers of the endangered languages that have been recorded are over 60. In a comparatively few years their descendants will know how their ancestors spoke only by listening to recordings such as those that in the archive. In addition, members of the public will be able to listen to these languages so that they can hear for themselves whether Hebrew sounds like Arabic, or whether the Bushmen of Southern Africa really make those curious clicking sounds.

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University of California Los Angeles
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