RECORDINGS AND PDFS FROM THE 4TH ICLDC ARE NOW AVAILABLE ONLINE!
Opening plenary address:
University of Chicago
"The hitchhiker’s guide to documentation: communicative practices, cultural competence and proficiency guidelines"
Thursday February 26, 9:00 AM, Hibiscus Ballroom
Over the last few years I have been working intensely with Arctic indigenous leaders– including linguists, educators and policy makers–to promote indigenous language usage (see arcticlanguages.com). Here as in other indigenous regions, the rhetoric of language endangerment and shift has changed to focus on language vitality, sustainability, and resilience. The people I work with share a vision of promoting language vitality through combining best practices in linguistics and pedagogy.
I have been a hitchhiker in the Arctic indigenous language project: I have been working closely with the parties involved, and yet at the same time I am not, and will never be, a community member. In this talk I present a view of linguistic work conducted by linguists who are not permanent members of communities but rather visitors, hitchhikers along for the ride. Although this is not the case for all documentary linguists, it is for a great many of us, those of us who have primary jobs and homes outside of the communities we work with. In this view, as hitchhikers we need to learn the cultural and linguistic practices of speech communities to participate fully in them in order to document them, and we need to create a guide to do it. This is the foundation of community-defined documentation, the hitchhiker’s guide.
How can a hitchhiker linguist help support language vitality? Our work to date in assessing the state of Arctic indigenous languages has indicated a real need for better teacher training and for better pedagogical materials and seek best practices in language teaching. Language documentation can be fruitfully informed and even reoriented by guidelines created to teach communicative competence and proficiency in majority languages. Communicative competence includes cultural knowledge and knowledge of social conventions (such as turn-taking mechanisms, appropriateness of nonverbal behavior, and so on). Documentation of communicative practices aimed at teaching such competence results in a rich documentation of language as culturally-situated and culturally-mediated, an ethnography of communication. This ethnography is in turn the fundamental guide that the hitchhiker needs in order to be oriented in the community and to be a fully functional partner.
This view of language as a culturally anchored communicative practice is not novel (Halliday 1978 puts forth a similar view), and has done much to shape current pedagogical methods in the teaching of majority languages for second-language learners. But in our quest to document the exotic in endangered languages, we often lose sight of the everyday goals of communicative competence. Although SLA methodology is generally aimed at teaching majority languages to speakers of other majority languages (e.g. Spanish for English speakers, English for French speakers), there is much to be learned in terms of best practices. The eight basic principles of Communicative Language Teaching (or CLT; see Berns 1990; Savignon 2002) assert that language teaching be based on a conceptualization of language as communication and recognize the importance of variation and diversity, recognize culture as instrumental in shaping communicative competence, and view language use as serving different purposes. Proficiency guidelines (such as ACTFL) provide relatively detailed information about the kinds of communicative competence required at each level in terms of speaking, reading, writing and listening skills; such information can fruitfully be adapted to shape both language revitalization and documentation projects alike.
In the present talk I map out the viability of best practices gleaned from such pedagogical practices as CLT and ACTFL proficiency guidelines and illustrate their usage in the creation of materials for guiding communicative competence in several Arctic indigenous languages.
ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012. http://www.actfl.org/publications/guidelines-and- manuals/actfl-proficiency-guidelines-2012
Berns, M. Contexts of competence: Sociocultural considerations in Communicative Language Teaching. New York: Plenum.
Halliday, M. A. K. 1978. Language as social semiotic. The social interpretation of language and meaning. Baltimore: University Park Press.
Savignon, Sandra. 2002. Interpreting communicative language teaching contexts and concerns in teacher education. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Lenore Grenoble received a BA from Cornell University and an MA and PhD in Slavic Linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley. She is now the John Matthews Manly Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago. She is also currently working for the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Canada, as the Project Coordinator for the Arctic Indigenous Language Vitality Initiative, an indigenous-driven pan-Arctic effort of the Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council to assess and promote Arctic languages (arcticlanguages.com).
Lenore specializes in Slavic and Arctic Indigenous languages, and conducts fieldwork on Evenki (Tungusic) in Siberia, Kalaallisut (West Greenlandic, Inuit) in Greenland, and Wolof (Niger-Congo) in Senegal. Her research focuses on the study of contact linguistics and language shift, discourse and conversation analysis, deixis, and issues in the study of language endangerment, attrition, and revitalization. She is currently engaged in the documentation and description of ethnobotany, and the intersection of spatial orientation systems, landscape linguistics, and place names in Kalaallisut. This research is part of a larger project with colleagues at Oqaasileriffik (the Greenland Language Secretariat) and Jerrold Sadock (University of Chicago) to create a Kalaallisut-English dictionary, and is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and endorsed by the US-Denmark-
Greenland Joint Committee.
Closing plenary address:
University of Texas
"Verbal artistry: the missing link among language documentation, grammatical theory, and linguistic pedagogy"
Sunday March 1, 11:15 AM, Hibiscus Ballroom
Verbal artistry has so far played only an occasional role in documentary linguistics. In this talk I want to show, by giving examples from the work of language documenters, grammarians, and teacher-activists, the roles that verbal artistry might play in binding together language documentation, grammatical theory, and linguistic pedagogy.
Verbal artistry—and heightened, expressive language use in general (Sherzer 2002)—is a part of what we record, annotate, analyze and interpret when we document language and speaking. It is one of the things that we like and appreciate about language. As Roman Jakobson (1960:356) formulated it, ‘[t]he set...toward the message as such, focus on the message for its own sake, is the poetic function of language’. In turning attention back to linguistic form and meaning, verbal art propels our ideation—as speakers or as outsiders—of the uniqueness, transcendence, and sacredness of language and languages. And it gives us further strong reason to want to document, reminding us that language documentation is not only a scientific enterprise but a humanistic endeavor.
Documenting verbal artistry, in turn, promotes grammatical and lexical investigation both by necessity—so we can access the material at a basic level—but also encourages deep inquiry to the nature and plasticity of speakers’ knowledge of grammar and lexicon, especially if we assume, with Kiparsky (1973), that verbal art mobilizes the authentic structures, categories, and processes of grammar. It then also becomes possible to understand the extent to which verbal artistry and related language practices rely on a language’s special features, and use them in special ways: what I have called ‘form-dependent expression’ (Woodbury 1993). These features tie verbal creations to the linguistic structures they depend on, making translation to a language lacking such features problematic, and language loss deeply threatening to the continuity of such creations. As such, they also bring grammar and lexicon—the subject of science—back into the humanistic equation.
In language teaching, an explicit focus on verbal art and linguistic creativity shows students the value and pleasure of curating, studying, and interpreting the speech of others, including one’s own ancestors. It leavens the learning of grammar and lexicon, which is otherwise often based on mundane or constructed content. And it provides a basis for approaching translation and appreciating its complexities. Moreover, it can open up new realms of linguistic creativity for students should they choose to try to shape their language into new cultural forms, from poetic and musical genres to mobile texts and tweets, to new orthographic experiments.
Although these roles for verbal art documentation, grammar, and pedagogy are all individually recognizable, it is important to focus on verbal art in its proper social and linguistic context in order to realize its tremendous potential for better linking together our efforts as documentary linguists.
Jakobson, Roman. 1960. Closing statement: linguistics and poetics. In Sebeok, T.A. (ed.), Style in Language. Cambridge: M.I.T. Press. 350- 377.
Kiparsky, Paul. 1973. The role of linguistics in a theory of poetry. Daedalus 102:231-44
Sherzer, Joel. 2002. Speech play and verbal art. University of Texas Press.
Woodbury, Anthony C. 1993. A defense of the proposition ‘When a language dies, a culture dies.’ Proceedings of the First Annual Symposium on Language in Society--Austin. TLF 33.
Anthony C. Woodbury earned his B.A. in Linguistics in 1975 from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1981. He has taught in the UT Linguistics Department since 1980, and served as its chair, 1998-2006. He was elected President of the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas for 2005; and he will serve as the Ken Hale Professor at the LSA Linguistic Institute in Chicago in July, 2015.
His research focuses on the indigenous languages of the Americas, and what they reveal about human linguistic diversity. Since 2003, he has been engaged, together with current and former students, in the documentation and description of Chatino, an Otomanguean language group of Oaxaca, Mexico, supported by grants from the Endangered Language Documentation Programme and the National Science Foundation. Earlier, he worked on Yupik-Inuit-Aleut languages of Alaska, especially Cup’ik. Themes in his writing have included tone and prosody, morphology, syntax, historical linguistics, ethnopoetics, language endangerment and preservation, and documentary linguistics. He is also co-director of the digital Archive for Indigenous Languages of Latin America (www.ailla.utexas.org) at the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies.