LSA community linguist award

April 1, 2014

The Linguistic Society of America is now inviting nominations for the Excellence in Community Linguistics Award. This award recognizes the outstanding contributions that members of language communities (typically outside the academic sphere of professional linguists) make for the benefit of their community’s language. The contributions made by awardees may be varied, including, among other things, documentation work with a linguist as a consultant and efforts towards language revitalization.

Applications are due by July 1. To nominate a community linguist, please submit a nomination letter of up to 3 pages, 2-5 additional letters of support, and a list of references to materials that have been developed with a large contribution from the nominee’s work. The nomination must be submitted by an LSA member, but nominations can be from anywhere in the world.

For more information, including details on how to submit an application, please see:

Evangelising language documentation to anthropologists

February 4, 2014

by Alexander King

My superficial impression of the subfield of language documentation is that it is dominated by linguists who often find they must justify their activity to other linguists, primarily those enthralled to High Theory and dubious of the value of recording huge swathes of data in terms that are less controlled than orthodoxy prefers.

I’m an anthropologist, and my discipline has been interested in what indigenous people have to say for a long time. Unfortunately , many of my colleagues view language as a transparent medium through which one can acquire data (the ‘content’ of the said) and view the particular code used by a speaker (the ‘form’) as just a problem or obstacle to be overcome through translation, whether that translation be careful or footloose.

Of course these two stereotypes may be a slight bit unfair, but only slightly. The important thing is that those of us committed to language documentation need to get more colleagues on board. We need to evangelise our processes to the Grumpy Linguist and the Grumpy Social Anthropologist, people who don’t immediately ‘get it’.

At the last research ‘away day’ for my anthropology department, I presented The whys and hows of language documentation for any work with speakers of minority languages in a 20 minute talk to social anthropologists. I was surprised by the enthusiastic reception; my colleagues at Aberdeen are not the Grumpy Social Anthropologists stereotyped above. I spent a few minutes deploying some of the canned arguments for why language endangerment is a Bad Thing and why language documentation is a Good Thing. I then presented a limited number of suggestions for making better recordings of speech events in an endangered language with some quick suggestions for good but inexpensive recording equipment. Staff were so taken with the whole thing, that we immediately made some small changes to our MRes in Social Anthropology training curriculum to include a bit on A/V recording and attention to producing quality recordings and simple workflows for archiving endangered language data as part of another project. At the end of the day, a quality sound recording with a simple .txt file transcription and translation, even just a partial translation, is much better than nothing. If it is in a very poorly documented language, then it could be a treasure. If it is in an endangered language already well documented, then it will be simple for that data to be more fully analysed and processed once the recording and decent transcription are made available on an internet archive.

We should not be shy of taking crowdsourcing approach to language documentation. One does not need a PhD to produce high quality audio or video recordings and obtain a transcription, or at least an index, of the recording in an endangered language. The urgency is getting the recordings made before speakers pass on. People ‘get’ this with just a short explanation and a modicum of training, so prepare your soapboxes.

Training on Language Documentation and Revitalization: CoLang 2014 Summer Workshops

January 25, 2014


Current estimates are that more than half of the world’s estimated 6,000 languages will become extinct during our lifetime. Indigenous communities and linguists are responding to this global crisis of language endangerment in a number of ways. Research on and renewal of endangered languages stands at a critical juncture. One response is in building skills and networks with experts in language work. A key training initiative coming up this June and July is CoLang 2014: the Institute on Collaborative Language Research.

CoLang is an internationally-recognized language documentation and revitalization institute, hosted this year by The University of Texas at Arlington, and previously by the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of Oregon, and the University of Kansas. This summer, CoLang 2014 offers a major opportunity to work to stem the tide of language shift and endangerment, and to increase documentation on the world’s underdocumented languages. Our special focus for CoLang is on Native American languages of the United States due in large part to UT Arlington’s unique collaborations and programs supporting indigenous language documentation and revitalization, especially in the Southwest language communities, under the auspices of the Native American Languages Lab. But CoLang 2014 remains a place that welcomes language stakeholders worldwide to come for training. We offer a series of workshops that train a wide variety of audiences in a large and diverse set of skills in community-centered language documentation and revitalization. Our instructors come from the international community of indigenous and academic experts to provide state-of-the-art, intensive training. CoLang brings in experts not only from the United States, Canada and Mexico, but also from Africa, Australia, and Asia, thereby offering a tremendous range of expertise in the kinds of challenges facing endangered language communities, and the responses communities and linguists adopt in different contexts. Participants include undergraduate and graduate students, practicing linguists, and members of indigenous communities. Participants with no or little linguistic background are welcome, and there are workshops that introduce linguistics.

CoLang participants can acquire or refine cutting edge skills in language documentation, revitalization and field linguistics, network with established international experts in these areas, and gain hands-on experience in working with endangered and underdescribed languages through field methods courses. There are two parts to CoLang. The first is the two week workshop sessions, which last June 16 – 27, 2014. Workshops vary in the skills they teach: new technologies for audio and video and other digital approaches, software like ELAN or FLEx, teaching approaches for indigenous languages, indigenous language revitalization, orthography development, song documentation and more. Some participants stay on an additional for weeks and choose to enroll in the optional field methods courses, which constitute a practicum for integrating the newly learned skills with firsthand work with speakers of an endangered language. These courses go from June 30 – July 25, 2014, and we plan to offer three sections. A Muskogean language will be the focus with Dr. Mary Linn; Innu (Cree), an Alonquian language will be the focus with Dr. Monica Macaulay; and Dr. Christian DiCanio will lead the first-ever Spanish-medium field methods course at CoLang, working with speakers of a Mixtec variety (the Oto-Manguean family). Depending on interest, we may be able to offer a fourth section on a language from a region other than the Americas (instructor to be determined).

An exciting development this year is our partnership with the Linguistic Society of America, and support of CoLang by the LSA’s Committee on Endangered Languages and their Preservation. Part of this co-sponsorship includes LSA scholarships to CoLang 2014, creating expanded opportunities for academic training in language documentation and field linguistics for faculty and students, including undergraduates. In addition to LSA scholarships, the Endangered Language Fund will offer a scholarship through its Native Voices Endowment. Finally, we will also be able to offer scholarships from UT Arlington, thanks to generous supporters and donors.

Online scholarship applications from the Linguistic Society of America and for CoLang 2014 internal scholarships are or will shortly be available. Full scholarship information, including our internal CoLang scholarship link (which is currently open and has a deadline of March 17), is online.

We are able to put on CoLang thanks to support from the National Science Foundation (BCS#1263939), the Linguistic Society of America, the Endangered Language Fund, and The University of Texas at Arlington. Join us this summer in Arlington for CoLang 2014: a significant step forward in the documentation of indigenous linguistic heritage, a valuable training ground for emerging linguists to acquire documentation and field linguistics skills, and a place where established linguists can expand their repertoire or retool for their next projects.

And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest Colang 2014 updates! Hope to see you in June in Arlington, Texas –


Colleen M. Fitzgerald

Professor of Linguistics and Director of CoLang 2014
The University of Texas at Arlington

Teaching Undergraduate Field Methods or Language Documentation

August 10, 2013

August is a time when many faculty in the U.S. are working on their syllabi. Do you teach field methods or language documentation at the undergraduate level? Do you think there should be separate courses for those topics, or just one course? What are the basic topics you cover and what assignments do you give? Do you have syllabi to share?

Community Linguist Award

August 8, 2013

The LSA’s Ethics Committee and CELP are jointly reviewing nominations for the first Community Linguist Award, to be given at the LSA Annual Meeting in January, 2014. The award recognizes the outstanding contributions of community members toward language documentation and revitalizationi. For more information, see the LSA’s call for nominations.

CoLang (InFIeld) to be held at UT Arlington in 2014

August 8, 2013

The 2014 Institute on Collaborative Language Research (InField/CoLang) will take place in Summer 2014 at UT Arlington. The 2014 Institute will be oriented around Native American languages, but there will be considerable international participation. The Institute takes place over a six-week period in the summer. It offers an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students, practicing linguists, and indigenous community members to develop and refine skills and approaches to language documentation and revitalization.

CILLDI 2013 Summer School

December 21, 2012

The Canadian Indigenous Languages and Literacy Development Institute (CILLDI) at the University of Alberta invites you to our 14th Annual Summer School, July 8-26 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  This summer we are offering a total of 20 University-accredited courses in the areas of language documentation, education and revitalization.  Credit is available at both the graduate and undergraduate level, and bursaries/scholarships are available for both Canadian and International students.

For the first time this year, we are offering a full three weeks of intensive Cree and Michif language courses.  In addition, we are proud to offer two brand new courses this summer:

LING 311 Online Tools for language Revitalization

This course provides an introduction to the use of new technologies to aid in language revitalization in both home communities and urban settings.  Topics will include computer-based learning tools, online language courses, and the innovative use of social media sites.  Students will examine how these new technologies are being used in indigenous language communities around the world, and will design a language technology plan appropriate for their own community.

ANTH 485 Landscape, Meaning and Culture: The Social Meaning of Place

This course explores how and why particular places are invested with social meaning by different cultural and linguistic groups.  Students will analyze place-naming practices in their own and other Indigenous languages, and examine the ways in which people talk about place in both  conversation and narrative.  Students will also investigate various perspectives on map-making, and the ways in which Indigenous cultural and worldview can be incorporated into community mapping projects.

The full listing of our Summer School courses is shown below.  Courses marked (CLC) are part of our Provincially-recognized Community Linguist Certificate program, now in its seventh year.

Block 1 Courses: July 8-17

LING 111 Introduction to Linguistic Analysis for Indigenous Language Revitalization (CLC)

LING 212 Morphosyntax of Indigenous Languages (CLC)

LING 311 Online Tools for Language Revitalization

INTD 318 Techniques for Endangered Language Documentation (CLC)

EDEL 306 Introduction to Language and Literacy Development

EDEL 463/595 Assessment in Indigenous Language Classrooms

EDEL 496/595 Using Literacy and Drama in Indigenous Languages Education

NS 103 Cree Immersion for Adult Beginners

NS 103 Michif Immersion for Adult Beginners

Block 2 Courses: July 18-26

ANTH 485 Landscape, Meaning and Culture: The Social Meaning of Place

LING 211 Phonetics of Indigenous Languages (CLC)

LING 213 Sentence and Discourse Patterns of Indigenous Languages (CLC)

LING 311 Community Language Archiving

INTD 311 Language Policy and Planning for Indigenous Language Communities (CLC)

EDEL 461/595 Second Language Acquisition: Teaching Indigenous Languages in an Immersion Context

EDEL 462/595 Developing Classroom Materials and Curriculum for Indigenous Languages

EDEL 496/595 Teaching Indigenous Languages Through Cultural Arts

NS 104 The Structure of Cree Through Immersion

NS 104 The Structure of Michif Through Immersion

Special Session: June 4-21

EDEL 496/595 Indigenous Language and Cultural Renewal, The Maori Model

Full information on courses, bursaries and more is available on our website:

Questions?  Drop us a line at: or Call: (780) 248-1179

We look forward to having you with us in Edmonton this summer!

Protect, Preserve, Promote, Practice and Pass On Your Language!

~~ The CILLDI Team


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