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Lecture | Sociolinguistics Series

Can the Subaltern Document? A mixed methods analysis of community-led language documentation

Friday 14 May 2021
LUCL Sociolinguistics Series 2020/2021
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When involving members of a speech community in the documentation of their own language, it is common to work with speakers who have some experience with formal education or technology (Roche et al. 2010; Olko 2019). But what about communities whose speakers have very little access to both? This talk describes documentary projects (viz. Harvey 2017, Griscom 2018, Harvey 2019, Griscom and Harvey 2020) spanning approximately ten years and involving four different speaker communities of the Tanzanian Rift Valley Area, all of which could be described as low-resource, marginalised, or existing outside of the larger power-structure.

Specifically, we aim here to assert that not only are Local Researcher led projects in these contexts possible (see Griscom 2020), but that they also result in objectively better documentations. In a previous talk (Griscom and Harvey 2021), a mixed methods analysis showed how Local Researcher led projects can produce documentations more comprehensive than those produced solely by outsider researchers, and thus of greater value to both linguists and fields beyond. This talk explores the other side of this coin, and employs a mixed methods analysis to show how Local Researcher led projects, especially in the context of marginalised speaker communities, can produce documentations more emically meaningful than those produced solely by outside researchers, and thus of greater value to the speaker community itself.

Methods will include a quantitative review of our projects, showing how Local Researchers work in different patterns to outsider linguists (i.e. the authors), as well as a qualitative examination of the nature of some of these different patterns. Patterns identified as supporting emically meaningful documentation are identified and suggestions for how to support these practices are provided.

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