The Yale Grammar Bootcamp: Language Documentation and What Comes After

The Yale Grammar Bootcamp: Language Documentation and What Comes After


Claire Bowern

August 24, 2018


  1. Language Documentation and Description: And What Comes After Claire Bowern,

    Yale University: Cundeelee Wangka Mission
  2. Chirila community/outreach projects o “Unofficial” partnerships with language centres to

    make primary materials more available o Public media work (e.g. articles for Conversation) o Grammar bootcamps for language documentation
  3. What is a “Grammar Boot Camp”? o Several undergraduate students

    work together (and with professor) o Work on someone else’s fieldnotes (+ texts) intensively o Regular consultation with communities and linguist o Write a sketch grammar and make other materials o in a month!
  4. Yale Bootcamps: o 2014: Tjupan o 2015: Ngalia o 2016:

    Cundeelee Wangka and Kuwarra o 2017: Noongar Kado Muir, Sue Hanson, and Andy Zhang (2014)
  5. Bootcamp language locations

  6. Boot camp origins o Collaboration between Sue Hanson (then Wangka

    Maya, now Goldfields Language Centre, Western Australia). o Sue working with communities in WA o Claire looking for documentation experiences for students in the US
  7. Why write a grammar in a month?

  8. Why write a grammar in a month? o Benefits to

    Communities • Materials on language more available o Benefits to Linguistics • Learn about more languages • [All the reasons we do language documentation] o Benefits to Students • Intense Training, research experience. • CV – book publication and experience. • Working with real materials, not ‘cleaned up’ data • Chance to learn firsthand about ethics and language partnerships
  9. Ngalia Case Study

  10. The 2015 bootcamp team

  11. What we did o Worked from previously recorded materials: •

    1000+ sentence dictionary • texts • short learner’s guide o Materials collected primarily by Sue Hanson and Kado Muir for Ngalia. o Other bootcamps included language data from additional sources
  12. What we did o Assigned topics to students [e.g. ‘how

    do locatives work?’] o Regular small deadlines o Daily meetings o Read grammars of related languages and typological materials
  13. What we did o 2-3 day topic cycle, example: o

    Monday, AM meeting: • Assign topics o Monday, PM meeting: • First analysis • Workshop with all on analysis o Tuesday, PM meeting • Write-up • Feedback • Revise for Wednesday o Wednesday, AM :: New topic
  14. What we did o Skype sessions with speakers, where possible

    o Clarification questions with Sue Geraldine Hogarth and Luxie Hogarth-Redmond, Kuwarra (c) Goldfields Language Centre
  15. Results o Grammar • 130 page [sketch] grammar • Covers

    all topics you would expect in a sketch • Lots of examples, aiming for clarity, avoiding too much terminology • Accepted for publication by Asia Pacific Linguistics • Reviewer comments being addressed at present
  16. Results (2) o Lots of work on the Ngalia dictionary

    • spelling standardization (e.g. tj ~ ty) • entries from words in examples • added more examples • added paradigm information • edited glosses o Materials that form the basis of other materials about the language • e.g. lessons
  17. Quality? o Faster ≠ Better o Collaborative work, catching errors

    o “Accessible but some gaps” is much better than “for the future” o Time to go back and revise o Advantages to staying focused o More time ≠ Always Better
  18. Bootcamp (interim) Conclusions o Boot camps are not a general

    model of grammar writing o But very useful for certain types of materials o Valuable for top students who are training to become linguists o Good for ‘long-distance’ collaboration
  19. Linking Documentation and Description

  20. Himmelmann (1998)

  21. None
  22. “ o Document ‘linguistic behaviors’ o Separate the primary data

    from the analytical results o Pay attention to reproducibility, accountability o Design a multifunction corpus o Focus on collection of data by linguists: distinction between field data and other data 22
  23. Thoughts on Documentation

  24. What are we documenting? o Mostly not working with ‘linguistic

    behaviors’ o Working with language communities where the linguistic ecology has shifted. • Young people’s varieties • recent diglossia • refugee or diaspora communities • ... o That’s ok! o These also need documenting.
  25. Data is linked to results o The primary data are

    inextricably linked to the analytical results o Working from documentary materials themselves o Much reclamation work, particularly from older sources (or where primary material isn’t available) o H98 has rightly focused us on the importance of getting data collection right, but beware of ignoring valuable data sources just because they weren’t collected under a H98 gold standard.
  26. Corpus building o Documentation >> Description isn’t my experience o

    ‘who collects it’ isn’t as important as what’s in it o A multifunction corpus is good for some things, but not for others. o Corpus best measured not by size, but as the data that lets you take the next step
  27. How a corpus is compiled

  28. The documentary/descriptive spiral ▷ plan <> ▷ record exploratory data

    <> ▷ analyze <> ▷ expand <> ▷ reanalyze <>
  29. Conclusions

  30. Conclusions o H98 has focused us on what linguists collect.

    o But what they do with it is important too. o The grammar boot camps are one way of • increasing available material • training students o Once the material is collected, that’s just the beginning. o When planning documentation,
  31. Acknowledgments: o Sue Hanson and Kado Muir o 4 years

    of bootcampers! • Matt Tyler, Andy Zhang, Anaí Navarro, Ryan Budnick, Sasha Wilmoth, Akshay Aitha, Sarah Mihuc, Sarah Babinski, Kate Mooney, Omar Agha, Tom McCoy, Joshua Martin o NSF Grant BCS-1423711 “Typology as a Window on Prehistory” o NSF grants BCS-0844550 and 1423711 o Contributors to Chirila • 1000+ Aboriginal people • 100+ linguists • 50+ student researchers