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Language documentation is the process by which a language is documented from a documentary linguistics perspective. It aims to “to provide a comprehensive record of the linguistic practices characteristic of a given speech community” (Himmelmann 1998:166, see also Himmelmann 2006, Woodbury 2003). Language documentation seeks to create as thorough a record as possible of the speech community for both posterity and language revitalization. Language documentation also provides a firmer foundation for linguistic analysis in that it creates a citable set of materials in the language on which claims about the structure of the language can be based.

Typical steps involve recording, transcribing (often using the International Phonetic Alphabet and/or a "practical orthography" made up for that language), annotation and analysis, translation into a language of wider communication, archiving and dissemination. Critical to the project of Language Documentation is the creation of good records in the course of doing language description.

Language documentation complements language description which aims to describe a language's abstract system of structures and rules in the form of a grammar or dictionary. By preparing good documentation in the form of recordings with transcripts and then collections of texts and a dictionary, the linguist can do their own work better, and can also provide materials for use by speakers of the language. New technologies permit better recordings, with better descriptions, all of which can be housed in digital archives, like AILLA or PARADISEC, and made available to the speakers with little effort.

Contents

Types of language description

Language description, as a task within linguistics, may be divided into separate areas of specialization, including:

  • Phonetics, the study of the sounds of human language
  • Phonology, the study of the sound system of a language
  • Morphology, the study of the internal structure of words
  • Syntax, the study of how words combine to form grammatical sentences
  • Semantics, the study of the meaning of words (lexical semantics), and how these combine to form the meanings of sentences
  • Historical linguistics, the study of languages whose historical relations are recognizable through similarities in vocabulary, word formation, and syntax
  • Pragmatics, the study of how language is used by its speakers
  • Stylistics, the study of style in languages

Related research areas

Organizations involved in language documentation

Relevant mailing lists

See also

  • The Linguists, a 2008 documentary film about two linguists traveling the world
  • Dying Words a 2009 book about what is lost when languages are lost.
  • Voices of the World, answers questions like - 'Why do some languages become global while others disappear?'
  • Le salaire du poete, an award-winning 2009 documentary about linguistic fieldwork in northern Vanuatu
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Language documentation is the process by which a language is documented from a documentary linguistics perspective. It aims to “to provide a comprehensive record of the linguistic practices characteristic of a given speech community” (Himmelmann 1998:166, see also Himmelmann 2006, Woodbury 2003). Language documentation seeks to create as thorough a record as possible of the speech community for both posterity and language revitalization. Language documentation also provides a firmer foundation for linguistic analysis in that it creates a citable set of materials in the language on which claims about the structure of the language can be based.

Typical steps involve recording, transcribing (often using the International Phonetic Alphabet and/or a "practical orthography" made up for that language), annotation and analysis, translation into a language of wider communication, archiving and dissemination. Critical to the project of Language Documentation is the creation of good records in the course of doing language description.

Language documentation complements language description which aims to describe a language's abstract system of structures and rules in the form of a grammar or dictionary. By preparing good documentation in the form of recordings with transcripts and then collections of texts and a dictionary, the linguist can do their own work better, and can also provide materials for use by speakers of the language. New technologies permit better recordings, with better descriptions, all of which can be housed in digital archives, like AILLA or PARADISEC, and made available to the speakers with little effort.

Contents

Types of language description

Language description, as a task within linguistics, may be divided into separate areas of specialization, including:

  • Phonetics, the study of the sounds of human language
  • Phonology, the study of the sound system of a language
  • Morphology, the study of the internal structure of words
  • Syntax, the study of how words combine to form grammatical sentences
  • Semantics, the study of the meaning of words (lexical semantics), and how these combine to form the meanings of sentences
  • Historical linguistics, the study of languages whose historical relations are recognizable through similarities in vocabulary, word formation, and syntax
  • Pragmatics, the study of how language is used by its speakers
  • Stylistics, the study of style in languages

Related research areas

Organizations involved in language documentation

Relevant mailing lists

See also

  • The Linguists, a 2008 documentary film about two linguists traveling the world
  • Dying Words a 2009 book about what is lost when languages are lost.
  • Voices of the World, answers questions like - 'Why do some languages become global while others disappear?'
  • Le salaire du poete, an award-winning 2009 documentary about linguistic fieldwork in northern Vanuatu


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