📣 Organized Session for SSILA 2021: Distant Lightning!

Hi everyone one! This is an abstract proposal that @Siri and recently sent out. If you’re interested in the topic, please email us an abstract. Contents of the email below!

Dear friends,

The two of us have been thinking about ways to facilitate interaction between language workers, especially during this static time when we can’t do much of our real field work. Here’s a thought: how about a session at SSILA where we focus on Distance Fieldwork, and actually package our presentations in video so as to bring more people to SSILA who wouldn’t otherwise be able to travel?

As mentioned below, the plan is to submit pre-recorded, very short “lightning” talks, just five minutes each. We realize that everyone has plenty to deal with just now, but we are hopeful that even a short session could be a positive experience for all involved, without being too much of a time burden.

An organized session needs presentations, and we are hoping you might be interested in contributing a short abstract to this session. If so, two things have to happen - everyone involved has to become a member of SSILA, which can be done here:

…and you need to write a 200-word abstract for us to put into our abstract. Which is due next Friday. Please consider this!

If this session doesn’t sound like it’s for you, you may know someone who would fit into it perfectly. Please share with these people! We are especially hoping that collaborative partnerships may be interested in sharing - people who have been doing distance field work and can help others learn how to do it.

Siri and Pat

The draft text of our abstract is here:

Distant lightning: Documentation from a distance in a lightning round
Organized session, 90 minutes
Video or video conference presentations, 5 minutes each with 5 minutes of discussion

Organizers:

  1. Siri Tuttle, University of Alaska Fairbanks
  2. Patrick Hall, University of California Santa Barbara

Purpose: This session will highlight the creativity and ingenuity of linguistic fieldworkers in the age of social distancing. It will include presentations on distance methods for collaboration, data collection and language proficiency development. The impact of COVID-19 on linguistic field work, as on every type of research that involves social connection, has been a powerful shock to the discipline. Many projects that depend on face-to-face contact are stalled. While distance communication methods can never fully replace face-to-face contact for the development of research relationships, there are strategies that can help us continue work that is already ongoing.

It is not only COVID-19 that should push us toward greater capacity for remote research. It is obvious that we should be thinking more about protection of elder language teachers in communities that are vulnerable to infection. However, reducing the amount of travel involved in linguistic field research would also improve its environmental impact. All kinds of variables affect our solutions: the topic of the research, cost and transportability of equipment, external constraints such as local bandwidth, and accessibility to technological practice.

Social Impact:
The social impact of this session lies both in its content and in its mode of presentation. The content has social impact because it relates directly to ethics in documentation. Sustainability for documentary linguistics, in the pandemic and recovering world, will depend on our ability to communicate across distance without endangering each other. The video format of this session will allow us to foreground the methods and results of language workers who may not be able to travel to a conference such as SSILA, but have much to say to the field of language documentation. We hope their presentations can facilitate further networking with other SSILA members. The collected videos can be made available through the SSILA website.

We hope to hear from you! Feel free to either email us or send a message through this site.

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This is my abstract. What do y’all think? Is it abstract enough? Too abstract?

My current project is a popular grammar for Western Juxtlahuaca Mixtec (JMX) as it is spoken in El Jicaral, Coicoyán de las Flores, Oaxaca, Mexico. I began this work in 2016 with my friend and colleague, Demetrio Zurita Quiroz. During the summer and fall of that year we came up with an outline and sets of example sentences for several of the chapters. Demetrio is now living in El Jicaral and I continue to live in Mount Vernon, Washington, US. We communicate via Facebook to continue our project.

El Jicaral is a remote town where most residents do not have access to potable water or latrines. They do, however, have access to the internet through cell towers. Demetrio has a lot of responsibilities and we have found that scheduling around his household duties has been more of an issue than communication over the internet. That said, we have found a good rhythm and we use a mix of posting on Facebook with things for the other to check and communicating in real time using Messenger. Because Demetrio’s Spanish is limited, I am writing the text of the grammar. I post sections to a Facebook group and Demetrio checks them for accuracy.

The internet offers many ways to communicate, both in real time and in an asynchronous manner. Linguists, researchers, language teachers, and informants do not need to be in the same place, or even the same time zone, to work together on language documentation projects. In-person work is incredibly valuable, but the work does not need to stop when the different workers need to live in different locations.

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I would start with the last paragraph, which describes your contribution, and then follow with the first and second paragraph, which provide the background. Maybe you could focus a bit more on your workflow: what are some pros and cons? how could it be adapted for similar projects? does it call for special community materials (maybe literacy materials)?

Some minor issues (which I recognize are pet peeves of mine and so you should feel free to ignore them):

  1. The Ethnologue classification of Mixtec languages is not very good. I would refrain from using labels such as ‘Western Juxtlahuaca Mixtec’. It is often unclear which towns are actually included and why; it doesn’t tell you much about relatedness or intelligibility. (Duraznos is also ‘Western Juxtl.’, but as you know it’s not readily intelligible with Coicoyan varieties)
  2. Informant has a negative undertone for many documentary linguists nowadays. Better just say collaborator, then it’s clear you’re working with each other on the same level.

Good luck with the abstract!

3 Likes

cool idea! I’m going to sit it out, since I should focus on my thesis for now, but I hope it gets accepted :crossed_fingers:

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Should I use Josserand’s classifications then? Also, I thought Duraznos was classified as Juxtlahuaca Mixtec, cuz the stuff published on the Learn Mixteco web site sounds like the way my housemate talks, and he is from Santa Catarina Noltepec. I’ve used Western Juxtlahuaca Mixtec because speakers I talk to recognize that they speak the same Mixtec and it is a term that covers Tlacoachistlahuaca, Coicoyan, and the towns of San Juan Piñas, San Jorge Rio Frijol, and Yosocañu. There are some differences, but people from each of those towns recognize that they speak basically the same as people from the other towns.

I’ll upload my new abstract shortly. Thanks!

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The internet offers many ways to communicate, both in real time and in an asynchronous manner. Linguists, researchers, language teachers, and collaborators do not need to be in the same place, or even the same time zone, to work together on language documentation projects. In-person work is incredibly valuable, but the work does not need to stop when the different workers need to live in different locations.

My current project is a popular grammar for Mixtec as it is spoken in El Jicaral, Coicoyán de las Flores, Oaxaca, Mexico. I began this work in 2016 with my friend and colleague, Demetrio Zurita Quiroz. During the summer and fall of that year we came up with an outline and sets of example sentences for several of the chapters. Demetrio is now living in El Jicaral and I continue to live in Mount Vernon, Washington, US. We communicate via Facebook to continue our project.

El Jicaral is a remote town where most residents do not have access to potable water or latrines. They do, however, have access to the internet through cell towers. Demetrio has a lot of responsibilities and we have found that scheduling around his household duties has been more of an issue than communication over the internet. That said, we have found a good rhythm and we use a mix of posting on Facebook with things for the other to check and communicating in real time using Messenger. Because Demetrio’s Spanish is limited, I am writing the text of the grammar. I post sections to a Facebook group and Demetrio checks them for accuracy.

Our project is possible because, at an early stage, Demetrio worked with literacy materials and learned the orthography most popular in the area around Coicoyan. Having a working orthography and materials to help master literacy skills is essential for this kind of project, as it allows all project participants to communicate fully.

Sorry to have missed this call for abstracts! Are you all submitted??

Hi @katelynnlindsey, I’m afraid @Siri and I have already submitted the abstracts. (Interestingly, SSILA has changed to conference to be virtual because of The Thing.)

No worries! Let me know if there’s a chance to be involved later down the road. I’m trying out lots of new remote techniques and some might just be working :slight_smile:

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