Talk it up! Integrating and prioritizing conversational data in documentation

This workshop will introduce students, activists, and experienced researchers to the basics of recording and analyzing everyday conversations, focusing on how to integrate this type of data into language documentation projects. Although conversations and other types of everyday interactions are recognizably the most common form of actual language use in speech communities, we often overlook, or include them only marginally, in our language documentation projects. Many documenters and researchers shy away from interactional data because they believe it is more ‘time-consuming, ‘harder to obtain and analyze’, and involves ‘more complex ethical issues’ than narratives, explanations, descriptions and other common tokens of monologic speech. In this workshop, we aim to address such qualms head-on, proposing that recordings of everyday conversations and other interactions can and should be a key component in language documentation projects. On the one hand, we believe that naturalistic interactions offer insights into aspects of linguistic structure, social interaction, and culture that are less accessible in elicited and monologic materials. Such documentation thus has the potential to contribute significantly to both linguistic and sociolinguistic theory. On the other, we think that by focusing greater attention on interactions, documenters underscore the value of everyday human exchanges; and, moreover, that projects involving interactional materials can provide great incentive and opportunities for community participation.

Our overall goal is to focus attention on this fledgling approach to documentation, offering participants the opportunity to explore methodological and theoretical questions and to hear from documenters whose work in this area has already taken wing. Participants at any stage of workfrom those who are just starting out to more seasoned researchers and activists looking to expand and complement ongoing projectswill be welcome. We intend to provide a forum in which we can share experiences and learn from each other, and expect this collaboration to result in a solid contribution toward training and resource building in this new frontier in language documentation.

List of suggested readings (not required for the workshop)
  • Sidnell, Jack (2010). Conversation Analysis: An Introduction. Blackwell. papers at:
  • Enfield, N. J. (2012). Doing fieldwork on the body, language, and communication. In C. Müller, E. Fricke, S.
  • Ladewig, A. Cienki, D. McNeill, & S. eßendorf (Eds.), Handbook Body Language Communication. Volume 1 (Vol. 38.1). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Seyfeddinipur, Mandana (2012). Reasons for documenting gestures and suggestions for how to go about it. In Thieberger, Nicholas (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Fieldwork. OUP.