Using Ethnography in Language Documentation and Revitalization

Instructors: Sarah Shulist (MacEwan University) and Faun Rice (University of Alberta)
Workshop Description:  

This workshop will focus on training participants to use ethnographic methodologies in the development and implementation of projects for both language documentation and revitalization. The target audience includes community linguists and academic linguists with an intermediate to advanced level of knowledge about language programs, but without any extensive training in anthropology and ethnography. The goal is to provide this group of language activists with an additional set of tools for use in enhancing the efficacy and comprehensiveness of their documentary and revitalization work.

  Our four workshop topics are: ethnographic methods for language revitalization, understanding social roles and status in endangered language contexts, identifying and categorizing genres of speech, and understanding the political and institutional contexts for language revitalization and documentation. Students will be asked to apply workshop content to a challenge they have faced in their own research, fieldwork, or personal experience related to language use in a context of endangerment.

Course Materials and Supplies Needed:

Articles and Readings TBD. Handouts will be distributed by instructors. Please bring a laptop to each class.

Course Goals:

The goal of this workshop is to provide students with a basic understanding of ethnographic tools for use in enhancing the efficacy and comprehensiveness of their documentary and revitalization work.

Student Learning Objectives:
  1.   Learn to apply ethnographic methods to documenting languages. Students should be able to identify and describe ethnographic methods including map--‐making techniques, documentation of the use of space, kinship, life histories, qualitative interviews, and participant observation.
  2.   Explain the importance of key anthropological concepts. Language ideologies, speech communities, genre, verbal art, etc.
  3.   Describe language use in terms of social roles and status. Students should be able to identify different types of speakers and relevant categories of difference, describe their position as a fieldworker and its impact on data collection.
  4.   Evaluate local understandings of linguistic knowledge and ability. In a context of language endangerment, students should able to critically evaluate the impact of language revitalization programs and policies on local understandings of language and speaker status.
  5.   Describe political and institutional contexts for documentation and revitalization. Critically discuss the relationship between language use, political capital, and language ideologies.
Instructional Methods:

Brief Lectures, Case Study Discussions, Hands--‐on Activities and Exercises.


Pass/fail based on full attendance and a personal project (can be completed in groups if appropriate). Students will be asked to come prepared on the first day with a small written reflection based on their own fieldwork, research, or experience. This should tell the class about a challenge they encountered relating to language revitalization and documentation. Throughout the duration of the class, they will consider how ethnographic methodologies may be used to unpack their experience and provide new ways to approach the problem in the future.

Disabilities services:

The Office of Disability Services implements the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and insures that UAF students have equal access to the campus and course materials. The instructor will work with the Office of Disabilities Services (208 WHIT, 474--‐5655) to provide reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities.