Episode 40: Jessica Coon on Mayan Language Documentation & Consulting on Arrival

Today’s episode is with Jessica Coon, an Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at McGill University and Canada Research Chair in Syntax and Indigenous Languages. 

Much of Jessica’s work has focused on Mayan languages, in particular Ch’ol (a language of southern Mexico) and Chuj (a language of Guatemala). She has also researched Mi’gmaq, an Algonquian language of eastern Canada. In addition to theoretical work on these languages, She has worked to build collaborations with the communities of speakers who are working to document, promote, and revitalize these languages. At McGill, Jessica co-leads the Montreal Under-documented Languages and Linguistics Lab. She is also the current director of the Indigenous Studies and Community Engagement Initiative (ISCEI).

Jessica was also a consultant on the film Arrival, which features a field linguist as the main protagonist, played by Amy Adams. 

“the best tortillas”

Things mentioned in this episode:

Jessica with Ch’ol-speaking collaborators at Palenque

Listen to this episode here, or on your favorite podcast app! Field Notes is available on Apple Podcasts app (iPhone), Google Play Music (Android), Google Podcasts app (Android), StitcherSpotifyPodbeanPodcast RepublicCastboxPlayer FM, and several other apps via RSS.

Episode 39: Eric W. Campbell on Otomanguean Language Documentation & Mobilization

This month’s episode is with Eric W. Campbell, an Associate Professor of linguistics at University of California, Santa Barbara. Eric received his PhD from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. Eric is a field linguist who is interested in all levels of linguistic structure and historical linguistics. Eric approaches language in its social and cultural context, focusing on less-studied languages, especially the Otomanguean languages spoken in Mexico and California.

Eric W. Campbell and Tranquilino Cavero Ramirez record Esteban Ruiz Ramírez in San Pedro de Río, Zenzontepec, Oaxaca, Mexico

Things mentioned in this episode:

Tranquilino Cavero Ramirez and Eric W. Campbell at a Chatino literacy workshop in San Pedro de Río, Zenzontepec, Oaxaca, Mexico

Listen to this episode here, or on your favorite podcast app! Field Notes is available on Apple Podcasts app (iPhone), Google Play Music (Android), Google Podcasts app (Android), StitcherSpotifyPodbeanPodcast RepublicCastboxPlayer FM, and several other apps via RSS.

Tranquilino Cavero Ramirez and Eric W. Campbell transcribing in San Pedro de Río, Zenzontepec, Oaxaca, Mexico

Episode 38: Anthony C. Woodbury on Language Documentation & Field Linguistics Training


This month’s episode is with Anthony C. Woodbury, a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin. Woodbury holds the Jesse H. Jones Regents Professorship in Liberal Arts. He earned his B.A. and M.A. in Linguistics in 1975 from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. in Linguistics in 1981 from the University of California at Berkeley. He has taught in the UT Linguistics Department since 1980, serving as its chair for nine years. He was elected Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America in 2017, and Vice-President and President of the Society for 2022 and 2023. 

Woodbury’s research focuses on the Indigenous languages of the Americas, and how they reveal general as well as historic linguistic diversity and creativity on the parts of their speakers. He began work with Unangan-Yupik-Inuit languages in 1974, especially Cup’ik in Chevak, Alaska, and in 2003 he became engaged, together with a cohort of then-graduate students, in the documentation and description of Chatino, an Otomanguean language group of Oaxaca, Mexico. Themes in his writing have included tone and prosody; morphology, syntax, and historical linguistics; ethnopoetics and speech play and verbal art; and language documentation, revitalization, and the role of linguistics in the struggle for human rights and intellectual justice, especially under conditions of language shift that is directly or indirectly coerced. He is also co-director, with Patience Epps, of the digital Archive for Indigenous Languages of Latin America at UT’s Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies. He now centers his teaching on Ph.D. and other training in linguistics for speakers of Indigenous languages of the Americas.

The late Mary Moses, Tony Woodbury, and the late Leo Moses in Chevak, Alaska, USA, in November, 1978 during a time when we were working on transcription in Cup’ik, Mary and Leo’s native language, and translation into English, of Cup’ik stories appearing in the book, Cev’armiut Qanemciit Qulirait-llu. Photo by Linda Moses.

Things mentioned in this episode:

Recommended Reading: 

  • Anthony C. Woodbury (2003). Defining documentary linguistics. In Peter K. Austin (ed.) Language Documentation and Description, vol 1. London: SOAS. pp. 35-51 http://www.elpublishing.org/docs/1/01/ldd01_05.pdf
  • Anthony Woodbury, Compiler/Editor. 1984. Cev’armiut qanemciit qulirait=llu: Eskimo narratives and tales from Chevak, Alaska. Told by Tom Imgalrea, Jacob Nash, Thomas Moses, Leo Moses, and Mary Kokrak; translated by Leo Moses and Anthony Woodbury. Fairbanks: Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska. 88 pp. [Cup’ik texts with linguistic and cultural introduction.] TextAudio
  • Emiliana Cruz & Anthony C. Woodbury. Collaboration in the context of teaching, scholarship, and language revitalization: Experience from the Chatino Language Documentation Project. Language Documentation & Conservation 8: 262-286. Special issue: Keren Rice & Bruna Franchetto, (guest eds.), Community Collaboration in the Americas. http://hdl.handle.net/10125/24607
 Isaura de los Santos, Tony Woodbury, and Hilaria Cruz in San Miguel Panixtlahuaca, Oaxaca, Mexico, in June, 2012 when we were working on understanding the tonal system of San Miguel Panixtlahuaca Eastern Chatino, Isaura’s native language. Photo by Gibrán Morales.

Listen to this episode here, or on your favorite podcast app! Field Notes is available on Apple Podcasts app (iPhone), Google Play Music (Android), Google Podcasts app (Android), StitcherSpotifyPodbeanPodcast RepublicCastboxPlayer FM, and several other apps via RSS.

Episode 37: Linguistic Fieldwork with Claire Bowern

Welcome to a new season of Field Notes! This month, Claire Bowern is on the pod for Season Four’s inaugural episode. Claire Bowern is a historical linguist whose research is centered around language change and language documentation in Indigenous Australia. She received her BA in LInguistics and Classics from the Australian National University, and her PhD in linguistics from Harvard University. She works with speakers of endangered languages, with archival sound and print materials, and uses computational and phylogenetic methods. She is currently the editor of the journal Diachronica. She is a professor in Linguistics at Yale University, and is also the author of Linguistic Fieldwork: A Practical Guide (2008). 

Things mentioned in this episode: 

Photo caption: Nancy Isaac (dec. 2004) and Claire Bowern in 2001, working on Bardi oral history at One Arm Point. Note the minidisc recorder on Claire’s left!

Listen to this episode here, or on your favorite podcast app! Field Notes is available on Apple Podcasts app (iPhone), Google Play Music (Android), Google Podcasts app (Android), StitcherSpotifyPodbeanPodcast RepublicCastboxPlayer FM, and several other apps via RSS.

Episode 36: Quechua Language Documentation & Revitalization with Gladys Camacho Rios

Today’s episode is the final episode of Season Three! This season focused exclusively on linguists working on their own native and/or heritage languages. Thank you to all listeners and patrons for making this third season so successful. In this episode, Gladys Camacho Rios discusses her work on her native language, South Bolivian Quechua. Gladys works with elderly monolingual Quechua speakers in rural Bolivia. She is a PhD candidate in Linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin. She previously earned two MA degrees; one in Latin American Studies from New York University in 2016 and a MA in Linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin in 2019.

Gladys Camacho Rios in a daily conversation with the oldest monolingual speaker of South Bolivian Quechua variety in Uma Piwra rural town. The spontaneous conversation takes places during fieldwork in Uma Piwra, Cochabamba, Bolivia. The topic of the conversation is about crops located by the river. (Uma Piwra, September 2020)

Things mentioned in this episode:

Training new native speakers of South Bolivian Quechua (SBQ) on the use of equipment to carry out video documentation in their towns of origin. As part of my documentation project, my goal is to train younger SBQ speakers to document and describe the dialectology of monolingual forms. The SBQ speakers involved in this training are committed to documenting the speech of monolinguals in their towns of origin. To date 8 speakers have received training in the use of equipment, how to record metadata, how to back up data, how to use ELAN to transcribe their data. One of them is currently pursuing the first year of the PhD in Linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin. (Cochabamba, December 2020)

Listen to this episode here, or on your favorite podcast app! Field Notes is available on Apple Podcasts app (iPhone), Google Play Music (Android), Google Podcasts app (Android), StitcherSpotifyPodbeanPodcast RepublicCastboxPlayer FM, and several other apps via RSS.

Episode 35: Azamgarhi Language Documentation with Maaz Shaikh

Today’s episode is with Maaz Shaikh, a Junior Research Fellow pursuing his Ph.D. at the Centre for Linguistics, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, India. Maaz is an emerging linguist having research interests primarily in language documentation and description, along with language revitalization, phonology, morpho-syntax, and historical linguistics. Last year, Maaz successfully defended his M.Phil. thesis at JNU on his heritage language Azamgarhi—a unique Indo-Aryan language, of which he is a semi-speaker. In this episode we will hear from Maaz on his experiences and opinions of “documenting” a language as an “insider” to the community. Besides his areal interests of his native Indo-Aryan region, he is also now documenting Zangskari, an endangered language of Ladakh (India). 

Maaz, while eliciting Azamgarhi wordlist with a few women consultants in the Bairidih village of Azamgarh. In the Azamgarhi speech community, like many conservative and traditional Muslim communities in general, women generally do not expose their bodies, including the face, to non-mahram (i.e., an unrelated male person). Hence, the woman informants are cropped out from the photo at their request. (January 25, 2020).

Things mentioned in this episode:

Maaz recording a narrative from Mr. Maqsood Khan, a native Bhojpuri speaker and also a fluent Azamgarhi speaker (very rare case), while Mr. Zakir Hussain, a native Azamgarhi speaker, also listens sitting besides Maaz at Mr. Zakir Hussain’s P. G. Rahmaniya College in Ropanpur village of the Mau district. (November 22, 2020)

A scenic view of the banks of a tributary (Pharaī in Azamgarhi) of the Ghāgrā river from the (Pharaī) Chāndpūr village situated in the Maū district. Chandpur, a desolated area until a couple of hundred years ago when some people from Fatehpur village (some 10 km away) settled there, is the last Azamgarhi speaking village on the eastern realm of Azamgarhi. Interestingly, the Azamgarhi variety spoken there differs considerably from that in Fatehpur. (November 22, 2020)

Episode 34: Ana D. Alonso Ortiz on Zapotec Language Documentation & Revitalization

This month’s episode is with Ana D. Alonso Ortiz, a Zapotec researcher and translator from Oaxaca, Mexico. Ana is an Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director of the Amerindian Studies and Bilingual Education master’s program at the University of Queretaro. Her research focuses on the language description and language revitalization of Yalalag Zapotec, specifically promoting the language by working with child language acquisition.

She is currently developing a language course of Zapotec as a Second Language. Ana has worked on the production of educational materials in Zapotec in coordination with the Dill Yel Nbán Collective, a group of Zapotec scholars who seek to promote the Zapotec language. Ana received her PhD from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2021.

Ana researching the acquisition of positional verbs in bilingual children of Zapotec-Spanish
Villa Hidalgo Yalalag, 2021

Things mentioned in this episode:

Listen to this episode here, or on your favorite podcast app! Field Notes is available on Apple Podcasts app (iPhone), Google Play Music (Android), Google Podcasts app (Android), StitcherSpotifyPodbeanPodcast RepublicCastboxPlayer FM, and several other apps via RSS.

Episode 33: Azeb Amha on Afroasiatic language documentation & description

This month’s episode is with Dr. Azeb Amha from the University of Leiden. Azeb is a linguist with interest in the morphology and syntax of Afroasiatic languages, linguistic typology and in the interdisciplinary fields of anthropological linguistics and sociolinguistics. She has worked extensively on the documentation of  languages in Ethiopia, inclunding  Oyda, Wolaitta and Zargulla. She is an ELDP grant recipient, and a depositor with Dobes and the Endangered Languages Archive

Zargulla Documentation team 2017 at K’ak’e. From left to right: Aboye Alade, Birtukan Abebe, Birtukan Bunkula, Shibiru Shiteno, Wudnesh Petros, Teshome Gezahegn, Asmelash Michael, and Azeb Amha (standing at the back).

Things mentioned in this episode:

Zargulla Documentation team 2019 at Genbo. From left to right: Teshome Gezahegn, Michael Mina, Amarech Bunkula, Asmelash Michael and Amare Abebe

Listen to this episode here, or on your favorite podcast app! Field Notes is available on Apple Podcasts app (iPhone), Google Play Music (Android), Google Podcasts app (Android), StitcherSpotifyPodbeanPodcast RepublicCastboxPlayer FM, and several other apps via RSS.

Episode 32: Michael Karani on Arusa Ideophone Documentation & Description

This month’s episode is with Michael Karani from the University of Dar es Salaam. Michael teaches linguistics and communication studies at Dar es Salaam. He holds a BA and an MA in Linguistics from the University of Dar es Salaam and a PhD in African Languages from Stellenbosch University. Michael conducted fieldwork for his native language, Arusa, which is a Maasai dialect spoken in Arusha, northern Tanzania, where he studied the Arusa verb system during his MA studies. For his PhD research he investigated verb morphology and argument structure in the Parakuyo dialect, another Maasai dialect spoken in northern and coastal areas in Tanzania.

In this episode, we discuss Micheal’s current research with Dr Alexander Andrason (Stellenbosch University) on Arusa ‘expressive grammar’, particularly ideophones, interjections and gestures.

Michael Karani posing with Arusa speakers just after an initiation ceremony that took place in Kilindi where Karani collected recordings of stories and songs in a fieldwork in 2016

Things mentioned in this episode:

Michael Karani seated with Arusa speakers during a field work in 2016

Listen to this episode here, or on your favorite podcast app! Field Notes is available on Apple Podcasts app (iPhone), Google Play Music (Android), Google Podcasts app (Android), Stitcher, Spotify, Podbean, Podcast Republic, Castbox, Player FM, and several other apps via RSS.

Episode 31: Catalan Language Normalization with Guillem Belmar

This month’s episode is with Guillem Belmar from UC Santa Barbara. Guillem focuses his research on language revitalization strategies as well as documentation of endangered or minoritized languages. He has worked on language promotion for many European languages and runs the #europeminoritylanguages project on social media. He is currently involved with the project Maintaining Indigenous Languages within Immigrant Oaxacan Communities in the United States.

In this episode we discuss Guillem’s work with his native language, Catalan, as well as Basque and Frisian. Guillem shares with us his experience working with minority languages in Europe, including his work on New Speaker motivation and language policy and planning.

Guillem giving a lecture at the Sorbian Seminar in Leipzig on using intelligibility in language revitalization

Next month Field Notes will be taking a short break, if you’d like to hear more from the pod, check out the Field Notes Patreon

Things mentioned in this episode:

Listen to this episode here, or on your favorite podcast app! Field Notes is available on Apple Podcasts app (iPhone), Google Play Music (Android), Google Podcasts app (Android), StitcherSpotifyPodbeanPodcast RepublicCastboxPlayer FM, and several other apps via RSS.