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.

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