Phonetic results from endangered language archives

Douglas H. Whalen (CUNY, Haskins Lab. Yale Univ.)
19 May 2017, 14h0015h30

Language archives are becoming increasingly available, allowing new possibilities for phonetic analysis, especially for under-researched and endangered languages. While a few languages have had many of their phonetic patterns described, most languages have scarcely been described at all. Many of the world’s most typologically unusual contrasts or phonological patterns have been reported in languages with small numbers of speakers and that consequently have not received attention from academic researchers. To gain a greater understanding of the phonetic patterns present in human languages and to better inform phonetic and phonological theory, data from under-resourced and endangered languages and language communities is crucial. Archives allow the efficient use of resources by making acoustic records available, but the decisions made in the creation and curation of archives affect what analyses are possible, based on the level of detail in the analysis accompanying the sound files. In this talk, I will describe some currently existing language archives, focusing on those that contain data primarily from endangered languages. I will summarize a selection of the papers that have performed phonetic analysis on data from those archives and close with some recommendations for archives that would make phonetic analysis more feasible and that would also provide greater reward for depositors of this valuable material.

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