O’dam Documentation

Documentation of Southeastern Tepehuan: A Corpus of Annotated Texts (No. 1065085)

My work concentrates on Southeastern Tepehuan (SET) or O’dam Language (Uto-Aztecan). I was engaged in a National Science Foundation Project in conjunction with the Documenting Endangered Languages (DEL): “Documentation of Southeastern Tepehuan: A Corpus of Annotated Texts.” This project had the dual purpose of providing much needed documentation of naturally occurring speech (i.e., narrations, casual and formal conversations, ritual and religious speech) SET and of contributing to the linguistic analysis of clause union in this language, one of the least described languages of the Tepiman branch of the Uto-Aztecan family. This research constitutes an important step in the process of documenting the language, which will permit comparisons with other Uto-Aztecan and non-Uto-Aztecan languages.

As the main outcome, this project has produced a corpus of 27 hours of SET texts, including audio and video recordings. About 10 hours of the audio and/or video materials provided with time-aligned transcriptions, multi-tier annotations, morpheme-to-morpheme and free translations into Spanish. Video recordings were essential because they provide the social contexts in which the audio recordings occur. A second outcome of the project will be the creation of pedagogical materials for promoting language education and language revitalization (i.e., ongoing activity). This material will advance the needs of the community by establishing an accessible record of the language. There is a lack of written and pedagogical material in the communities. A third outcome is the analysis of clause union in Southeastern Tepehuan in my doctoral dissertation (i.e., expected Fall 2013).

The project outcomes are not only of interest to the field of linguistics, but also to the fields of anthropology, archaeology, history, sociolinguistics and related fields by providing oral histories and local knowledge of the Tepehuans that together with a deeper understanding of the language can be used to evaluate the models of migration and population of northern Mexico that have been proposed to date. Overall, this research makes  important contributions to ongoing efforts in the field of documenting endangered languages by providing a corpus of high quality original documentation materials using different media resources (e.g., audio, video and written texts). It also contributes to the analysis and description of the syntax of SET. Beyond the scientific merits and as part of this project, it established the O’dam Language Documentation Committee as part of a community-based approach to documentation and language revitalization. Specifically, the training of native Tepehuan speakers in language description including methods and tools (i.e., the use of audio and video recorders, transfer of files to a digital format, transcription methods, and the use of different annotation and interlinearization software) provide the skills necessary for local language documentation which will have an impact on both the acceptance and use of the resulting materials as well as improve the way people reflect on their own language. Additionally, the collected texts, as well the discussions of grammar, will be used to develop pedagogical grammars and materials in the bilingual education programs currently in existence in the area (for more information: http://www.utexas.edu/cola/depts/linguistics/news/3637).

PI: Nora C. England

Co-PI: Gabriela Garcia Salido