Reflections on fieldwork: A view from Amazonia
Published Web Locationhttp://hdl.handle.net/10125/24832
Amazonia is both a place of exceptional linguistic, sociocultural, and ecological diversity and a place where the documentation of this diversity is limited and ever-increasingly urgent. While recent decades have shown considerable progress in this area, our understanding of Amazonian languages is still challenged by a low proportion of researchers relative to its many distinct language contexts. In light of Himmelmann’s framing of language documentation as a ‘fairly independent field of linguistic inquiry and practice’, we discuss key facets of what we consider the single most important unifying question that underlies language documentation work in Amazonia: Just how much description and analysis is necessary for Amazonian language documentation to be coherent, useful, and interpretable by others? We argue that the social and cultural diversity of this vast region calls into question the actual separability of ‘documentation’ from ‘description and analysis’ of Amazonian language data; and we advocate for taking Himmelmann’s proposals as an invitation to finer-grained, broaderminded thinking about the kinds of research questions, methods, and focused training that best serve linguists working in Amazonian speech communities, rather than as a guide to defining an appropriate scope for fieldwork with an Amazonian language.
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