How to avoid pitfalls in documenting endangered languages

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Conducting fieldwork on an endangered language resembles fieldwork projects on non-endangered languages in most respects, but there also some differences that require extra attention when one studies an endangered language in the field. This paper concentrates on the differences. It covers such topics as getting access to fluent native speakers and community approval for the research; data-collection techniques (a variety will be needed); individual variation, which can be much more problematic in an endangered language than in other languages; and dictionary-making procedures, which may require consultants to dig deep in their memories to come up with words they haven’t spoken or heard for many years.


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