Second town meeting

The second town meeting of the ELA was held successfully last Saturday at the Bowery Poetry Club. The transactions are briefly summarized here for those who were unable to make it. We discussed the broader goals of the language survey portion of our summer project and several groups spoke about their experiences searching out languages in different neighborhoods. As noted by myself and others, finding uncommon and endangered languages in this town is far easier than one might think. On a casual stroll through Jackson Heights, one group found speakers of Tlapaneco, Mazatec, Nahua as well as leads for Amuzgo speakers. Another group, in a brief foray into Coney Island, found speakers of Mingrelian, Svan and other languages of Georgia. A third group made good progress among the Malian and Senegalese communities around 116th street by going straight to the community centers. I am hoping that all groups can keep a log of their activities and areas canvased. The first step in keeping an activity log is for all groups to set-up Google groups, as many already have done.

After some general strategizing we moved on to our plans for the second part of the project, in which we will be working with selected speakers to record their language. The survey is slated to continue into the summer but volunteers will soon be able to set up their own recording sessions. We will begin gently, by first recording Swadesh lists and other vocabulary items and only then slowly moving on to more complex tasks. Swadesh lists in various languages, as well as new multi-lingual flyers and other materials distributed in this meeting, are available here. When people get weary of recording words, we will move on to recording phrases and basic greetings. By mid-August I am hoping we can begin recording longer texts.

We have some volunteers who will be helping out with the technicalities of recording. For those who are interested in learning how to make good recordings and practicing with the new digital recorders, there is a session tentatively being set up for next week, June 29th with Nina. More info to follow soon.

As many of you know, my guidance, for what it’s worth, will have to be administered long-distance for the next several weeks as I already had immutable plans to be in Indonesia and the Philippines before this summer project materialized. But fear not, I am anticipating having regular access to email for most of the trip and will do my best to respond to all questions and issues as they arise. Juliette will be in charge of the office and will be answering the office phone so there should be no disruptions in service, as they say.