Language documentation in the 21st century

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Peter K. Austin

Abstract

Language documentation emerged as a new sub-field of linguistics in 1995 and has developed and expanded over the past 20 years. In this paper we outline the defining characteristics of language documentation as presented in the late 1990s and discuss some of the changes in the field that have occurred since. These include a move away from concern for best practices, standards and tools to a more critical and reflexive approach that highlights diversity and flexibility of individual documentation projects in their social, cultural and political contexts, as well as the need for greater attention to goals and outcomes. There have also been developments in archiving that build upon social networking models linking people to each other, rather than seeing documentation as being primarily about ‘data’ and ‘resources’.

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