Biology in Language Documentation

Aung Si

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    The fields of ethnobiology and language documentation have much to offer each other, but for the moment, there are few signs of engagement between practitioners of the two disciplines. In this paper, I argue that projects that seek to document endangered languages can benefit by focusing on the semantic domain of traditional biological and ecological knowledge (TEK), and by engaging in collaborative projects with ethnobiologists. In doing so, researchers not only produce a rich corpus that is culturally relevant and valuable to the language community, but also record information about the natural world that maybe of interest to researchers in other fields. The TEK encoded in a language is best and most easily observed in the specialized vocabulary that speakers may employ when talking about various natural phenomena. However, a community's knowledge of their biological environment extends far beyond the lexicon and into the domain of complex ecological relationships among different organisms. Using examples from my fieldwork in southern India, I argue that it is possible to capture such knowledge in a language documentation program. Other criteria for a good documentation, such as the inclusion of a wide range of speech genres, can also be met while eliciting TEK from language consultants
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)169-186
    JournalLanguage Documentation and Conservation
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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