Sunday, August 11, 2019

Summer 2019 Fieldwork by the Numbers

During July and August 2019 (up to August 9th), we (Andy, Zach and I) did fieldwork on Cua, an endangered central Khoisan language spoken in southeastern Botswana.

This work is part of a four-year NSF grant to document Cua.
As part of the grant, during the summers of 2020 and 2021 we will bring four American undergraduates each year to Botswana to study Cua. The main purpose of the grant is to increase the number of American students working on the Khoisan languages.

The main goals of the research this summer (2019) were to (a) deepen relations with the community, (b) work out logistical issues such as lodging for next summer, (c) work out consultant teams for next summer, and (d) start the documentation process.

In the following summary, I give the numbers characterizing our research.

1. 2127 sound files of lexical items and phrases
2. 97 videos for a total of 7 hours 9 minutes
3. 60 Cua videos for a total of 5 hours 5 minutes
4. 366 photos
5. 647 transcribed lexical items
6. 2 partially transcribed short oral texts
7. 63 verbs transcribed with juncture morphemes
8. 20 FLEx transcriptions of elicitation sessions

To obtain these materials we interacted with many members of the community, but ultimately focussed on two teams of two (each time having one male and one female). These will be the main teams that we work with next summer (at least at the beginning). I will comment on these items below:

1. We recorded all the words and phrases that we elicited. This allows one to go back and check transcriptions. The basic methodology is given here:

2. The 97 videos included Cua videos, but also videos of Setswana and English translations of the Cua videos. They also included B-roll. That is, film of the surrounding areas that will be useful when we edit clips together.

3. The 60 Cua videos included oral texts like folk tales, but also historical narratives (we have a nice narrative on the history of Diphuduhudu by the chief). We also had people describe animals, like the bat and the tortoise.

4. Photos were of the consultants, the process and the surrounding areas. We also have some photos of the objects that we elicited words for. In future summers, I hope to be able to get photos for all the words in the dictionary.

5. The lexical items are transcribed to fairly high accuracy. Because of Tim Mathes' thesis on Tsua (related to Cua), the tonal transcriptions are basically correct, with one or two small issues needing to be resolved.

6. We transcribed two short oral texts into ELAN and FLEx. These are only partially completed, and need to be returned to next summer. The stumbling block that we ran up against is that it is difficult to transcribe oral texts without first understanding the grammar of the language. Since Cua is completely undocumented, there was no point of reference for the grammar. As we document the grammar, the transcription process for oral texts will become easier.

7. Zach has a project on juncture morphemes, for which we were able to look at 63 verbs. The juncture morpheme appears in the perfective, the benefactive, the causative and in verbal compounds. By far the easiest form to elicit was the benefactive.

8. Each elicitation session was transcribed in FLEx for a total of 20 sessions. This allowed the lexical items elicited to be fed right into the dictionary. It also allows for super fast searches for sentences including lexical items or particular glosses using the concordance. 

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