Broader Impacts Workshop

This is a picture of a Cameroonian PhD student working on an endangered language of Cameroon.

For the Broader Impacts Workshop, invited participants will focus on the history and achievements of the Documenting Endangered Languages (DEL) program in the past fifteen years since it was formed within the National Science Foundation and National Endowment for the Humanities. The participants of this Workshop will consider the past, present, and future of DEL particularly in the context of “broader impacts” (potential benefits to society), and ways that DEL can continue to effectively support a range of initiatives connected wider segments of society and with outputs that serve both academic and more public audiences. Participants in this  Workshop will represent DEL-funded primary investigators and program officers who have demonstrated excellence in weaving NSF-mandated “broader impacts” into their documentation research. They will present examples of broadening participation to include traditionally underrepresented groups and dissemination of discoveries to wider audiences beyond the academy.

Lamkang Orthography Workshop in Assam 2013, Shobhana Chelliah in the forefront, consult David Peterson in the background.

The seven participants in this proposed Workshop will represent DEL-funded primary investigators and program officers who have demonstrated excellence in weaving NSF-mandated “broader impacts” into their documentation research. They will present examples of broadening participation to include traditionally underrepresented groups and dissemination of discoveries to wider audiences beyond the academy. 


Shobhana Chelliah: Reflections on the Broader Impacts of Language Documentation Research

I was the DEL program officer from 2012-2015.  Around this time, two new NSF-wide initiatives inspired new ways of thinking about DEL broader impacts.  The first, was a requirement for all proposals to include a data management plan (DMP), following the push to make data collected via NSF funding available for future use.  One year into my rotation, it became clear that DEL PIs were applying for additional DEL funds without implementing their DMPs. With assistance from the DELAMAN group, the DEL program put into place a program-specific DMP that required PIs to budget time and funds for archiving and to get signed deposti agreements with specific archives.  In conversation with Susan Kung of AAILA in Spring 2019, I learned that business at the archives is booming. Increasingly, data is being archived and there is an increase in data access and use by community members, linguists for research, and instructors for class projects. DEL’s DMP requirement ensures a constant updating of digital resources of new sources of data to enrich linguistic theory and typology.  All sciences need new data to grow and Linguistics is no exception. Curating, tagging, and archiving data has pushed forward discussion of data formats, citation and reuse that began in the 1980s with EMELD and continues today with the conversation on data reproducibility and citation. In parallel with this, DEL projects have forced us to ask: what is the ethics of data reuse and big language data?

A second NSF initiative was to have programs give more weight to evaluation of broader impacts than before.  Could PIs be encouraged to incorporate broader impacts in work plans? For DEL projects, this fit in with linguistics’ stated ethical obligations towards capacity building in communities.  Providing training opportunities for community documenters, bringing K-12 and undergraduate students to language science, and giving graduate students research opportunities – these broader impacts are seen in many DEL projects.  When students collect, annotate, curate, and archive data sets, they learn linguistic thinking in the same way that working on code can stimulate computational thinking.  

While not directly supporting language revitalization and language pedagogy, which are applied endeavors and don’t fall under NSF mandate for core research, NSF funding for language related research demonstrates the value of all languages for science. But revitalization is a major concern for linguists and PIs continue to grapple with how to both satisfy the intellectual merit requirements and revitalization efforts.  One way has been to support a growing trend in documentary linguistics for community-based and community-directed language documentation programs. These encourage documentation of pedagogically useful materials that also contribute to scientific discovery.  

Finally, under the “benefits to society” heading, DEL projects have broader impact potential of diverse kinds – e.g., from national security, to biodiversity, to health and wellness – with potentially equally valuable resource creation and discoveries.  In this session, we will hear about a range of Broader Impacts for DEL that illustrate what I’ve just reviewed about DEL Broader Impacts.


Angiachi Demetris Esene Agwara: How Endangered Language Programs can broaden participation in science

Limited financial resources constrain the research topics that linguistics students based in underdeveloped countries are able to undertake. For instance, in a class of fourteen students who began linguistics PhD program in 2014 at the University of Buea in Cameroon, ninety percent focused on English second language acquisition in the classroom. Work on the documentation of Cameroon’s endangered languages requires financial resources that few students have, limiting opportunities for documentary capacity building. Thanks to my openness and risk-taking nature, I was supported with outside funds during my studies at Buea to engage in a project studying a region of Cameroon where a number of endangered languages are spoken. The benefits are clear: With a sound Master’s Degree focused on endangered languages, I was granted admission with a three-year scholarship into the renowned Bayreuth Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS), where I am continuing the work that I began in Cameroon.

Carrie Cannon: We Were Once One People: A Comparative Ethnobotany of the Pai Languages

This talk explores the initiation of a collaborative intertribal ethnobotanical and linguistic based database project.  The ongoing project involves a study of comparative ethnobotany to extend the linguistic documentation across the Pai languages of Arizona and Baja California, Mexico by creating a ‘Pai-wide’ ethnobotanical database. The purpose of the database is to document and archive valuable linguistic and ethnobotanical knowledge of the Pai affiliated Tribes before it is lost.   The Pai languages represent a subset of the Yuman language family in that they are more closely affiliated through language, a common origin story and related song, dance, and customs than the other fourteen members of the Yuman language family. Geographically and historicallythese languages spanned the Colorado River, all the way from Mexico to the high plateaus of northern Arizona. The six ‘Pai’ tribes include the Hualapai, Havasupai, Yavapai-Apache, Yavapai-Prescott, Ft. McDowell Yavapai, and Paipai indigenous people of Baja California, Mexico. Although geographically more distant, Paipai is closer to the other Pai languages than it is to other members of the Yuman language family and the speakers do maintain close cultural ties and regular summer visits with the Pai groups in the Upper Colorado River area. The homelands of the Pai groups are changing rapidly, and in combination with the changing climate patterns are creating a landscape and botanical display very different from that seen by previous generations of Pai tribal members. 

The Hualapai Tribe, are the lead for this project. The Hualapai Indian Reservation is located in northwestern Arizona on one million acres of land situated along a 108-mile stretch of the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  Hualapai ethnobotanical knowledge is in danger of being lost if it is not preserved and passed onto the next generation.  This is partly due to the reservation system that removed tribes from their homelands and placed them on a fraction of their traditional territory. Over the years, memories of the ancestral non-reservation lands begin to fade and knowledge is lost.  Hualapai elders of the tribal community have expressed concerns that tribal youth are not learning about their plants and landscape. As a result, the Hualapai Department of Cultural Resources created an ethnobotanical database and incorporated it into a Hualapai Cultural Atlas Geographic Information Systems Geo-database Project.

Expanding on this database and sharing of all linguistically related information is a central aspect of the present DEL funded pilot project. The new database will provide an invaluable linguistic archive for six distinct, but culturally affiliated tribes in a region within the world that is botanically distinctive and rare. The proposed project is situated within a unique bio-region which includes the Grand Canyon at the northern extent, and northern Baja Mexico at the southern extent.  This region spans the Eastern Mojave and Sonoran desert types ranging in elevations from 200 feet to 13,000 feet. This project is the first step toward achieving the long-range goal of developing a Pai intertribal ethnobiological/ linguistic database and community-based living archives with open access to participating ‘Pai’ tribes.


Susan Gehr: Towards Karuk Community Language Scholar Archives Development

Through the Karuk (kyh) Archives and Accessibility Project (NSF #1500605), the Karuk Tribe broadens participation of under-represented groups by presenting education in taking care of linguistic data with archival principles in mind. 

Tribal language communities find themselves having to determine how to marshall their limited financial and human resources to foster transmission of knowledge of the language to the next generation.  Participation in programs like the Breath of Life Institute founded by the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival and the University of California at Berkeley introduced to California Indian language communities the possibilities of archives and archivists as an aspect of their language reclamation strategy.  For tribes whose last first-language speaker has passed on, the archival record comes to stand in as a member of the speech community, and archival materials created within the speech community are especially valuable for language transmission.

Training community language scholars in archival quality care of their personal language  collections broadens access to language data that is generated within the community, thus working on the problem of language erasure. This language data preservation strategy builds capacity within the community. This strategy has already been shared regionally with the nearby Yurok, Wiyot, Hupa, Tolowa, Wailaki, and Pit River language communities. Furthermore, this work has been followed so far by one participating Karuk language community scholar seeking funding towards the processing of their language materials for placement in two archives.  

Encouraging community language scholars to think about their collections centuries in to the future helps to teach about where archives fit into the endangered language documentation process. Doing so has the added benefit of creating language materials more ready for deposit in an archive and more ready for researchers from within and beyond the language community. 


Sadaf Munshi: Documenting Pakistan’s Endangered and Low Resource Languages: Towards Building Infrastructure and Capacity

Roughly half of the world’s estimated total of 7000 languages are endangered or are at risk of extinction (see Lewis & Simons 2010, Austin & Sullabank 2011, 2014). The great variety of these languages represents an unmapped terrain on which linguists, anthropologists, and social scientists can chart the full capabilities and limits of the human mind. Documentation work in areas of increased political instability, such as Pakistan, has hardly begun. There are serious challenges for linguists working in these areas. The situation is especially grim not only in the case of highly endangered languages, such as Mankiyali, Bateri, Khowar, Yadgha, Ushojo, Dameri, Gawar-Bati, and Kirghiz, but also of languages with significantly large number of speakers, such as Punjabi and Brahui. Except for a handful of languages such as Urdu, Sindhi and Burushaski (see Munshi 2016), few languages have resources to ensure lasting records towards preservation and revitalization (see Decker et al 1992, Anjum & Rehman 2015, Bashir 2003, Anjum 2016, O’leary et al 2016, Hock & Bashir 2017). 

Owing to various roadblocks, which range from getting visas and permits for regions with restricted access, besides security concerns, attempts to conduct documentation work by foreigners are time-consuming and stressful. With little institutional support and dearth/absence of trained local documentary linguists, the task of language documentation becomes very difficult. Bureaucratic interferences only add to the problems. Thus, there is an increasing need to pursue a research, training and capacity building effort that can address the problem of endangered and low resource languages in the region more widely and more effectively. Local scholars, though eager to document languages, lack a foundational understanding of the core concepts related to analyzing language structure. They also lack basic skills and training in documentary linguistic methods. While training opens doors for them to become more efficient and involved in documentation work, short-term workshops, if not complemented by long-term intensive training, continued mentorship and lasting collaborations, have little implications. Therefore, there is a need to improve existing resources and methodological frameworks for long-term objectives, which includes a central focus on training and mentorship vis-à-vis long-term community collaboration and social involvement.  

Because Pakistan exhibits remarkable linguistic diversity, it is timely to collect and analyze data, especially given the level of endangerment. Any new documentation projects led, conducted, and/or sponsored by foreign institutions must include an intensive training component for native speaker consultants, students in local universities and personnel from various institutions to handover the responsibility of documentation and preservation to the locals. Documentary linguists must consider how the local academic community is to be served during the design and implementation stages of projects. This talk will give an overview of a documentation project launched by the author in collaboration with local institutions in Pakistan. The presentation will focus on the key aspects of the project and deliberate upon the major objectives and challenges of this ongoing effort (see Himmelmann 1998 and 2003, Ashmore 2008, Grenoble 2012).


Racquel-Marie Sapien and Chief Ferdinand Mandé : Training and Empowerment: Documentation for, with, and by community members

Once called “The Writing Chief” due to his efforts to document his native language, Kari’nja, Ferdinand Mande is the former chief of Konomerume, Suriname.  His language work began long before his collaboration with Racquel-Maria Sapien, an academic linguist with interests in endangered languages research. They have been working together since 2005 to document and describe aspects of both Kari’nja (Cariban) and Lokono (Arawakan).  Their collaboration has empowered speakers and heritage learners of two Indigenous languages in Suriname to take an active role in research into their languages and lifeways.

The ongoing partnership between Chief Mande, Dr. Sapien, and other community members has resulted in tangible outcomes including multimedia documentary corpora, academic articles describing aspects of morphosyntax, and pedagogical materials such as elementary school curricula and lesson plans for adult classes.  More importantly, it has resulted in increased autonomy and capacity for members of the Konomerume community and beyond. Their approach has placed training at the forefront, and they continue to seek out training opportunities. Not limited to Konomerume, community-to-community projects have allowed them to share what they have learned with members of other communities.

In 2008, they delivered a workshop on documentation and revitalization to members of two other Kari’nja communities.  That same year, they became part of the international academic discussion of Kari’nja at the annual meeting of the Society for Caribbean Linguistics (SCL) in French Guiana.  In 2010, an NSF-DEL supported project brought 9 members of the Konomerume team to Oregon to participate in the CoLang (formerly InField) and NILI. Their active participation included attending several training sessions, presenting a plenary on their ongoing work, and co-leading a session.  In addition, three team members participated in extended field training with an Arawakan language, Wapishana.

Konomerume community members’ dedication to sharing what they have learned was evidenced in additional workshops they developed for members of communities in Suriname.  In 2013, the Kari’nja team traveled to Guyana to document a variety of Kari’nja spoken there and to train a local team in documentation. They discovered a variety that is dissimilar enough to be considered a unique dialect of Kari’nja, a discovery that is likely to contribute to better understanding migration in the region.  A current NSF-DEL sponsored project expands documentation work to include the other langauge spoken in Konomerume, Lokono. In addition, they are training members of two other Lokono communities in documentation and description.

We contend that a central role for training leads to increased community ownership of projects, greater autonomy for members of underrepresented groups, and more in-depth documentation.  This is evidenced in community members’ dedication to seeking out training opportunities, both to advance their own knowledge and to share what they have learned, and also their development of projects independent of outsider involvement.  In this way, those most affected by language loss, community members, are empowered to participate in the documentation, description, and preservation of their heritage languages, leading to more robust corpora and more nuanced descriptions.


Mary S. Linn: PIs as Public Stewards: Broadening the Impact of Publicly-Funded Research

In this workshop contribution, I take the position that by accepting public money, PIs are not just bound by NSF guidelines, but we are ethically bound to the public to make our work contribute outside our own scientific community. Broadening Participation forces scientists to go beyond the passive stance that all science eventually benefits the public to actively broadening the impact and understanding of what we do. In today’s growing anti-science, anti-education, and anti-diversity climate, this is moral as well as ethical obligation for many of us. Broadening Participation should not and need not be an afterthought or a struggle. Having received four DEL grants, ranging from documentation and description to collections accessibility to workshops, I will show how I have tapped into all the five potential BP categories (advance discovery and understanding; broadening participation in under-represented groups; enhance infrastructure; broaden dissemination; and benefits to society) beyond training graduate and undergraduate students. The talk will look at each of these categories and discuss how we may actually fulfill many of these but don’t recognize our contributions, and it will encourage other creative and meaningful ways to fulfill them. The overall message is that all of us can be public stewards of our work and of our fields.