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Conference Proceeding

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This paper is a qualitative review and critique of existing electronic language archives from the perspective of the documentary linguist. In today’s day and age there are many online archives available for storage of and access to digital language data, among others: AILLA, ANLC, ASEDA, DOBES, ELRA, E-MELD, LACITO, LDC, LPCA, OTA, PARADISEC, Rosetta, SAA, THDL, and UHLCS. It is worth pointing out that I use the term language archive loosely in this paper, referring to a variety of organizations and resources such as those listed above that store and provide digital language data to different degrees and for different purposes. Technically speaking, however, not all of these organizations may be considered language archives by all involved (Anthony Aristar, personal communication, June 14, 2006). Indeed, there may not even be consensus agreement among linguists and others who work with language resources about what exactly constitutes a language archive. For example, E-MELD and Rosetta generally provide material as exemplary linguistic data, but they do not archive material as a rule. Moreover, ELRA and LDC may be more dedicated to accumulating and selling electronic linguistic resources than they are to preserving them for posterity. DOBES may store data and research studies for its project researchers, but, to my knowledge, DOBES does not normally accept data from other projects. Not all archives are created equal. My paper assesses digital language archives in terms of the current lack of standardization regarding different aspects of archival content and access.


Also available at Proceedings of 2006 E-MELD Workshop.

Published Citation

Vann, Robert E. (2006). "Frustrations of the documentary linguist: The state of the art in digital language archiving and the archive that wasn’t." [Invited paper for the Electronic Metastructure for Endangered Languages Data Project, sponsored by the National Science Foundation]. In Proceedings of the EMELD Language Digitization Project Conference 2006: Tools and Standards: The State of the Art.

Vann-Frustrations handout.pdf (100 kB)
Standards and Tool Support for Archiving - handout