Language documentation

Language documentation

Language documentation is the process by which a language is documented from a documentary linguistics perspective. It aims to “to provide a comprehensive record of the linguistic practices characteristic of a given speech community” (Himmelmann 1998:166, see also Himmelmann 2006, Woodbury 2003). Language documentation seeks to create as thorough a record as possible of the speech community for both posterity and language revitalization.

Typical steps involve recording, annotation and analysis, translation into a language of wider communication, archiving and dissemination.

Language documentation differs from language description which aims to describe a language's abstract system of structures and rules in the form of a grammar or dictionary.

Types of language description

Language description, as a task within linguistics, may be divided into separate areas of specialization, including:
* Phonetics, the study of the sounds of human language
* Phonology, the study of the sound system of a language
* Morphology, the study of the internal structure of words
* Syntax, the study of how words combine to form grammatical sentences
* Semantics, the study of the meaning of words (lexical semantics), and how these combine to form the meanings of sentences
* Historical linguistics, the study of languages whose historical relations are recognizable through similarities in vocabulary, word formation, and syntax
* Pragmatics, the study of how language is used by its speakers
* Stylistics, the study of style in languages

Related research areas

* Descriptive linguistics
* Syntax
* Orthography
* Lexicography
* Lexicology
* Phonetics
* Phonology
* Pragmatics
* Semantics
* Etymology
* Anthropological linguistics
* Writing systems

Representation of speech

* International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), a system used to write down and reproduce the sounds of human speech.

Organizations involved in language documentation

*SIL International

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