The Documentation Lives a Life of Its Own: The Temporal Transformation of Two Endangered Language Archive Projects

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Lise M. Dobrin
Gary Holton


In this paper we describe two digital language-documentation projects that we have been involved in where the source community’s interest has changed significantly over about a ten-year period. In both cases, projects were originally undertaken with the full support of the community but without a clear commitment to making them locally applicable. In time, however, generational shift led to new community attention being focused on the language, reactivating the documentary materials and community-researcher relationships in ways that were not anticipated by anyone involved. When embarking upon documentation and revitalization projects, describing their products, or evaluating their social or scientific outcomes, it is important to remember that they are always works in progress, not least with regard to their significance for communities.


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Author Biographies

Lise M. Dobrin, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia

Associate Professor of Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia

Gary Holton, Alaska Native Language Center University of Alaska Fairbanks

Director, Alaska Native Language Archive, and Professor of Linguistics, University of Alaska Fairbanks