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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The online linguistic database : software for linguistic fieldwork Dunham, Joel Robert William

Abstract

The documentation and analysis of endangered languages is a core component of the linguistic endeavour. Language consultants and linguistic researchers collaborate to generate a variety of data which in turn fuel theoretical discovery and language revitalization. This dissertation describes and evaluates a piece of software designed to facilitate new, and enhance existing, collaboration, documentation, and analysis. But beyond this, it argues for the value of a certain methodological approach to linguistics broadly construed, one in which computation is key and where provisions are made for collaboration, data-sharing and data reuse. The Online Linguistic Database (OLD) is open source software for creating web applications that facilitate collaborative linguistic fieldwork. The OLD allows fieldworkers to continue doing what they are already doing—eliciting, transcribing, recording, and analyzing forms and creating data sets and papers with them—but collaboratively. This point should not be understated: though practises are changing, linguistic fieldwork currently involves a loose network of relatively isolated practitioners and data sets; simply creating the infrastructure for collaboration and data-sharing is half the battle. The other half is creating features and conveniences that make the software worth using. In this domain, the OLD provides automated feedback on lexical consistency of morphological analyses, sophisticated search, the creation and (structural) searching of arbitrarily many corpora and treebanks, and the specification and computational implementation of models of the lexicon, phonology, and morphology, upon which are built practical morphological parsers. The dissertation describes the OLD, motivating its design decisions and arguing that it has the potential to contribute positively to the achievement of the three core goals of linguistic fieldwork, namely documentation, research, and language revitalization. Particular attention is paid to the practical and research-related advantages of the morphophonological modelling capability with examples and evaluations of morphological parsers created for the Blackfoot language.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada

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