A Day in the Field- Santiago Durante

Santiago Durante is an ELDP grantee researching Ayoreo (ISO639-3:ayo), an endangered language spoken in Paraguay and Bolivia. For our first A Day in the Field post, Santiago has graciously allowed us a peek into his daily routine while he’s on fieldwork.

Please tell us a bit about where you are doing your fieldwork.

I am doing my fieldwork in Campo Loro, Boquerón Department, Republic of Paraguay. It is the largest Ayoreo community of the country. The contact between the Ayoreos and non-aboriginal society is very recent. The village was founded in 1979 so the elders have lived half of their life uncontacted. In fact, there still are some uncontacted Ayoreos in the northern region of the country.

The language is vital but rapidly retracting. With this in mind, I am developing reading materials written in Ayoreo and Spanish for the younger generations. I published a book within the frame of this project that gathered stories from the aforementioned elders. In this visit I presented the book to the community and they are very happy with it. Unfortunately, between the gathering of the stories and the present day, two of the authors died. This is sad but stresses the importance of the project to continue to keep the Ayoreo cultural and its linguistic legacy alive.


When did you arrive and when will you be leaving?

I arrived on July 22nd and I will be leaving August 30th.

Can you describe a typical day in the field is like for you?

Ingomejei, the leader of the community, allowed me to stay in the Reunion Room in the village. It is great because it has a big table and lots of chairs. It also has a wall that separates another part where I put my sleeping bag.

I wake up at 6 A.M. I have breakfast and start to plan the activities of the day. Roughly at 9 A.M. I make some films (this obviously depends on the schedule of the people involved). At 10 A.M. I start working with my main consultants for 2-3 hours. We elicit different corpora or transcribe some of the videos that I previously recorded. At mid-day I have some lunch and have a break. Usually the temperature is very high at that time. At 2 p.m. we have another 2-3 hour working session with my main consultants. At 5 P.M. I try to record some other video material. At dusk we also have reunions with community council members. If possible, I take a short walk to clear my head. Then at 7-8 P.M. I have dinner and call it a day!

Is there anything that hasn’t gone quite to plan? Can you tell us about it?

In 2014, when I was returning to Buenos Aires –my hometown– my backpack was stolen. I lost a hard-disk and my notebooks. I was very upset because I lost my personal notes, diagrams and drawings. Luckily I had triple backed-up of all the data. I cannot stress this enough: ALWAYS DO A TRIPLE BACK-UP! I also started taking pictures of my notebooks with my camera and also doing back-ups of the notes.

Is there anyone in the community who’d like to share their perspective regarding your project? If so, please share.

Benito, my main consultant and co-editor of the story book, told me that he is very happy with the book and the project in general because he finds, for instance, that his son doesn’t use the Ayoreo word catibe (spoon) and instead he uses the Spanish word cuchara. He thinks that this shows that they are losing vocabulary and the documentation is a good way to preserve the language.


What will you miss most after completing your fieldwork?

Definitely what I will miss the most are the people. They were very kind to me and have shown me a new and wonderful perspective on life. Luckily, I think that once you start doing fieldwork you never stop so I am sure it will not be a ‘good bye’ but a ‘see you soon’.

Thank you so much, Santiago! To learn more about Santiago’s research and the Ayoreo language, visit: https://elar.soas.ac.uk/Collection/MPI192274


2016 Annual ELDP Documentation Training

Every year ELDP brings out the new ELDP grantees to London for a one week intensive training in theory and method in modern language documentation. This year, Vera Ferreira, Digital Archivist at ELAR, organised the annual  training in London which took place in early September. We welcomed 18 participants from all over the world who spent one week at SOAS. We were especially pleased to welcome Mikhaeel Dawoud from Northern Iraq, who is working on the documentation Modern Assyrian Language (Sorith) in Nala.


A special treat for the team and the trainees was that Professor Ulrike Mosel joined the training and taught seminars in language documentation, semantics and lexicography, and ELAN advanced searches and regular expressions. Throughout the week she supported the trainees with her vast experience in language documentation, fieldwork and lexicography and very practical invaluable tips which a long term fieldworker has under her belt.


Other seminars and lectures were run by Sophie Salffner (audio equipment and recording techniques), Rachel Watson (FLEx), Mandana Seyfeddinipur (multimodality of language use, video equipment, recording and theory, ELAN),  Vera Ferreira (video conversion and editing, ELAN, data management, metadata with CMDI Maker and Arbil, archiving with LAMUS), Peter Bouda (mobilization and use of archive materials), and Jonas Lau (ELAN-FLEx-ELAN workflow). At the end of the week-long training, ELDP held a half day of clinics to answer remaining questions and concerns of the participants.

ELDP and ELAR would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all participants and instructors at the training. We are looking forward to our continued collaboration and the next training.


Where in the World is ELAR? Bali & Leiden Summer 2016

‘Where in the World is ELAR?’ is an ELAR blog series which recaps training courses and events in which ELAR staff participate and attend. This summer, ELAR Director Mandana Seyfeddinipur led workshops in Bali, Indonesia and Leiden in the Netherlands.

Bali, Indonesia:                                                                                                            Mandana Seyfeddinipur, Head of ELAR, led a three day training at Udayana University at The Linguistic Society of Indonesia International Conference. The Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP) provided scholarships for local students so they could travel to Bali and attend the training and the conference. 28 students from all over Indonesia and Papua New Guinea attended the training. Mandana led workshops in basic language documentation, including audio and video recording techniques and grant writing.




Trainees brainstormed possible future ELDP projects

Leiden, Netherlands:
Mandana led a two day language documentation and video training at The 11th Leiden Summer School in Languages and Linguistics. This training was organized in collaboration with Prof. Maarten Mous of Leiden University. Over 20 students attended from all over the world including an archaeology PhD student who works in Sudan and whose work involved interviewing the local community about their views of the archaeogical site.





New Catalogue

ELAR is delighted to announce the launch of the new ELAR catalogue. On the 28th of September 2016, the new catalogue replaced the old version and can now be accessed via the URL: http://elar.soas.ac.uk/

New features include archive-wide statistics which display not only the number of downloaded files according to their access categories, but also the number of uploaded files within a select time range. These statistics can be seen in the bottom right corner of the display (see below image enlarged at: new_catalogue )

new catalogue public statistics

In addition to a deposit page that summarises the main characteristics of each collection and illustrates the deposit with photos, podcasts and show reels, each collection has its own public statistics. These public statistics, among other things, give information on the number and type of downloaded files. Each collection also contains private statistics for depositor use (see below example deposit page at: deposit_example )


Navigating through the collections, ELAR users will have the opportunity to listen to voices from all over the world, to watch photos and videos that show how endangered languages are being used in their communities, and to download transcriptions, lexical databases and several other files collected during documentation projects.

For depositors to find their deposit page, they should use the search bar to search for their name, their deposit key, or their project’s language. This will pull up the deposit bundles and deposit page link.

To upload data, depositors will still need to use LAMUS in order to self-upload their project’s data.

In the spring of 2014, the ELAR and the ELDP teams began the migration of the data onto the new system with the support of the SOAS library and information services. Together with the Language Archive of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen and the London team, the new system was set up. The new system features self-upload facilities, which enable depositors to load and manage their collection themselves. The VuFind discovery layer maintains the familiar interface and faceted browsing.

Thanks to many people involved in the migration – most notably the digital archivists of ELAR, Sophie Salffner and Vera Ferreira, the whole content of ELAR is saved in a more structured and standardised way.

For more information on how to use the ELAR catalogue and how to register your own account, consult the advice for new users on the ELAR website.

By Jonas Lau