ASA 127th Meeting M.I.T. 1994 June 6-10

2pSP41. Phonetic structures of endangered languages: Investigative techniques.

Peter Ladefoged

Ian Maddieson

Phon. Lab., Linguist. Dept., UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90024-1543

The survival of many languages is endangered as the speakers die out or are absorbed into larger communities. Probably over half the 8000 languages in the world will not be spoken by the end of the next century. Their disappearance will result in a permanent loss of data for future phonetic investigations. Given the magnitude of the loss, there is a research problem in deciding which languages should be documented phonetically, and what is the best way of describing their phonetic structures. It was decided to investigate endangered languages that (1) are still actively spoke by a sizable community; (2) are sufficiently well studied so that their phonological structure is known; (3) have features that are of phonetic interest. At least five speakers were recorded saying sets of words and phrases that illustrate the phonological constrasts. Then standardized descriptions were made in quantified form using a set of basic phonetic measures, designed to characterize both specific and universal phonetic features. The data include aerodynamic records that reveal airstream mechanisms and the timing of articulatory gestures, video of lip movements, and palatographic records showing articulatory contacts. Full acoustic analyses are made in the UCLA Phonetics Laboratory. [Work supported by NSF.]