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Subject: Consistency-checking manual transcriptions
Question: For languages with no writing system or no very standardized writing system, are there any tools that support consistency- checking of manually created transcriptions? For example, I was reading a text in a grammar for an endangered language, and the writer had glossed and translated both uwE and iwE as ''2SG/you''; and I wasn't sure if that was intentional or a typo (iwE was much more frequent in the text than uwE). If not, how do linguists working with languages without standardized orthographies achieve transcription consistency, for approximately phonemic transcriptions? Thanks.
Reply: Hi, Kristin, Previous responses have answered some parts of the question(s) you may have been asking. I'll try a slightly different tack, and assume you are trying to write in the language and/or analyze it. In that case, you may well need to do a bit more analysis of the language. The safest thing to do is take the differences you encounter (which others have pointed out *could* be either correct or random, inconsistent 'errors') and assume they indicate something and try to find out what that is. If that doesn't work out, you could assume that it is 'free variation' but this is usually a last gasp, rather desperate measure which indicates the analyst giving up rather than a real phenomenon. If the conditioning phenomenon is pragmatic, for example, this may not be evident from the data available, and you may just have to immerse yourself more in the culture where the language is spoken in order to tease out the conditioning factor(s). Even rather basic issues, like getting the best orthography in place to make literacy materials, may depend on the best phonological analysis of the language, which a good analyst may sometimes need decades to arrive at; literacy may be urgent enough in some cases to require a 'best guess' approach, but always in consultation with intelligent native speakers (these, one always finds, are available insofar as the language is still spoken, and may have their own ideas about linguistic matters). I hope this has been of some use to you. Feel free to write us back if you need further help or advice. Jim James L. Fidelholtz Graduate Program in Language Sciences Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades Benem'erita Universidad Aut'onoma de Puebla, M'EXICO
Reply From: James L Fidelholtz      click here to access email
Date: 29-Aug-2012
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Consistency-checking manual transcriptions    Nancy J. Frishberg     (29-Aug-2012)
  2. Re: Consistency-checking manual transcriptions    Madalena Cruz-Ferreira     (29-Aug-2012)
  3. Re: Consistency-checking manual transcriptions    Herbert Frederic Stahlke     (29-Aug-2012)

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