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22 Documentation and Responsibility (2010)

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Chapter Summary

Any researcher who leaves a record of his or her work assumes a number of responsibilities, chief among them responsibility for the record's accuracy. But when an endangered speech form is involved, as in the chief case this chapter discusses, what might be called the 'last-chance' responsibility comes strongly into play: right now may be the one and only chance to create a record of the speech form in question, and right or wrong, what the late-stage fieldworker puts on the record is likely to stand. A number of difficulties lie in the way of a researcher who appears at a late stage in the history of a receding language, hoping and intending to leave a reliable linguistic record. The most instructive aspect of linguistic research with the East Sutherland fisherfolk is that it presents the same fundamental ethical questions as linguistic fieldwork in much unfamiliar-seeming settings.

Keywords: documentation; endangered speech; linguistic record; linguistic research; receding language; record's accuracy



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