Paper presented at the workshop on
Web-Based Language Documentation and Description
12-15 December 2000, Philadelphia, USA.
The Committee on Endangered Languages and their Preservation (CELP) was established by the Linguistic Society of America in 1992 in response to conce rns regarding accelerated language endangerment and loss, and an increasing interest in promoting strategies for reinforcing languages at risk of extinction in the near or long t erm. The Committee,s primary emphases and commitments are outlined in CELP's mission statement, below:
The development of appropriate standard practices and of a web-based infrastructure for collecting, storing, and disseminating primary linguistic data materials are enterprise s with far-reaching implications. Arrangements should therefore not be finalized hastily. CELP has two initial concerns. First, the Committee recommends that these joint effort s be undertaken with extensive needs-based input not only from users, creators, archivists, developers, and sponsors, but also from contributing language communities. Data archi ves should be accessible in practice to language communities who have contributed data, or who might wish to use existing archives as models on which to base future archiving pro jects. (Suggestions for achieving this end include the following: As early as possible, extensive and easy-to-use documentation in a variety of the world,s primary language s should be available to guide through the process users who may have little familiarity with the internet. Menus and labels should similarly be available in multiple language f ormats. Archived data should be presented or framed in the dominant language of the region where the language of the archived data is spoken, not just in English. For example, archives for languages spoken in Latin America should be available both in Spanish or Portuguese and English. Routines and operations should be easy to learn and use.)
The Committee also recommends that final decisions concerning infrastructure and best-practice be deferred until after initial proposals have been piloted. Digital language d ata archiving is in its infancy, and it is not yet clear which options will ultimately be successful and which will not. An initial pilot phase will provide opportunities for ev aluating and improving suggested best practices, incorporate feedback from users with varying needs, address unforeseen ethical concerns that are sure to arise during the impleme ntation of the pilot phase, and allow us to better able to gauge in-principle vs. in-practice conflicts that present themselves.