Sociolinguistic Interviews

A Gurung man, interviewed in Taal village, in May 2012. Photo cr edit: Lhakpa Lama

Motivations and Goals
Frequently in documentation initiatives, observations and evaluations about language practices, attitudes and cross-generational transmission in a given speech community are formulated from the outside-in. That is, the researcher observes practices and reports observations through the subjective filter of this observation only, or via interviews/conversations with a select number of community members only. But some documentation initiatives also make use of questionnaires or surveys to uncover speaker self-reported attitudes about language use, the role (and value) of heritage languages in private/public settings, and even personal predictions about the likelihood of continued transmission (or continued regularity/degree of transmission) in future generations.
In this project we make use of a language usage and attitude survey that we originally aimed to administer to several residents of each village throughout Manang. In reality, the number of respondents per village has varied so far, but we hope to continue to add data from additional respondents in Manang (and from diaspora speakers elsewhere in Nepal) across the lifespan of the project.

A Phu woman, interviewed in Phu village, in June 2014, Photo credit: Oliver Bond

While it is possible for members of a speech community to mis-report on aspects of language use and attitudes, we have found that the respondents who have worked with us in this project have been especially candid about their thoughts, ideas, feelings and predictions regarding the languages of Manang. We appreciate the information they have so generously offered, and we hope that further analysis of the responses across multiple speakers per location will shed new light on the place, the observed variation, the role(s) and the prospects of these languages.

Methods
All interviews were carried out in an indoor location, typically in a house or in a lodge bunk-room. In each case, there were two lead interviewers (P.I. Hildebrandt and R.A. Dhakal), and on occasion other members of the project team assisted as well. All interviews were recorded with a Marantz PMD 660 recorder and an Audio-Technica omnidirectional stereo microphone. All interviews were recorded in uncompressed .wav format (44.1 kHz).

A Gyalsumdo man, interviewed in Dharapani village, in June 2012. Photo credit: Oliver Bond

The interviews were always conducted in Nepali, although in one case an older (mainly monolingual) Gurung speaker had a translator (fluent in Gurung and Nepali) present for some questions.
All interviews began with an oral consent process (also given in Nepali), which was based on a script approved by SIUE’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) for informed consent in research involving human subjects. This consent process included respondent awareness that his/her information would be made available for public access.

The Instrument
Most questions are open-ended in nature, but some involve multiple choice (e.g. questions regarding degree of language fluency or degree of mutual comprehension, and some questions regarding degree of agreement or disagreement)
The original survey tool can be viewed here
The modified survey tool can be viewed here
The survey has evolved in some ways from its original manifestation. We have removed some questions that early respondents deemed irrelevant or difficult to respond to. In other cases, we modified existing questions to fit in more with local context (e.g. questions about the role of language in education). We also added a final question in later interviews: “In your opinion, is there only one single Manang language, or is there more than one Manang language?” This question reflects our early observation that respondents varied in their classification of certain codes within Manang based on either linguistic (sounds, vocabulary) or extralinguistic (geography, migration) factors.

A Manange woman, interviewed in Tengki village, in June 2013. Photo credit: Oliver Bond

 

Relevant Links
As of April 2013, we have a limited amount and range of individuated responses to sociolinguistic interviews, along with a draft version of our analysis of language usage and attitudes as reported by 15 Gyalsumdo speakers who were interviewed in 2012. The individuated responses can be found accompanying relevant geo-points on our interactive atlas. The draft version of our analysis of Gyalsumdo can be found here. We will update this dimension of our project regularly, so check back occasionally!

 

 

References

  • Hildebrandt, Kristine, and Shunfu Hu. 2017/to appear. Areal Analysis of Language Attitudes and Practices: A Case Study From Nepal. (co-author Shunfu Hu). Language Documentation and Conservation. Special Publication 13 (download)
  • Hildebrandt, K.A., D.N. Dhakal, O. Bond, M. Vallejo, A. Fyffe. 2015. A sociolinguistic survey of the languages of Manang, Nepal: Co-existence and endangerment NFDIN Journal 14.6: 104-122.
  • Hildebrandt, K.A. 2014. Introducing undergraduate students to language endangerment. Linguistic Society of America, Committee on Endangered Languages and their Preservation, Blog posting, August 2014. Bird, S. and G. Simons. 2003. Seven dimensions of portability for language documentation and description. Language 79.3.557-82.
  • Hildebrandt, K.A., D.N. Dhakal and M. Vallejo. 2013. Attitudes, practices, co-existence and endangerment: A sociolinguistic survey of Gurung and Gyalsumdo(Manang, Nepal). Paper presented at the 46th annual International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages andLinguistics (ICSTLL 46). 10 August, 2013. Dartmouth College. (an updated and elaborated version of this talk was presented to the Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies on 25 July 2014).
  • Hildebrandt, K.A., O. Bond and D.N. Dhakal. 2013. A Micro-typology of Contact Effects in Tibeto Burman. Paper presented at the 4th Conference on Language Documentation and Linguistic Theory (LDLT4), 7-8 December, SOAS, University of London. Khadgi, M-S. 2006. Nubri survey. Unpublished Ms.Labov, W. 1982. Objectivity and commitment in linguistic science: the case of the Black English trial in Ann Arbor. Language in Society 11:165-202.
  • Milroy, L. and M. Gordon. 2003. Sociolinguistics: Method and Interpretation. Malden, MA/Oxford, UK: Blackwell. Newman, P. and M. Ratliff (eds.). 2001. Linguistic Fieldwork. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
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