CoLang 2014

I’m in the middle of my second week of CoLang here in Arlington, TX. Texas isn’t as hot and dry as I had imagined, so that’s nice. It’s even stormed a few times!

My favorite class last week was probably FLEx 1. FLEx is this really awesome software that people use for language documentation, and it seems like a pretty useful one for budding linguists to master. I think the best part about that class was that they gave us actual (Chickasaw) data for us to work with instead of just having us watch as the pros did everything. We all left that class with a small database of Chickasaw texts and words. I’m taking FLEx 2 this week, so now we’re just building on all of the basics we learned last week, and we’re going to learn how to make better-formatted dictionaries. Definitely the coolest thing I’ve learned so far.

This conference is focused on doing work within language communities, so there are a lot of different communities represented here. We have representatives from several different Native American tribes and 10+ countries other than the US. Some of these community representatives are linguists, but many of them are just people who want to keep their language alive. At Sharing Night (a night when people can give short presentations about their language pursuits), this one guy said there are less than a handful of fluent speakers of his language, and there’s only one speaker of a particular dialect. Many other people here speak languages that have less than a hundred speakers. For some reason, the reality of endangered languages didn’t really hit me until I met these people and listened to them talk about the situations in their language communities.

There are so many accomplished linguists here, and there are very few undergrads. Luckily, the adults are more than happy to sit with us at meals and just talk about their work. There’s even a guy here who does language work for Google, which is exactly the kind of thing I’d like to do. I need to have lunch or dinner with him before this is over. I’ve found the grad students to be the most informative, though, because they have more up-to-date advice on grad school and such.

In short, I’m learning a lot in my classes, the people here are friendly and willing to share their work, and CoLang is awesome.