NATIVE LANGUAGES AS FIELD-WORK TOOLS

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  • The experience which lies back of this article is as follows:

    1. Use of a native language after preliminary lectures on another dialect by an ethnologist who spoke it, followed by intensive work with a literate English-speaking linguistic informant, and use of a Dictionary; ethnological work on an island where two natives spoke fluent English and three others some English. Samoa.

    2. Use of a native language on which there was a brief published grammar, and a series of published texts, and followed by work with a linguistic informant who understood some English and spoke fluent pidgin; ethnological work in a community where about 25 per cent of the men spike pidgin, and a few small boys spoke some pidgin. Manus.

    3. Complete non-use of the native language, and no use of interpreters, working entirely with English speaking informants, most of whom were women. Omaha Indians.

    4. Use of a native language of which a very brief preliminary investigation of the grammar was available, followed by work with a linguistic informant who spoke plantation pidgin, and work in a community in which five adult men spoke pidgin. Arapesh.

    5. Partial use of a native language on the basis of work with a linguistic informant who spoke good Rabaul pidgin; work in a community in which about 15 per cent of the men spoke some pidgin—all of them very young. Mundugumor.

    6. Partial use of the native language on the basis of work with a linguistic informant who spoke Rabaul pidgin; work in a community where some two dozen of the very young men spoke pidgin English. Tchambuli.

    7. Use of the native language, on the basis of intensive linguistic work with a well educated, English speaking informant, followed by work with natives who spoke no English. Bali.

    (Supervision of work of collaborators who used Malay instead of English, both in working on Balinese texts and with many of their informants, as well as speaking some Balinese.)

    8. Use of the native language on the basis of a completely worked out grammar and sample texts, combined with individual teaching in the field, in a community where half the men under middle age spoke good pidgin, most of the men and small boys understood some pidgin, and in which one woman spke pidgin. Iatmul.

    I have had no experience of using, as a contact language, a European language not my own, or of using English as the contact language where none of the informants were literate.

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