A blog about linguistics and the beauty of language. Updates Tuesdays and occasional Thursdays. What's a wug? Look here.

#fieldwork posts


Metadata: Hundreds of recordings, but what are they about?

At the end of each day of fieldwork, I sit down and “deal with my data”. No matter how tired I am, no matter how much I want to put it off, it’s an essential part of my daily routine. The first thing I do is back up my recordings. And while my files are transferring, I go over my notes and make sure that all of my metadata is in order. Metadata is all the information about how the recording was made — who was there, where we were, what we talked about, what audio recorder I used, etc. Metadata is data about data, and it’s a crucial aspect of good data management.

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What does a linguist do (in Oaxaca)?

Today I'm in Oaxaca City, Mexico. Tomorrow I head to San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya, about 20 km east of the city, where I'll spend the next month learning about Tlacochahuaya Zapotec. Since I'm here, I thought I'd answer the question posed to me by every rideshare driver: "You're a linguist? But, um, what do you do?"

When linguists study language, they're seeking to understand (a) what constraints there are on how languages work, and (b) how any particular language fits into those constraints.

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