Thursday April 12, 2007

Photo Gallery





The ongoing project which I have been working on more or less for the last 10 years is the documentation and study of the endangered Eastern Khanty dialects indigenous to the northwest of the Tomsk region and southeast of Tyumen region of western Siberia in Russia.




In my research I focused primarily on the western Siberian linguistic area, the natural conglomerate of a variety of languages and cultures, both genetically affiliated and not.

Many of these languages are extremely endangered and little documented. They are spoken by small communities indigenous to this area: Khanty, Selkup, Ket, Chulym, Tatar, Nenets, Dolgan, Nganasan, Evenk, Enets, and others. Even within these small-numbered "language" communities there is a considerable diversity of linguistic and cultural features, dialectal and social variation. It represents a continua of dialects, languages, social groups, cultural practices, degrees of linguistic and cultural assimilation, which all developed over extended time of co-existence, linguistic and cultural contact, adaptation to changing geographical and social environments.

Most of these languages currently number around or under 1000 speakers and are in serious danger of extinction within a single generation. The majority of these languages are also unwritten. Though for most of these languages orthographies and writing systems were devised by scholars in mid XX century, for most of the speakers these are still languages of traditional oral communication, as they are unaware of the officially developed orthographies and grammars. Apart from extremely rare exceptions, these languages are not taught at schools in any way, and children do not have a chance to learn them outside their families. The official language in this area is Russian, it is the language of schooling, higher education and professional training, employment, social and medical services, etc., as well as it is also the language of interethnic communication. So all representatives of these indigenous ethnic communities speak Russian either as the second, or increasingly nowadays, as the first language. The functional sphere of native languages shrinks rapidly and thus a need to document and study them is dire.

In my field work and advocacy I base on the axiom that every language is the accumulation of invaluable human knowledge, a heritage of a social group, a species of humans evolved over thousands of years and reflecting the history of interaction of this group with the environment and with other groups. Every language represents simultaneously the diversity and universality of the ways humans make sense of the world, structure and classify it, survive in the environment, structure, store and transfer their individual and group knowledge, how they act and do things in the world and within their social groups. In this sense, language documentation and language study is documentation and understanding of human diversity and the nature of humans as social beings living in their geographical, social, historical environments.

The Siberian indigenous languages and cultures demonstrate tremendous diversity and variation starting from the lowest level of the smallest communities, clan settlements, villages. This variation becomes progressively more manifested and multifactorial with the growth of the size of groupings, both geographical (localities, river communities, geographical areas, dialects, languages, language families) and social (generation/age, gender, education, traditionalist vs. modernist life styles). All of these groups demonstrate both unique features identifying the group as distinct from others, and universal features common for many groups, or perhaps, common for all groups, i.e. universal features. These linguistic and cultural features evolve through time and under diverse factors: climatic and historical events, migrations, inventions, contacts between groups. These various issues in language variation and change exemplified in Siberian linguistic area is an exciting study topic.

I am also interested in more linguistically specific studies of the key functions of language: communicating to others, constructing own identity and stance in every speech situation at a given time, negotiating and accommodating linguistic behavior of others, acting and achieving things with the language(s), structuring the information and making cohesive successful discourse, shaping 'messages' in a variety of available forms and modes. In other words, how communicative functions of the language define and are reflected in the language form, its phonetics, morphology, lexicon, syntax.

Among many existing and developing methods of studying the features of natural human languages, extremely interesting are the modern empirically-based and effective corpus linguistics methods, as well as the methods adapted from evolutionary biology that are used for quantitative studies of languages' socio-cultural and geographical variation and languages' historical changes.

bulletSiberia - huge, rich, diverse and exciting geographical, historical, cultural and linguistic area of Russia. Russia's own "New World".
bullet Wikipedia: Siberia
bullet Siberia at a glance
bullet map of Siberia
bullet Tomsk - the best place in Siberia
bulletEndangered Languages and Language Documentation - from estimated 6500 languages currently spoken worldwide, over 90% are unwritten, over 60% are poorly documented, over 50% may become extinct within this century at an average rate of over 30 per year.
bullet HRELP (The Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project at SOAS)
bullet ELF
bullet Endangered Languages of the Pacific Rim
bullet Living Tongues
bulletFunctional Linguistics - Studies of languages as systems existing in the constant state of change, emergence and variation, used by real people in ever various instances of natural communication, formed and governed by the communicative functions.
bullet Functional Linguistics
bullet Halliday and Functional Linguistics
bullet FunkNet
bullet Systemic Functional Linguistics
bulletLanguage Variation and Change - Studies of languages in their essential natural habitats, i.e. geographically and socially diverse populations (groups) of speakers, which are interacting with with each other and with other groups within and across their 'language' communities, and which can be only observed as current points in historical development.
bullet William Labov
bullet Cambridge Journal of Language Variation and Change
bullet Sociolinguistic Resources
bulletCorpus Linguistics and Quantitative Methods - Studying and modeling the natural languages, using ever advancing computer technologies and mathematical, statistical methods, providing empirically grounded, time and resource efficient analysis.
bullet Online course in Corpus Linguistics by McEnery and Wilson
bullet Corpora and Corpus Linguistics
bullet Language Evolution and Computation

Home | VITAE | Research | Photo Gallery | Links | Feedback

This site was created and copyrighted to Andrey Y. Filchenko, 03.20.2007