Archiving the Recordings

Clifton Pye

Email: pyersqr (at) ku (dot) edu

A plan for archiving the recordings and transcriptions should be a central part of any language documentation project. The CHILDES archive (MacWhinney & Snow, 1985) is well-known in language acquisition research, but many other language archives now exist such as The Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America, and the Documenting Endangered Languages Programme at the School of Oriental and African Languages. The Language in Time and Space webpage supplies a list of language archives around the world. The Open Language Archives Community offers information on the best current practice for the digital archiving of language resources.

Language acquisition data should be archived with future centuries in mind so it is important to consider how changes in technology may render the collection inaccessible. The material will be most useful if it is accessible in the cloud, but the internet brings a host of problems that include hacking and possible misappropriation of the material. The safety of the children and the community has to be paramount when archiving the recordings.

Archiving the recordings generates considerable costs. I estimate that storing a one-hour, high-definition, video recording with its transcription requires 5 gigabits. Twenty-four recordings for one child would require approximately 100 gigabits to store. It is reasonable to assume that the recordings for one language would require 500 gigabits, and the recordings for a thousand languages would amount to 500,000 gigabits.

Recordings of child language document the culmination of the last two-hundred thousand years of linguistic evolution and constitute a critical part of the world's intellectual heritage. The creation and protection of language archives requires a global initiative similar in scope to the world's natural history museums. Funding sources for a project of this magnitude would have to include a mix of public and private sources. Publicity for the project would increase its visibility and help secure funding.

Page last modified 6/29/20
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