Letter from Department Chair

June 3, 1999

The Department of Linguistics wholeheartedly supports the attached proposal. In addition to the two primary faculty (Pederson, DeLancey) involved in this project, other Department faculty have enthusiastically agreed to participate by providing extensive primary language data, appropriately prepared, which they have analyzed and processed in their own research. Much of the data to be incorporated are from little-studied, minority languages of the Americas, Asia, and Africa. To date, these field data have largely been kept in faculty offices, filing cabinets, personally-owned diskettes, etc. and have not been generally available to students or even to other researchers who could learn substantively from them.

At the lower-division level, the current project will enhance substantive efforts that the Linguistics Department has made in the past four years to increase the quality and number of course offerings. For example we had created several new courses: a non-technical "Introduction to Language", "How to be a better language-learner", "Practical Grammar" (a course which contrasts oral English with academic written styles), and a web-based version of "Structure of English Words" (which also provides some awareness of other languages and of linguistic typology). We continue to enhance our "Languages of the World" course with considerable web-based materials, as well as our course on "Writing Systems" of the world. This proposed project will tremendously enrich many of these courses through the development of web-based teaching materials which can be utilized in novel and interesting assignments. These assignments will increase the students' awareness of language diversity, of geographic regions of the world where languages are spoken, of issues of language contact, of the nature of language as it is spoken (as opposed to just written), etc.

Increasing opportunities for undergraduate research has long been a goal of our strongly research-oriented faculty. At both beginning and more advanced levels, the databases have the potential of drawing students into the scientific research process first-hand, so that they can learn by experience some of the methods and processes by which social scientists and linguists operate. For one example, some of the databases will provide materials in which students could verify claims from their courses by direct appeal to primary language materials - data which otherwise would be effectively inaccessible.

Following the period described in the present proposal, the Department of Linguistics expects to have sufficient resources (from indirect cost returns, summer session dividends, and appropriate contributions of faculty time) to maintain and update the databases.


Doris Payne, Chair, Linguistics

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