Documenting the Languages of Manang, Nepal: Opportunities and Challenges in Multimedia Mapping of Variation and Change

Kristine Hildebrandt and Shunfu Hu (SIUE)

In recent years, language documentation has begun considering issues beyond description/preservation of a single variety of a language to also include questions of language variation and change. This presentation presents one way of pursuing this new direction, via a collaboration across disciplines. In this case, we present the ways that documentation in Nepal and geographic information systems (GIS) can mutually benefit from access to a range of resources and perspectives, and also the ongoing challenges that come with such collaborations.

The first part of this talk focuses on the geo-linguistic setting of the documentation project: Manang, Nepal, where four Tibeto-Burman languages demonstrate differing degrees of vitality and endangerment. In particular, we consider the following questions: What makes Manang an appropriate laboratory for the meeting of documentation and GIS methods? What can be gained (both locally and internationally) from undertaking the simultaneous documentation of four languages? What are the challenges? The second part of this talk turns to a demonstration of the GIS component. One major output of this project is the creation of an online, multi-media atlas of Manang languages that can spatially represent both structural variation and variation in practices and attitudes (the current version is at Multimedia mapping provides a unique approach to integrating geospatial information in digital and multimedia format. The Internet provides a rich environment for the dissemination of findings and useable data to wide audiences worldwide. In this half of the presentation we focus on some of the tools we are using, including Google Maps API (for digital maps), Yahoo! Flickr API (for photographs), YouTube API and archived audio-video at the University of Virginia (for digital video). These tools, freely available to any user and relatively easy to learn, result in an online language atlas with an intuitive user interface. Ultimately, we view the atlas as a tool that others can replicate and/or revise to fit their own goals.