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5. Overheard on the Web

Glasburyon - a poem

Date: Tue, 9 May 1995 11:56:32 -0400
From: (Mark Fettes)
Subject: An Elegy for Endangered Languages

The following poem, by Montreal writer Mark Abley, is the most eloquent elegy for endangered languages that I have come across. Mark, who is now "standing on the brink of the Internet, fascinated and appalled in equal measure", has given permission for the poem to be posted on this list. If you download it or cross-post it, be sure to include the bibliographic information at the end.



Shakespeare was an upstart, Dante a dabbler
compared to Shamil Bakhtasheni --
he of the snowpeak sagas, the quince-blossom lovesongs
and a leopard's argument with God. Not a word
of his work was dipped in printer's ink
and most of it is long forgotten;
little wonder, for the master lived
and died in the Artchi tongue,
spoken only in a windburnt village
where Dagestan falls towards the sea. The language
pleasured Shamil like a lover, giving him
poetry without an alphabet, listeners
without a page. His grave is rumored to lie
among the roots of an apricot tree
on the scarp of a Caucasian mountain
where, if you believe the villagers, once
a month the wind recites his lyrics.


She flew from Boston to Port Moresby
for this: an outboard ferry-ride

past a dripping wall of trees
to a yet unstudied village where

the Mombum language survives;
the wall splits open; she clambers out

and strides from the dock, escorted
by a flock of blue-winged parrots

to find the gathered islanders
seated on the red soil beside

a reed-thatched bar, watching "Fatal
Attraction" on satellite TV.


Reason tells me it doesn't matter
if the final speaker of Huron
goes grey in a suburb of Detroit
where nobody grasps a syllable

of his grandmother's tongue.

Reason tells me it's not important
if Basque and Abenaki join
the dozens of unproductive
languages lately disposed of; what's
the big deal, where's the beef?

Reason is scavenging the earth:
"More, more", it cries. You can't tell it
to use imagination. You can't
ask it to stop and listen
to the absence of Norn.


Tega du meun or glasburyon,
kere friende min --
"If you take the girl from the glass castle,
dear kinsman of mine,"

so a voice claims in a Norn ballad,
plucked by a rambling scholar
off the lips of a toothless crofter

he found on a Shetland island
in 1774; soon the language
was a mouthful of placenames --

yamna-men eso vrildan stiende
gede min vara te din.
"As long as this world is standing
you'll be spoken of."

That music? It's only
a wind bruising the chimes
in a crystal fortress
high on Mount Echo.

Each time we lose a language
the ghosts who made use of it
cast a new bell.

The voices magnify. Soon,
listen, they'll outpeal
the tongues of earth.

Born in England in 1955, Mark Abley grew up in Alberta and Saskatchewan. He attended the University of Saskatchewan, then Oxford University thanks to a Rhodes Scholarship. He now writes features for Quebec's principal English-language newspaper, the Montreal Gazette. His previous books include "Blue Sand, Blue Moon" and "Beyond Forget: Rediscovering the Prairies". He lives with his wife and two daughters in Pointe Claire, Quebec.

The poem "Glasburyon" is taken from his poetry collection of the same name, ISBN 1-55082-112-1, published in 1994 by Quarry Press, P.O. Box 1061, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 4Y5.

Scarce Resources: Issues arising in Siberia and Australia

On 4 Sept. 1995, Jonathan Bobaljik wrote:

The situation is that Itelmen is clearly moribund, and in practise lives only in memory. For a number of reasons, though, the language has become the focus of a number of projects by foreign academics. There is the German-based project which Johannes Rohr mentioned, which involves a linguistics and ethnography, and which is working towards producing a reader for the primary school, among other things. An ethnogrpaher from New York has included linguistic material in his project (in 1994, we left in the schools: one-page thematic "dictionaries", a collection of short stories both traditional and contemporary with Russian translation, grammar notes for teachers, and tape recordings of this material). And I have just received a small grant to continue the linguistic work begun on the New York-based project. There is, thankfully, collaboration among the projects, and Itelmen people (though not native speakers) are closely involved in most of the work.

This is all, I think, very important work, and I am pleased to be able to participate in the revival and documentation projects (otherwise I certainly wouldn't go back to Kamchatka in the dead of winter...)

My question to this list, though - and one I have certainly not answered in my own mind - is how to justify this expenditure of resources on this one group when it comes at the exclusion of neighbouring groups. Take, especially, Koryak - the neighbouring language to the North. Koryak is on the brink of moribundity - there are a handful of children who still come to school (age 5) from the camps speaking only Koryak and not Russian. The language is still alive, and may continue to be so for a little while, though it is certainly not in a prestige position and especially with the collapse of the USSR and concomittant collapse of the Northern (i.e. subsidized) economy, it is under more threat now than it has been for a while.

In this situation, of course, lies a partial answer to my question already. That is - the Koryak have recognition and limited self-government ensuring themseves some staying power politically and economically. They have representation in Moscow, and in principle control over the region's educational curriculum. The Itelmen, by contrast, do not enjoy such luxury. Rohr noted that there are about 1500 recognized Itelmen at the moment. By law, they are northern natives and thus enjoy "special rights" by which I mean the right to eak out a meager subsistence living on the land, though they suffer from massive discrimination generally. However, this status is confered at the moment by choice - you write in whatever you want on the "nationality" line on your passport application - there is no working legal definition of native status beyond that. In this, the local political groups (sort of a "tribal council") are vastly supportive of our work with the language and want the language taught in the schools. There is much (unofficial) debate as to whether or not there are any Itelmen anymore - the entire community is in danger of losing even the basic subsistence rights guaranteed them as northern natives. Just the fact of foreign academic interest, and in particular the teaching of the langauge, is a tile in the puzzle of the definition of identity for this group. Additionally, the cultural awareness programme in the school (of which the language teaching is a part) has been contributing to increasing pride and inter-ethnic understanding in an economically depressed area with all the social ills that accompany that, and thus is contributing, we hope, to a better social situation. I'm sure I speak for everyone involved in the projects, Itelmen and foreign, when I say that I am proud to be able to contribute to this trend in whatever way I can.

So, there are certainly reasons to be focussing on Itelmen. But there are reasons to be focussing on Koryak. We are producing nicely illustrated, glossy materials to teach children a few words and phrases in Itelmen as a part of their cultural heritage, though the language itself will never be a language of communication again. While doing so, we divert resources away from a neighbouring group where the fate of the language could well be decided this generation. There are few materials in the schools for Koryak language education, and without foreign projects (i.e. money) there will continue to be fewer and fewer.

On 5 September 1995 Graham McKay commented:

The dilemma over Itelmen/Koryak and funding is repeated many times over in Australia with indigenous languages, in that limited resources are stretched many ways and at least in some sense what is available for one language or community is not available for another.

I don't think there is any real solution to this because of a number of complicating factors:

All the speakers and part speakers and non-speakers are people with a heritage and warrant SOME level of recognition and support on that basis against the tide of the majority culture if they choose to hold out against it. That is not to say how much support. And if resources are very limited they may be totally wasted if they are parcelled out into too many pieces that are too small to have any effect. eg there may be a definite limit to how many languages and language communities a single resource person can meaningfully help.

Group and individual motivation seems to have a significant role in the success or otherwise of any language maintenance efforts. There may be no point in putting a lot of support into a language just because it is still used if at least some of the speakers are not keen to do something with that language. (I am not making comment on any specific language here.) It may be better to offer support to a highly motivated group instead. Unfortunately the stronger the language the more likely it is that the speakers will not see the need for action or the potential consequences of loss until it is too late. In this sense the most highly motivated are sometimes those who have seen their language just slip beyond reach. The deaths of some of the last few old speakers brings it home to them.

By the same token one of the significant factors in people switching away from their traditional langauges may be, it seems, the level of recognition or opposition which the language receives in the wider socio-political context. If this is true then support may help people to feel that their language is worth continuing with. On the other side, some would argue that mainstream rejection of the group, by enforcing intergroup barriers, might enhance the staying power of the language.

On the other side of the coin, as pointed out by Fishman, the provision of support from outside agencies may actually undermine the self-sufficiency and motivation of speakers, causing them to rely on the programs rather than on their own daily use of the language. That is the indigenous communities may come to rely heavily on school programs and/or written language for language maintenance, not as a support to home and community spoken use but as a replacement for it.

In many cases, though language is recognised as crucial to many aspects of culture and identity, indigenous groups find all their resources swallowed up in more life and death matters such as land tenure, employment, health etc. Language concerns may be able to be followed up more singlemindedly once those issues are dealt with. And that is another type of resource need.

In the final analysis the situations in which groups of speakers appreciate andbenefit greatly from outside support and local activity using the language can inspire us to seek to extend such activity and support to those which are not yet supported/involved and they may motivate other groups, by showing what can be done.

There is also the danger that linguists will put a higher priority on work with so called "viable" languages at least partly for their own professional purposes. This should not be confused with the interests of the indigenous people who speak or who have already lost their traditional langauges. One thing that is noticeable, though, is that without documentation while the langauge is still used some indigenous groups have great difficulty retrieving something of it later.

Perhaps work on Itelmen has brought the needs of Koryak to light. Work on Koryak may well bring some other needy language situation to light. Where will it stop?

Literacy - a Double-Edged Sword

On 27 October 1995, Nicholas Ostler, the editor of Iatiku, wrote:

1. The Forum Dan Moonhawk Alford writes
LINGUIST List: Vol-6-1503: Perhaps this is the time to open a new discussion which strikes at the root of our profession.
Yes, I agree. I hope the Moderators will give us a new title.

What are the long-term consequences of "reducing" a language to writing? What changes in the language-culture dynamic when literacy is introduced? Is the professional imperative to put all languages into writing value-free? ...

these are the questions that weigh heavily on me because of my experience, and I've never found the proper forum for discussing them.

Well, Linguist List is certainly one forum. Another might be endangered-Languages-l , to whom I copy Dan's letter and this reply of mine.

2. The Value in Literacy
When talking to uncommitted people about the task of encouraging and protecting Endangered Languages, I often find that the readiest concrete point that they will appreciate is the need to give languages a script, a written mode of communication. (By contrast, the phrase "reduce to writing" connotes very much a linguist's eye view, perhaps deliberately assertive of the primacy of spoken language.)

One important thing here is about power and representation in the modern (Westernised) world. Languages which aren't written aren't known outside their home circles (often have no unique name, even), and has as been pointed out in other discussions on these lists tend to be counted as "dialects", not languages at all. They don't have a clear "footprint" of documents. The only texts they will have will be literary, and these texts will only be referred to in anthropological/ ethnological accounts: they can't be quoted. Our global culture looks for concrete, physical evidence of things: a language that simply "flutters live though the mouths of men" (Ennius) is not on the record. And until multimedia go a lot further than they yet have, records, in any significant quantity, will be written.

So the imperative, professional or otherwise, to put as many languages as possible into writing is not value-free: it stems from a primary value of OUR (Westernized) culture. It is the judgement of those outside the endangered language's culture that development of a written version is one of the best policies to promote and aid the cause and survival of it.

It's a tactical decision, of course. It could be wrong in certain cases, and it will be for the speakers of the language in question to decide whether it is. But the judgement of outsiders is that, in general, this step is benign. (Interestingly, those outsiders who don't give a damn, or who would prefer the language to be snuffed out, never advocate literacy as a sneaky way of getting rid of a language!)

(All this is quite aside from the loss to humanity if the language goes extinct without leaving a written trace. There we Westerners have a legitimate interest to speak out, quite apart from the concern of the community that speaks the language. But that doesn't require the community to adopt writing itself.)

3. The Perils of Literacy
The point, about the debilitating effect on the memory of literacy, is well-made. It is something that will need to go into the "tactical balance" in deciding whether a community should become literate. But it is part of a general trend in human development, which could be called the De-Skilling induced by technological change. Introduction of Decimal Currency in the UK has lowered the mean ability in mental arithmetic, even as it has made calculations easier. Introduction of typewriter keyboards has lowered mean standards of legibility (and elegance) in handwriting, even as it has made the average document easier to read. Most recently, as I feel rather strongly, introduction of word-processors has lowered the standard of structured argument in text, as people cut and paste old documents (theirs or others) to create new ones. More personally, I know that I am less and less inclined to get up and walk across the room to look for a file if I can sit here and search for its content in my computer memory.

It is not clear that sticking doggedly to the old ways is a possible option: the new technologies do have their advantages, too, and the hope is that these (ultimately) outweigh what is lost. Anyway, the forces (even if not so benign) that make for these changes are not going to go away. This must be true for endangered language communities too, although the culture which is changing may well be more vulnerable, because smaller and more attached to ancient traditions.



There is a feeling of "If you can't beat'em, join'em" about all this. I am actively concerned that Endangered Language Communities should take up modern electronic (as well as ancient (written) and mediaeval (printed)) methods to communicate among themselves and with others on terms of parity.

4. The Tyranny of Standards
Another of Dan's points concerns the divisive effects of introducing these technologies, because you have to standardize on one variant dialect over others. the very FIRST issue that comes up is "standards": whose dialect, of the four communities that live within 20 miles of each other, will we write it in?

Divisiveness seems to be intrinsic to small communities. (In bigger ones, it's just called patriotism, I suppose.) But someone who is doing sterling work in bringing the potential for writing/printing/electronic publishing to small languages has, I think, a major solution to this problem.

He'll no doubt speak for himself, but Russ Bernard and the CELIAC project in Oaxaca Mexico in a recent paper* argues that his experience in giving people the tools (to put their own language into writing) shows that prescriptive standards are NOT a pre-requisite. Once the documents start to be produced, norms will in time establish themselves. And as the profusion of Middle English documents shows, you can quite well have a flourishing literate culture without an imposed set of standards.

* "Language Preservation and Publishing", to be published in Indigenous Literacies in the Americas, edited by Nancy H. Hornberger, in the series Contributions to the Sociology of Language (Joshua Fishman, general editor)

Nicholas Ostler

Ladin dialects and Rumantsch: a Recent Referendum

Organization: University of Innsbruck, Austria
Date: Mon, 25 Mar 1996 12:59:44 +0100

My name is Manuela Miribung and I am a student of English and Political Science at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. I come from La Val, Suedtirol, Italy, and my mother tongue is Ladin, so I thought I'd send some information about my language.

Evaristus asked about the situation in Switzerland. Now, there are 5 Ladin idioms used there: Vallader, Puter, Surmiran, Sutsilvan and Sursilvan. Sursilvan is spoken by about 25,000 people and is therefore the largest group. Vallader and Puter, both used in Engadin, are spoken by some 10,000 people. The other groups are minor ones, so that altogether there are some 50,000 Swiss Romance speakers (= 0,8 % of the Swiss population). Of these, 40,000 live within Graubunden, so that the Ladin population in thisprovince amounts to some 42% of the population there.

In order to have a unified version of the language for publications etc, a koine was worked out by Prof. Heinrich Schmid in 1982: the Rumantsch Grischun. This language is now being used for all kinds of official, semi-official, commercial etc. writings: e.g. train timetables, telephone books, post-office and bank publications are all written in Rumantsch.It is used even for literary purposes, e.g. Flurin Speschia writes exclusively in Rumantsch.

Rumantsch is the fourth national language of Switzerland and has been introduced as a "Teilamtssprache" on the whole national territory by the referendum of March 13, 1996 (68% voted for it). Rumantsch will therefore be used in the public amministration also outside Graubunden.

There are two other groups of Ladins: one is in the Dolomites, North-Eastern Italy (about 30,000 speakers), the other one in Friuli, also in Italy (some 800,000 speakers).

The Ladins in the Dolomites live in 5 different valleys: Val Badia - where I am from - (9,000, = 95% of the population there, are Ladin), Gardena (8,500 = 86% of pop.), Fassa (7,600 = 65%), Fodom (2,000 = 95%) and Ampezzo (2,000 = 30%). Prof. Heinrich Schmid worked out a common koine also for these idioms in the late 80s, the so-called Ladin Dolomitan. So far this language has not been used very much (also for political divergences on the matter), but there are various groups working on projects that are supposed to encourage its use. For example, one of these projects, SPELL, is working on a unified approach to grammar, spelling, neologisms for Ladin, and a publication in Basic Ladin.

The third group of Ladins is in Friuli. They do not have so many different dialects, since Udine could impose its version of the language on the surrounding area. However, they have not agreed so far on the spelling rules, so right now 4 different versions are being used. The one worked out by Xavier Lamuela in the late 80s is being supported by Radio Furlan and might be the one accepted by everybody in the end.

I would be glad to hear from some of you
- der n bel saluet a duec

Manuela Miribung

Some Irish Proverbs

Date: Mon, 15 Jan 1996 22:08:51 +0000
Sender: Teachers of Celtic Languages CELTIC-T@VM1.SPCS.UMN.EDU
From: "Tomas C. Breathnach"tcbr@INDIGO.IE

Beannachtai o tir na hEireann! Greetings from Ireland. I teach Irish in a second-level school in Ireland, but I also teach Economics and Computer Studies [for my sins!].

I have an avid interest in collecting old proverbs in Irish because I believe they manage to encapsulate a lot of the old way of thinking through the language. These proverbs [in Irish we call them Seanfhocail - literally translated 'old words'] provide us with a key into the mentality of the people who spoke Irish in the past. Without such a key, the language could become just another means of communication.

A few examples:-
1. Ni tuisce deoch na sceal. {Have a drink before you give us the news}
2. An te a bhionn thuas, oltar deoch air - an te a bhionn thuas, buailtear cos air! {He who is succeeding is feted with drink - he who is failing is kicked}
3. Ni uasal na iseal, ach thuas seal agus thios seal. {Neither noble nor lowly, but up for a while and down for a while}
4. Da mbeadh soineann go Samhain, bheadh breall ar dhuine eigin. {If we had good weather until November, somebody would have cause for complaint}.
5. Is gaire cabhair De na an doras {God's help is nearer than the door}.
6. Ta Dia laidir agus ta Mathair maith aige. {God is strong and he has a good mother}.

I could go on and on, but I would be interested in learning how the Irish proverbs co-relate with other Celtic ones - comparisons and contrasts.

Talk to me - I've been on this list for more than a week and have had no posting. Is it true that "Is tuisce deoch na sceal" - see above?

Rath De oraibh.


Schools in Hawaiian

Thu, 12 Oct 1995 22:07:30 -0700
Original Sender: (William H. Taylor)

Last I heard, Hawaii is the only state in the union which has a native language as an official language. With that status, schools teach Hawaiian (I don't recall the name used) to kids and there is a plan to have a few schools where Hawaiian is the only/main language used in all courses. The language has also been updated to include computer terms, etc. Benjamin Barrett

The schools (which are preschools) are the Punana Leo schools. They are supported by the State of Hawai`i and the `Aha Punana Leo, which is a non-profit organization that was established in 1983 to serve the Hawaiian speaking community. In addition, an all-Hawaiian high school has just opened in Hilo. It is the first high school to use spoken Hawaiian instruction in over 100 years!

To Pay or Not to Pay? Thoughts Inspired by Fieldwork in Siberia

Jonathan Bobaljik ( posted the following musings on endangered-languages-l on 19 March:

I am concerned about the idea of setting an (inter)national standard for paying field work. There are two main reasons for this:

1. $10 is pennies to some, and a month's salary to others
2. Money is not always an appropriate compensation.

I'm basing this on my experiences 1993-94 and again over the last 6 weeks in a village on the Kamchatka peninsula, Russian Far North-East (yes, it was *very* cold). The population is <500 and the economy is heavily depressed.

For starters, I had budgeted about $10/hour (U.S.) based mostly on what I'd been able to get permission for on various small projects while still a grad student.

It is worth pointing out that this is a very significant amount of money for people there. Most of the remaining speakers are retired, and live on pensions which range from $60-$120 /month. The flip side is that many things (such as food) actually cost as much as or more than food here in real dollar terms, making simple exchange-rate comparison quite difficult. However, I felt (perhaps wrongly), that offering more than $10/hour would be embarassingly, and perhaps offensively, generous.

In any event, the question of amount was moot. As I had somewhat anticipated, the offer of any money at all ranged from quite embarassing to downright insulting. A person I stayed with for two weeks refused to take any money for groceries, although I explained that my university was paying - so why should either she or I pay?

This is difficult for some of us who have grown up in the capitalist world to fully comprehend, but I am reasonably confident that this is an accurate characterisation of the community involved. Some of the reasons for this scenario include (there are numerous others):

- All of the speakers have spent the bulk of their lives in the Soviet Union, many born around the revolution. A large number of Russians today still see taking money from a friend as an insult. This includes for work for which they would otherwise be paid (e.g., if your friend's a mechanic, they won't take any pay for repairing your car). [aside - This alone has created great social tension even within families, as the reforms are pushed forward] The older Russians fall heavily into this class, and most of the native speakers are on friendly terms with me (many enjoy the chance to have an eager ear over tea, and to find someone for whatever reason interested in what they have to say).

- For others, accepting money without working for it is to admit poverty. Most of the elders do not see speaking or recording as work. Many don't even see sitting with me and glossing earlier recordings as work.

In order to avoid the possible insult, I had hoped to be able to use the budgetted amount of money to bring gifts, which are usually acceptable. This included food, reading glasses, and more frivolous items such as chocolates, whatever I felt was most appropriate to a given situation. In some cases, I felt that a gift of a toy to a grandchild was more appreciated than any gift to the informant. For one consultant, I spent an afternoon taking portrait photos of her family - she has none of her younger grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In other cases, the consultant does not know they were compensated: I gave food to their (adult) children, explaining why.

Predictably, and especially since I was often working with groups at a time, with people wandering in and out, and staying for different lengths of time, this made for a rather uneven distribution. (I couldn't very well say "X - you've ben here for 26 minutes, so here's 2/3 of a kilo of tomatoes, but Y - you've been here 32 minutes, so you get an extra tomato"). [This will create a nightmare on my grant report..., though this is the least of my concerns]. In some cases, the inequalities were reasonably substantial.

The concern I have is that I made many of these decisions unilaterally. I feel I did the best I could, but would like to know what others have done in similar situations. In particular, if I were to force an elder to accept 50,000 roubles for an hour of talking over tea, I would risk not being welcomed back into their house for a subsequent session. More importantly, should I succeed in convincing the speakers that $10/hour is the going rate for consultant work, I will create a potentially disastrous situation for Russian linguists attempting to do field work as they will be unlikely to be able to pay anything near that percentage of their monthly salary for recording.

To wrap up, I think setting a standard is going to be useful in some cases (working in US universities and paying informants who happen to live in the city), but beyond this, a lot of economic and more importantly cultural factors are going to come into play. I have described what I have done in the last six weeks, and I think it was a reasonably appropriate response to the situation. I do feel that it could well be improved upon, and would very much welcome suggestions as to how it may be improved upon.

The More You Pay, The More Itís Worth
(with apologies to Don McLean)

The above item, by Jonathan Bobaljik, was a discursive reply to a request from Robin Sabino to share information on going rates for paying linguistic informants. In the vent, all the responses came from North American and Australian researchers. Robin published a summary on 27 March, and here are some other highlights.

From Eric M. Kapono What I assume below is that is that, "consultants" are not "informants" when it comes to extensive field research. While the latter can provide the details of the linguistic and cultural terrain, it is the former that navigate you through to your destination by pointing outlandmarks and other important features along the way.

Consultants of varying backgrounds (education, planning, legal, etc.) -- respected and bringing many years of experience to the job -- might charge a non-profit organization, say, $100/hr or $250/day. Thus, if you have found an individual you know to have broad knowledge of his or her native language and culture, is a native speaker him/herself, has respect amongst his/her own, and can provide language insight that so few others can, why is this level of expertise not compensated accordingly?

If one is researching Native American languages, the truly insightful individuals with a firm grasp of the breadth, depth and magnitude of their language may be very few and very far between. Recognize this person's level of knowledge like any other. If money is the means, then pay up.

From: Jeff Marck

Under the ideal circumstances of adequate funding, the protocol for work with Australian Aborigines outside of Darwin is about $20/hr or $100 a day (Australian dollars = about 75 cents U.S). In addition to those direct payments a lot of money goes to:

1. Feeding people as they are often not eating properly in the morning and the sessions go better if they've had some fruit, and then providing sandwiches for lunch (these sessions often include younger relatives (who are non-speakers or marginal speakers) who pick up what they can as the sessions transpire. Cost $10-15 fruit and drinks in the morning and $15-20 for sandwiches and drinks at lunch). 2. Taking them to see their relatives in town once or twice a week (these days supplement data collection and occur mainly on the weekend and there are no payments to the speakers for those days). 3. Helping financially at funerals. 4. Helping people as they become terminally ill and move to the city to be closer to the hospital and need household furnishings (radio first, TV second, beds third, tables and living room furniture last).

This is all in the context of a system of grants which is rather liberal in its payments to the native speakers. Researchers budgets "direct payments", the hourly or daily fees, and "gifts" (all the other stuff) and grant agencies and tax people here are used to it. and never challenge it.

From: (Rob Pensalfini)

On behalf of every field-worker I would like to thank Robin for posting the summary on informant/consultant pay. It was interesting to see variations of up to 100% (from $10 to $20) even in the same regions.

There is often a major stumbling block to paying speakers what one feels they should be paid, and that is that grants often specify hourly rates of pay for consultants.

I was once in the unfortunate situation of being in receipt of two small grants for speaker pay for the same field trip, each of which specified a different hourly rate to be paid to the speakers. Of course there are ways around this but all of them are dishonest and I would never for a minute recommend them. One not-so-dishonest option is to pay the speaker for 'consultation' as opposed to 'language work' if the grant so allows. Thus, if I spend four hours with a consultant, only two of which are used for intensive language research, and the rest of the time is spent going places, finding objects to discuss etc, then the consultation has lasted four hours, not two. This is only fair, since the researcher has taken the speaker away from her/his other activities that he/she might otherwise be doing for four hours, not two. Much the way a lawyer will chrage you for the time she/he spends sitting around in the courtroom as well as the time spent actually working on your case.