You’re committed to the populations whose languages you study, way beyond the strictly linguistic aspect of your work. What makes you choose to do so, while other researchers tend to stand back?
That probably has to do with my personality! To me, field linguistics have always been a way of living, an excuse to encounter the languages I’m fascinated with, and listen to people speak and think out loud in such a different way than I do. I like human beings more than I like machines; I love the languages that I find beautifully complex and unusual. Plus, all I’ve done is listening to the people I’ve worked with, having them speak, and doing my best to offer what they expected in return of what they offered.
Thus I belong to a growing movement among linguists who work on endangered languages known as research-action, a movement that meets the demands of the linguistic communities we work for.
How do you envision the future of the discipline?
Today there’s a discipline of Endangered Languages as such, and global awareness of these issues is also growing.
What we need now is more cross-interdisciplinary approach to our work, by gathering linguists and speakers of the communities as well as NGOs and audiovisual professionals for high quality documentation, like Sorosoro does for instance.
Also, reaching back to one of your previous questions, there’s an emergency to train linguists from the countries involved, and even from the communities themselves, anytime that appears possible. The populations of minority languages are still widely discriminated, unfortunately. But we must really reach for linguistic documentation and description to be handled by community members themselves.