Stealing Linguistic Property

Linguists sometimes say that they have a better reputation than anthropologists because of the (mainly) former practice of taking cultural property for research or display, sometimes without permission. Nevertheless, linguists are not immune from such unsavory practices, and have also been known to hoard cassette recordings and other cultural materials.

One such case is the failure to credit a native speaker for assistance, mentioned in the article “Saving a language” in the Sioux City Journal. An Omaha speaker (not named) provided pronunciation and editing help to a lexicographer of Omaha and then found that her name was not mentioned in the credits when the dictionary was published. It is common courtesy to thank people who provide support as this woman did, and not providing thanks leads to bad feelings that can cause friction and problems later on.

From the article, it does not sound like anything special was expected, just a note of credit, something easy enough to note in a forward to a dictionary. Some linguists also list language sources as co-authors on papers, which seems like a fair way to provide the recognition of the importance of language speakers.

For more Omaha resources, including a beginning dictionary and glossed texts, see Omaha Language Curriculum Development. Further information about Omaha including other resources is available at Omaha-Ponca.


2 Responses to “Stealing Linguistic Property”

  1. Lameen Says:

    Minor point: the article says it was a Cherokee speaker that didn’t get named – not an Omaha speaker.

  2. wakablogger Says:

    Thank you for that correction! I started to change it, but then the entire rest of the posting becomes meaningless.

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