Edited by Lenore A. Grenoble and N. Louanna Furbee
[Not in series 158] 2010
► pp. 3–24
Theory and practice
Linguistic theories direct scientific inquiry. They propose testable inventories of universal categories, properties, relations, and interactions that may constitute a language; for a particular language, they define sub-inventories of these that are legitimate expressions of the general design. To say that the emerging field of language documentation has a “theory” is premature, as evidenced by current definitions that stress the conduct of documentation as much as its contents. Instead of theory-building, practitioners often urge exemplary ethical and best practices. Importantly practice-first approaches improve collaborations between speakers and investigators, encourage community participation, create a genuine indigenous linguistics, and provide paths for constructing a true linguistic documentation theory. This chapter offers examples of work within practice-based orientations and its relevance for theory-building.
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