Extensibility of Literature

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Rationale

If two ethnolinguistic communities are similar enough, material produced for one group may be used by the other or adapted relatively easily for use with the other. The material may be anything from primers, educational or informational materials, fictional stories or poetry, religious texts, or government documents. The variety may be a dialect or considered socially as another language. The speech variety with the existing material is the source language while the variety that has yet to receive material is the target language.

In his 1995 book, Grimes suggests a research question:

Are any of the speech varieties I'll be surveying so different [from each other] that current adaptation techniques cannot handle them?(p32.)[1]

However, there are a number of things we need to consider in addition to this. For a start, groups need not only to be similar linguistically but also culturally to the extent that neither group would be socially opposed to such an adaptation. In addition, we need to consider the logistical and technical aspects of adaptation. Is material being produced in enough quantity and quality to be suitable as a source? Are there issues, such as political borders, that may hinder sharing or adaptation?

Obviously, producing an adaptation is not something that surveyors are asked to do. Instead, our role is to assess the potential extensibility of literature from one community to another.

Procedure

Often materials which have already been produced such as primers or stories are brought along on the survey. The survey team either reads these out, if possible or plays a recording of the texts. This recording should be that of a native speaker of the language the materials are produced in. An even more ideal situation would be to take along some members of the source community.

  1. Grimes, Joseph E.. 1995. Language survey reference guide. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
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