CIRCL: Joseph Pentangelo (Language Documentation)

OCT 23, 2018 | 6:30 PM TO 8:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




October 23, 2018: 6:30 PM-8:00 PM




Joseph Pentangelo presents presents on a topic in Language Documentation:

Virtual Reality and Endangered Language Documentation

Woodbury (2003, 39) wrote that, as far as language documentation is concerned, “direct representation of naturally occurring discourse is the primary object.” Video cameras have been recognized by some as the best available tool for language documentation (Margetts & Margetts 2011, 18), as they can capture high-quality sound recordings as well as the gestures collocated with speech and, to a certain extent, the speech community’s material culture. They are more data-rich than an audio-only documentation can be. These videos can be analyzed by linguists and anthropologists, and can also be used in language revitalization efforts.

Virtual reality (VR) is a relatively new technology that allows for the creation of extraordinarily rich research artifacts. Using the proper camera, video and audio are recorded in 360º, ideal for the recording of conversation. Where traditional video is limited by the (literal) focus of the original researcher, 360º allows the viewer to direct their attention to whatever element of the video suits their interest. While some virtual reality platforms (e.g. Oculus) can be expensive, YouTube allows for the free hosting of VR content, which can be viewed on practically any computer or smartphone.

My dissertation focuses on applying virtual reality to language documentation. I am currently working with the Akwesasne community to document Kanien’kéha (Mohawk) with these methods. This talk will discuss the benefits and limitations of using VR for this work, similar ways that VR has been used, and the specifics of my project in Akwesasne.



Woodbury, Tony. (2003) Defining Documentary Linguistics. In Language Documentation and Description, vol. 1, ed. Peter K. Austin. London: Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project.

Margetts, Anna & Andrew Margetts. (2011) Audio and Video Recording Techniques for Linguistic Research. InThe Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Research, ed. Nicholas Thieberger. Oxford: Oxford University Press.