These assignments provide opportunities for students to learn and explore a few key concepts central to language documentation and description with real primary language documentation data from a 1977-1984 project studying lexical and morphosyntactic variation across the many Indigenous Mixtec (Otomanguean; Mexico) languages. Students will consider matters of orthography, dialectology, and language variation, and may be able to contribute to a volunteer effort to make digital transcriptions of these survey documents.

Date Range(s): 1977-1983
Grade Level(s): Undergraduate; Graduate & Professional
Country(ies): Mexico
Course Subject(s): Indigenous Studies; Latin American Studies; Linguistic & Language Studies
Topic(s): Mixtec languages; Language variation; Dialectology

Guiding Questions

Analysis of language data is central to language documentation efforts, but most linguistic problem sets and exercises are based on carefully selected datasets. Working directly with primary research data gives students a better picture of the difficulty of describing and analyzing languages. In these assignments, students may either consult already-prepared digital versions of the handwritten transcriptions made by a linguistic researcher during an elicitation session to complete the activities, or may make their own digital transcriptions through a crowdsourced transcription portal before tackling the activities.

Learning Objectives

  1. Students will gain a familiarity with some Americanist phonetic symbols.
  2. Students will consider the suitability of various systems for representing tone.
  3. Students will be able to identify cognates within primary data and determine correspondences between non-identical cognates.
  4. Students will distinguish Mixtec cognates from Spanish loanwords.
  5. Students will consider the distribution of loanwords across semantic domains.


Assignments: PDF | Editable Microsoft Word

Rights Statement

Creator(s): Ryan Sullivant, Language Data Curator, Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America, LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections
Date: 2018-08-15

This assignment is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Public License (“Public License”). This license lets others share, remix, tweak, and build upon the work non-commercially, as long as they credit the creators and license their new creations under the identical terms.

These materials were produced through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (PW-259116-18).

Variation between Mixtec languages (Assignment)