Recent Submissions

  • Findings from the Workshop on User-Centered Design of Language Archives

    Wasson, Christina; Holton, Gary; Roth, Heather (2016)
    This white paper describes findings from the workshop on User-Centered Design of Language Archives organized in February 2016 by Christina Wasson (University of North Texas) and Gary Holton (University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa). It reviews relevant aspects of language archiving and user-centered design to construct the rationale for the workshop, relates key insights produced during the workshop, and outlines next steps in the larger research trajectory initiated by this workshop. The purpose of this white paper is to make all of the findings from the workshop publicly available in a short time frame, and without the constraints of a journal article concerning length, audience, format, and so forth. Selections from this white paper will be used in subsequent journal articles. So much was learned during the workshop; we wanted to provide a thorough documentation to ensure that none of the key insights would be lost. We consider this document a white paper because it provides the foundational insights and initial conceptual frameworks that will guide us in our further research on the user-centered design of language archives. We hope this report will be useful to members of all stakeholder groups seeking to develop user-centered designs for language archives.
  • Language archiving: Where we've been and where we're going

    Holton, Gary (2016-02-20)
    This presentation provides an overview of the history of language archiving. It was given at the Workshop on User-Centered Design, held at the University of North Texas on February 20-21, 2016.
  • Report of the DELAMAN Costing Case Study

    Digital Endangered Languages and Musics Archiving Network (DELAMAN, 2014)
    DELAMAN member archives estimated the costs of archiving two sample deposits of language documentation data. Comparing these costs to the cost of funding a documentation project which would generate this amount of data, the costs of archiving can be estimated to 8% of the total direct costs of the funded project. DELAMAN proposes that grantees and grantors use this 8% figure as a more simplified way to calculate archiving costs which better reflect the nature of archiving as basic infrastructure for endangered language research.
  • Wester Pantar

    Holton, Gary (Mouton, 2014)
    Western Pantar (ISO 639-3 code lev) is spoken by an estimated 10,804 people on the southwestern portion of Pantar, west of the Sirung volcanic massif. The dry region of western Pantar is separated from the northern peninsula of the island by a physical barrier consisting of a number of steep-walled canyons. No road yet connects the northern peninsula with the western part of the island. In most of the academic literature the language is referred to as Lamma, though that name more properly refers to only a single dialect of the language. This description is based on first-hand field work by the author between 2004 and 2010
  • Kamus Pengantar Bahasa Pantar Barat

    Holton, Gary; Lamma Koly, Mahalalel (Unit Bahasa dan Budaya GMIT, 2008)
    Practical dictionary of the Western Pantar language (ISO 693-3: lev), also known as Lamma or Pantar Barat, with introductory material including a sketch grammar. Western Pantar to Indonesian, with an Indonesian index. Coverage of all three dialects: Tubbe, Mauta, Lamma. In Indonesian.
  • Preliminary notes on the Nedebang language

    Holton, Gary (2006)
    Preliminary report on the Nedebang language (ISO 639-3 code: nec), based on 65 pages of field notes collected by the author on Pantar Island July 27-30, 2004.1 Nedebang is one of four non-Austronesian languages spoken on the island of Pantar in the Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara Timur, in the region of 8.275 S latitude, 124.202 E longitude. To my knowledge the only previously published data from Nedebang are to be found in a 117 word basic vocabulary (Stokhof 1975), recently re-elicited by Pampus (2006). The present paper will attempt to provide a more current picture of the Nedebang language situation with an eye toward preparation for more comprehensive language documentation project. The content is necessarily limited by the short duration of the fieldwork.
  • Report on Recent Linguistic Fieldwork on Pantar Island, Eastern Indonesia

    Holton, Gary (National Science Foundation, 2004)
    This paper describes linguistic fieldwork on the Nedebang and Western Pantar (Lamma) languages undertaken June-August, 2004 under the auspices of NSF grant #0404884 SGER: Exploratory Fieldwork with the Nedebang Language of Eastern Indonesia. As such it is not intended as a linguistic description of the language s of themselves. See my reports Preliminary Notes on the Nedebang Language and Preliminary Notes on the Western Pantar Language for more information on the languages themselves.
  • Documentation of Western Pantar (Lamma) an endangered language of Pantar Island, NTT, Indonesia

    Holton, Gary (Lembaga Ilmu Pengatahun Indonesia [ = Indonesian Academy of Sciences], 2007-06-27)
    This research project carried out linguistic documentation of Western Pantar, an endangered Papuan language spoken on Pantar Island, Nusa Tenggara Timur. The primary product of this research is an annotated corpus of audio and video recordings covering a range of genre and speech styles. All field data has been archived digitally following current best practice recommendations. Secondary products include a tri-lingual dictionary and a reference grammar. The use of aligned text and audio and the publication of a media corpus will ensure the future researchers have maximal access to original field data. The Pantar region remains one of the least documented linguistic areas in Indonesia, and almost no documentary information has previously been available for Western Pantar and many of the other non-Austronesian languages of Pantar. Through the use of best-practice language documentation techniques to create an enduring record of the language, the documentation produced by this project will broadly impact linguistic science, providing crucial typological data from a little-known part of the world’s linguistic landscape. Furthermore, through close collaboration with indigenous language workers and the development of Indonesian language reference materials, this project has contributed to the continued maintenance and appreciation of the Western Pantar language.
  • The Phonology and Morphology of the Tanacross Athabaskan Language

    Holton, Gary (University of California Ph.D. dissertation, 2000-08)
    This dissertation presents a linguistic description of the phonology and morphology of Tanacross Athabaskan, an endangered language spoken by approximately sixty persons in eastern interior Alaska. There is little extant documentation of Tanacross; hence, this description is based primarily on data gathered from first-hand field work. Tanacross is typical of the Athabaskan family in its typological characteristics. There is a relatively small phonemic inventory, and most of the phonemic contrasts are neutralized outside the stem-syllable onset position. The lexicon is relatively small, consisting of perhaps six thousand distinct morphemes. Noun morphology is relatively straightforward, with few active morphological processes. In contrast, verb structure is extremely complex, consisting of a possibly discontinuous root morpheme together with a string of inflectional and derivational affixes which combine via an elaborate system of non- concatenative templatic morphology. The verb word may stand alone as entire utterance. Members of other minor word classes tend to be monomorphemic. Tanacross exhibits several unique properties which distinguish it from neighboring Athabaskan languages and invite further study. Tanacross is unique among the Alaska Athabaskan languages in having high tone as the reflex of Proto-Athabaskan constriction. In addition, more than any other tonal language in Alaska Tanacross has preserved segmental information lost via apocope through an elaborate system of compound tone. Tanacross also has many unique phonetic features, including the loss of suffix vowels and the devoicing of stem-initial fricatives. Tanacross morphology reflects its transitional status between the (historically) conservative languages of the lower Tanana river and the innovative languages of the Tanana and Yukon uplands.
  • Indigenous Peoples and Languages of Alaska

    Holton, Gary; Kerr, Jim; West, Colin T.; Krauss, Michael E. (Alaska Native Language Center and Institute of Social and Economic Research, 2010)
    Revised version of Krauss' 1974 (1982) Native Peoples and Languages of Alaska map. Map boundaries digitized and stored in GIS. Includes approximately 270 Native place names. Language boundaries can be downloaded as an ESRI shapefile ( Both language boundaries and place names (including language status information from 1974, 1982 , 1995) can be downloaded as an ESRI file geodatabase (IPLA.gdb). ESRI shapefile with place name ( is also available, but fonts may not display correctly due to limitations of the file format. Updated 2012-04-06.
  • Evidentiality in Dena'ina Athabaskan

    Holton, Gary; Lovick, Olga (Holton, Gary and Olga Lovick. 2009. Evidentiality in Dena'ina Athabascan. Anthropological Linguistics 50(3-4).1-32., 2009)
    Dena'ina evidentials are enclitics with a complex paradigmatic morphology. Their first component varies with person, while the second com- ponent varies with animacy and number, thus marking source and nature of knowledge. Although evidentiality in Dena'ina is not coded as an obligatory inflectional category on the verb, it is also not scattered throughout the gram- mar. The existence of an incipient inflectional evidential system demonstrates the ability of Athabaskan languages to innovate morphological structures outside the verb. The uniqueness of the Dena'ina system demonstrates the heterogeneity of Athabaskan grammar beyond the verb word.
  • An etymology for Galiyao

    Holton, Gary (2010)
  • Reassessing the wider genetic affiliations of the Timor-Alor-Pantar languages

    Robinson, Laura C.; Holton, Gary (2012)
    The wider genealogical affiliations of the Timor-Alor-Pantar languages have been the subject of much speculation. These languages are surrounded by unrelated Austronesian languages, and attempts to locate related languages have focused on Papuan languages 800 km or more distant. In this paper we examine three hypotheses for genealogical relatedness, drawing on both pronominal and especially lexical evidence. We rely in particular on recent reconstructions of proto-Alor-Pantar vocabulary. Of the hypotheses evaluated here, we find the most striking similarities between TAP and the West Bomberai family. However, we conclude that the evidence currently available is insufficient to confirm a genealogical relationship with West Bomberai or any other family, and hence, TAP must be considered a family-level isolate.
  • Internal classification of the Alor-Pantar language family using computational methods applied to the lexicon

    Robinson, Laura C.; Holton, Gary (Brill, 2012)
    The non-Austronesian languages of Alor and Pantar in eastern Indonesia have been shown to be genetically related using the comparative method, but the identified phonological innovations are typologically common and do not delineate neat subgroups. We apply computational methods to recently-collected lexical data and are able to identify subgroups based on the lexicon. Crucially, the lexical data are coded for cognacy based on identified phonological innovations. This methodology can succeed even where phonological innovations themselves fail to identify subgroups, showing that computational methods using lexical data can be a powerful tool supplementing the comparative method.
  • Aspects of number in the Papuan outliers of East Nusantara

    Holton, Gary (2012-10-26)
    The East Nusantara region is home to two distinct groups of Papuan languages spoken far from the New Guinea mainland and surrounded by genetically unrelated Austronesian languages. While some have proposed a genetic relationship between the North Halmaheran (NH) languages and the Alor-Pantar (AP) languages (Capell 1944, Cowan 1957), most of the apparent similarities between these groups can be seen to be general typological features of the area (cf. Holton 2012). In this paper I compare the treatment of number in NH and AP languages. Examples are drawn primarily from my own field work with Tobelo (NH) and Western Pantar (AP), though related languages are cited where those two languages do not well-represent their respective families. Some aspects of number are indeed treated similarly in the two groups. For example, both NH and AP languages make extensive use of numeral classifiers, though the number of semantic categories delineated by these classifiers is much more restricted in AP languages. However, the two families carve up semantic space quite differently. WP bina (from a verb meaning ‘detached’) is used to classify fish, animals, and other non-human living things; while in Tobelo fish are counted with ngai and non-fish animals are counted with gahumu, a generic numeral classifier for three-dimensional objects (living and non-living). Other aspects of number are quite different in the two families. In AP languages number can be indicated on nouns with a plural word following the noun. The plural word designates a multitude, more than a few, rather than a non-singular referent. In WP plural words may co-occur with a co-referential pronoun indexing the number of the referent aname marung ging gateranang dia wang pidding gallang person people 3PL:AGT all go exist sebar look_for ‘all the people spread out to look for them’ In contrast, in NH languages nominal plural is not indicated except via pronominal indexing on the verb.
  • A comparison of landscape categorization in Inuit-Yupik and Dene languages in Alaska

    Holton, Gary (2012-10-26)
    The landscape domain poses a significant challenge for linguistic categorization, since unlike more discrete domains such as zoology and botany, the landscape domain lacks an etic grid on which to base linguistic categories (Turk et al. 2012). Thus, it is not surprising that there is significant cross-linguistic variation in the way landscape terms are ontologized (Burenhult and Levinson 2008). While Alaska itself exhibits great diversity in landforms, a large swath of country extending from the Bering coast to the Canadian border is shared two very different language families: Inuit-Yupik and Dene. Preliminary studies of landscape terminology in these two language families suggest that Dene languages emphasize vertical features and mountain valleys, while Inuit-Yupik languages are less concerned with vertical scale and the notion of valley (Holton 2011). The current paper compares the semantics of landscape terms in Inupiaq, Yup’ik, Dena’ina, and Koyukon, four languages which are spoken along the boundary between Inuit-Yupik and Dene. In addition, the structures of Inuit-Yupik and Dene spatial orientation systems are compared.