Brook Danielle Lillehaugen (Swarthmore) will be the "Thursday Thoughts" speaker on February 25th.


Abstract: Endangered languages, modern philology, & digital humanities:
a digital text explorer for Colonial Zapotec
Brook Danielle Lillehaugen, Haverford College

based on joint work with
George Aaron Broadwell, University of Florida,
Michel R. Oudijk, Universidad Nacional Aut�noma de M�xico
Laurie Allen, University of Pennsylvania

Zapotec (Otomanguean), an indigenous language family of Oaxaca, Mexico, has a long record of alphabetic texts, the earliest dating to 1565 (Oudijk 2008). Interpreting these colonial documents can be difficult because of the challenges of early orthography, grammar, and printing conventions.In this talk I describe how linguistic knowedge and tools from the digital humanities can be brought to bear on this corpus of texts in order to facilitate the use of the historical material by non-specialists. I describe the project Ticha: a digital text explorer for Colonial Zapotec (Lillehaugen et al. 2015), which allows users to explore multiple layers of these these texts, including images of the original documents, transcriptions, translations into English and modern Spanish, linguistic analysis, and commentary.

Access to these texts has consequences outside of the field of linguistics, including history, in which indigenous Zapotec writings have been largely ignored, apart from the work of a small handful of ethnohistorians.Moreover, this historical corpus of texts exists alongside modern Zapotec speaking communities, most of whom do not know that these texts exist.There is great value in having a demonstrable written history, especially to speakers of a language that is marginalized. For speakers of Zapotec who are resisting language loss and discrimination, the fact that there are historical written texts can serve as a point of valorization, and the texts themselves can be important instruments for language revitalization.

Works Cited

Lillehaugen, Brook Danielle, George Aaron Broadwell, Michel R. Oudijk, & Laurie Allen. 2015. Ticha: a digital text explorer for Colonial Zapotec, first edition. Online: http://ticha.haverford.edu/

Oudijk, Michel R. 2008. El texto m�s antiguo en zapoteca. Tlalocan 15.227-40. M�xico, D.F.: UNAM.