DELAMAN Franz Boas Award 2019 awarded to Michael Franjieh

We are pleased to announce that Michael Franjieh has been awarded the second Franz Boas award, in recognition of the collection The languages of northern Ambrym, Vanuatu, housed at the Endangered Language Archive (https://elar.soas.ac.uk/Collection/MPI1143013). This year we received more than twice as many nominations as in the inaugural round, and the committee found it extremely difficult to decide between the many excellent collections. Therefore, DELAMAN wishes to recognize all of the nominees for their scholarship, adherence to best practices in digital archiving, and their dedication to documentary linguistics ethos. What is particularly notable is the enormous effort which has been put into organizing the collections in order to make them more useful and accessible. The collections assembled by this year’s Boas Award nominees demonstrate the true potential of documentary linguistics to directly represent naturally-occurring speech across a variety of genre and discourse contexts. Supporting annotations and metadata provide the tools necessary for users to navigate and make use of the corpora.

The Northern Ambrym collection contains rich materials from two languages in Vanuatu, North Ambrym and Fanbyak (ISO 639-3 mmg, fnb). The deposit page for the collection contains extensive background information, identifying unique characteristics which might be of interest to various different types of users. The collection is organized into nine genres, each described in a guide document. The content is exemplary in placing language in context, representing endangered cultural practices; traditional ecological knowledge; sand drawings and the traditional stories associated with them; songs and music; and language contact and multilingualism; among other topics. Each item in the collection is described by rich metadata, indicating the level of annotation and noting points of linguistic and cultural interest. Metadata is supplied in both English and Bislama, the most widely spoken of the official languages of Vanuatu, ensuring greater accessibility to the collection by the local community. An extensive system of keywords facilitates searching across the collection.

Franjieh’s annotations and metadata reflect a concerted effort to engage with and provide accessibility to a broad range of audiences. Much of the material in the collection is richly annotated, with four or more levels of annotations, including free translations in both English and Bislama. Botanical and zoological information is identified using binominal nomenclature, facilitating use of these materials by other disciplines (e.g., https://elar.soas.ac.uk/Record/MPI1193418). Moreover, the collection includes a number of materials developed explicitly by and for community use, such as literacy materials. In sum, the Northern Ambrym collection is an outstanding example of reusable, repurposable language documentation.

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