Research Programs: Dynamic Language Infrastructure-Documenting Endangered Languages - Fellowships

Period of Performance

6/1/2015 - 7/31/2016

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

Natügu Dictionary and Legacy Texts

FAIN: FN-230212-15

Brenda H. Boerger
SIL International (Dallas, TX 75236-5629)

Natugu is an endangered Oceanic language spoken by Melanesians on Santa Cruz Island in Temotu Province of the Solomon Islands, South Pacific. Both the language community and the Solomon Island government support language development work, with an eye to future vernacular education. Such documentation and description needs to be undertaken soon in light of language displacement stemming from increased use of Solomon Island Pijin. The purpose of the research is (1) to produce a Natugu dictionary with an English finder list, for two audiences using two orthographies and different media: books and digital versions for the language community and a digital version for linguists; (2) to annotate legacy texts: an 80-page handwritten autobiography with an oral reading on video, plus 15 hours of digitized legacy cassette recordings. The applicant’s home archive, the Summer Insitute of Linguistics (SIL) language and culture archives, will host the corpus. The work has three phases (1) a two-month pre-field phase to prepare the lexical database in FLEx and to interlinearize the autobiography; (2) a four-month fieldwork phase for semantic domain elicitations, AV recording of the autobiography, and oral processing of the texts; and (3) a six-month post-field phase to refine dictionary entries, generate dictionaries, format books, and archive the full corpus. (Edited by staff)

Media Coverage

Natügu [ntu] Dictionary and Legacy Texts (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Emma Chmura
Date: 8/20/2016
Abstract: PR about three-month field trip by Boerger and seven interns. And initial announcement about DEL Fellowship.

Natqgu of Solomon Islands (Media Coverage)
Date: 4/22/2019
Abstract: Dr. Brenda Boerger, SIL Language and Culture Documentation Coordinator, led a team of five interns to Santa Cruz Island, in the Solomon Islands, for fieldwork in the Oceanic language, Natqgu [ntu] (also Natügu)—part of her US government-funded Documenting Endangered Languages (DEL) Fellowship.

Language documentation specialist receives second DEL fellowship (Media Coverage)
Author(s): staff
Date: 12/4/2015
Abstract: SIL’s Dr. Brenda Boerger has been chosen to receive a Documenting Endangered Languages (DEL) fellowship. Ten DEL fellowships are awarded each year by the US National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation. The award supports fieldwork and activities relevant to recording, documenting and archiving endangered languages, as well as the preparation of transcriptions, databases, grammars and lexicons of languages that are in danger of being lost.

Documenting language and cultural traditions on Santa Cruz Island (Media Coverage)
Date: 12/9/2021
Abstract: In Dallas, a select group of interns is preparing to undertake the fascinating, strenuous work of language and culture documentation. The seven interns—two linguists, two recording specialists, one dance expert, one music expert and a speaker of several of the local languages—will accompany Dr. Brenda Boerger to conduct fieldwork in the Solomon Islands this fall. Earlier this year, Boerger received a Documenting Endangered Languages Fellowship (her second) for her continuing work with the Natügu-speaking community of Santa Cruz Island. During the three months of fieldwork, the team’s primary focus will be to support the community in compiling a dictionary. Boerger’s FLEx database for the Natügu dictionary currently contains 5,000 words. During the team’s first three weeks on the island they plan to conduct a Rapid Word Collection (RWC) workshop and hope to raise that number to as many as 20,000 words.

Associated Products

Single-event Rapid Word Collection workshops: Efficient, effective, empowering (Article)
Title: Single-event Rapid Word Collection workshops: Efficient, effective, empowering
Author: Verna Stutzman
Author: Brenda H. Boerger
Abstract: We convey single-event Rapid Word Collection (RWC) workshop results in 12 languages, and compare these results to fieldwork lexicons collected by other means. We show that this methodology of collecting words by semantic domain by community engagement leads to obtaining more words in less time than conventional collection methods. Factors contributing to high and low net word senses are summarized, addressed, and suggestions given for increasing effectiveness of the RWC procedures. Relevant points are illustrated in detail using a 2015 Natügu [ntu] RWC workshop in the Solomon Islands. We conclude that the advantages of the single-event RWC workshop strategy warrant recommending it as best practice in lexicographic fieldwork for minority languages.
Year: 2018
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Link to journal
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Language Documentation and Conservation
Publisher: Language Documentation and Conservation 12. 147-193.

Rapid Word Collection Workshops: Why & how to do them (Conference/Institute/Seminar)
Title: Rapid Word Collection Workshops: Why & how to do them
Author: Jeremiah Aviel
Author: Brenda H. Boerger
Abstract: Presenters build on experience conducting a 2015 Rapid Word Collection (RWC) workshop to explain using FLEx https://software.sil./fieldworks/ to gather words for a dictionary. Install FLEx before you come. Workshop outline: 1) expected results, 2) roles and logistics, 3) group semantic domain word collection, 4) debrief, Q&A, referrals to lexicography resources.
Date Range: Feb 28 and Mar 1, 2019
Location: University of Hawai'i
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Workshop recording

On integrating ethnobotany with field linguistics (Article)
Title: On integrating ethnobotany with field linguistics
Author: Myknee Q Sirikolo, Jr.
Author: Brenda H. Boerger
Author: Alexander Boerger
Author: Leonard Menrlwz
Abstract: We report on ethnobotanical aspects of linguistic fieldwork in the Solomon Islands in 2015 and make suggestions for continued collaborative, interdisciplinary, language-related fieldwork. We relate how ethnobotany was integrated with other research goals for which funding had already been obtained. The specific phases of ethnobotanical activities are itemized and then the successes and shortcomings are noted. We conclude that ethnobotany adds a key component to field linguistics and suggest that it be considered best practice to incorporate it as well as similar interdisciplinary efforts in documentary linguistic fieldwork.
Year: 2019
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Link to Selected Proceedings from the Tenth Conference On Oceanic Linguistics (COOL10).
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: SIL Language and Culture Documentation and Description 45: 113-158
Publisher: SIL International

Change request for Noipä to receive a separate ISO code [npx] (Report)
Title: Change request for Noipä to receive a separate ISO code [npx]
Author: Brenda H. Boerger
Abstract: It was initially assumed that there were two related language varieties on Santa Cruz Island in the Solomon Islands. Later, it became clear that there were three related languages, since the ones in the split were not mutually intelligible. That left us with Natügu [ntu], Nalögo [nlz], and Engdewu (formerly Nagu) [ngr]. In recent fieldwork during September through November 2015, Boerger and her team of interns, plus a PhD student from an Australian university, all became convinced that Noipä is a distinct language from the other three, though clearly related. This conclusion was drawn from discussions with speakers of all varieties, with those from other languages telling us that they do not understand Noipä. And Noipä speakers also reported that the others cannot understand them. Noipä is spoken only in the village of Noipä , and the people there have at least a passive, but often an active understanding of either Natügu [ntu] or Nalögo [nlz], which border them on either side. To establish this more concretely, the team led by Boerger collected an oral Swadesh 200 word list with written transcription, the written part of which will be included in the new code request document, along with data from the related languages.
Date: 10/20/2015
Primary URL: