Research Articles

Mediating language documentation

  • Gary Holton


As a discipline, archiving is often presented in terms of the competing goals of preservation and access. One could argue that this disconnect between access and usage need not concern an archive. Yet, to dismiss the issue of usage by arguing that materials may eventually become useful is to ignore the great need for immediately useful language materials. If language documentation is being made accessible to communities but not being used, then access alone is not sufficient. Archives must strive for something more than providing access.

Bridging the gap between access and usage requires that archive resources be MEDIATED so that they become not only accessible to user communities but also relevant. The concept of mediation as discussed here is in some ways similar to what Nathan (2006) describes as mobilization. However, unlike mobilization, mediation does not require that archive resources be transformed but only that they be presented in a way that they become more relevant. While mobilization involves the creation of derivative products, mediation can be as simple as enriching metadata descriptions with relevant fields or highlighting particularly useful resources within large collections. In particular, mediation requires that the archive knows and works closely with its user community.

Keywords: language documentation, archiving, preservation, access, usage, mediation

How to Cite:

Holton, G., (2014) “Mediating language documentation”, Language Documentation and Description 12, 37-52. doi:

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Published on
31 Jul 2014
Peer Reviewed