Research Articles

Documentary linguistics: A language philology of the 21st century



This article argues that documentary linguistics’ focus on ‘direct representation of discourse’ requires a broader conceptualization of the field that moves beyond purely linguistic concerns. This article recasts documentary linguistics as a philology, broadly understood as the inquiry into ‘the multifaceted study of texts, languages, and the phenomenon of language itself’ (Turner  2014:  ix). The article explores three areas of connection between documentary linguistics and various philological endeavors, namely textual constitution through commentary as relevant to audio-visual language documents, immersive and aesthetic experience of language events performed in  an archive, and memory  production. The paper touches upon a  conception of text which focuses on the interdependency with its commentary, it touches upon the aesthetic qualities of ‘raw data’, and it touches upon the archive as the repository of passive cultural memory. The reconceptualization of documentary linguistics described in this article opens documentary linguistics to non-core linguistic types of language documentation efforts and situates the documentary activities more broadly  in the humanistic enterprise of communicating, discussing, studying, and understand human achievements of other times and places.

Keywords: documentary linguistics, philology, audio-visual language documents, language events, archives, memory production, raw data, cultural memory, language documentation

How to Cite: Seidel, F. (2016) “Documentary linguistics: A language philology of the 21st century”, Language Documentation and Description. 13(0). doi: