Research Articles

Philology in the folklore archive: Interpreting past documentation of the Kraasna dialect of Estonian

  • Tobias Weber


In this  paper  I  share  my  experience  of  studying  past  documentation  of  the  extinct  Kraasna  variety  of  South  Estonian  without  access  to  native  speakers, their  descendants,or the researchers  who  conducted  fieldwork in the community.  After  an  overview  of  the  historical  and  sociolinguistic  contexts  for early 20th-century Kraasna documentation projects, I illustrate the work I had  to  do  to  reconstruct  information  about  Kraasna  legacy  materials  in  order  to  use  them  in  my  own  research.  The  main  obstacle  lay  in  incomplete information  about  the  original  researchers  and  consultants,  the  circumstances  of  their  fieldwork,  and  the  methods  utilised  to  produce  the  documentary  artefacts that are available to work with today. The process of reconstructing this  information  led  me  to  realise  that  the  philological  work  of  restoring  the  meta-documentation  behind  a  project  has  as  much  academic  value  as  the  initial  recording  of  material  or  the  subsequent  linguistic  description.  At  the  same time, the work of editing and curating legacy materials folds secondary researchers    into    the    picture    that    they    reconstruct    about    previous    documentation.  Thus,  users  of  legacy  materials  need  to  adopt  a  reflexive  stance  on  their  own  role  in  the  research  process, one that is best served by a philological approach that recognises the human involvement in every step of the creation, reception, and replication of documentary linguistic materials.

Keywords: folklore, south estonian, legacy, philology, linguistic

How to Cite:

Weber, T., (2021) “Philology in the folklore archive: Interpreting past documentation of the Kraasna dialect of Estonian”, Language Documentation and Description 21, 70-100. doi:

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Published on
31 Dec 2021
Peer Reviewed