[From Lise Dobrin, our correspondent in Virginia]
The media blitz on David Harrison and Greg Anderson's recent Expedition to a Hot Spot has given everyone (including my mother!) a chance to reflect on what endangered language work really ought to be about. We shouldn't be parachuting in and out. We should be putting our money into *real* documentation, not demo documentation. We shouldn't be putting money into documentation at all, but into community revitalization programs (see Ellen Lutz's 24-9-07 letter in the NYTimes). We should be working to better use the press. No, we should become the press!
But what I find most remarkable about the whole story is this: a couple of linguists start a non-profit to further their own language documentation work. What? Since when do we do that? You can argue the finer points of Greg and David's methods, or who is (or ought to be) reaping the benefits, but irregardless, their model is an interesting one: if you want to do something that the academic/big agency funding model is not ideally suited to support, nothing is stopping you from creating an institution and doing it on your own instead. The university is not the only possible institutional setting for our work, and it may not always be the best one. It's just the one many of us are used to.