Making high-quality audio recordings has become vastly easier than it used to be, when heavy pieces of delicate equipment had to be brought to the field. A good digital recorder, capable of making far clearer recordings for greater lengths of time can now fit easily in one’s pocket. The digital revolution has also allowed for major advances in storage, transfer, sharing and searching. ELA lends out recorders such as the SONY PCM-M10 to those wanting to make recordings in New York City and around the world. Some examples of work ELA associates have done abroad using this relatively simple handheld equipment can be seen here and here.
Our goals for each project involve creating a searchable corpus of texts. For this, we use standard free software such as Praat and ELAN to create time-aligned annotations and Fieldworks to gloss texts and create lexica. Together with Raphael Finkel of the University of Kentucky, we are currently creating an online interface for searching Fieldworks databases that will allow complex searches of glossed text with links to the lexicon and audio.
As much as possible, we strive to share our documentation through popular means such as our YouTube channel, which now allows for captions and rolling transcripts. In this way, our documentation has the best chances of reaching its most important audience, the young people of the community to which the language belongs. More recently, we have begun to participate in the Endangered Language Project and are sharing media through that online venue, as well. The latter is a free forum aimed at speakers of endangered languages to which anyone can upload video material.
There are several excellent introductions to linguistic fieldwork which detail the use of digital and analog tools in language documentation (see References). A great collection of questionnaires for grammatical exploration can also be found at the Max Planck Institute website.