"Language documentation is in principle a good thing for all concerned. It is good for the speech communities whose languages are documented; it is good for the countries where those languages are spoken; and it is good for humanity as a whole (Liberman, 2000)." However, to realize the potential benefits, documentary linguists must observe certain ethical conventions.
Four facets to ethical foundations for language documentation are:
- Ethics: a general code of conduct
- Informed consent: from consultants
- Intellectual property rights (IPR): legal status of materials produced
- Access management: for archives, over the long term
This area of the school is devoted to the ethical issues involved in language documentation. While the E-MELD project does not presume to advise on these matters, the subject of ethics is too important to be completely omitted from the School. This area is divided into three sections to help promote ethically grounded fieldwork:
- Get Informed: It is always important to be informed. In this section we provide you with links to sample statements and information on what kinds of things you need to know before embarking on a documentation project.
- Get Consent: Talk to your consultants about possible uses and misuses of the materials you will create together. Get some kind of explicit statement of their agreement and understanding and preserve that agreement with the materials. This section talks about how to document consent and what kinds of things you need consent for.
- Give Something Back: It is important to make some part of the language documentation useful and accessible to speakers, as early in the documentation process as possible. This section discusses what kinds of things might be useful to a speaker community and what kinds of questions you should think about when choosing a format.