In one of our textbooks for Linguistic Anthropology, Language in Society, the author Suzanne Romaine dedicates a part of chapter 2 in exploring the topic of language death. Language death occurs when a language ceases to be spoken and used by people, rendering it non-existent in terms of communication between others.
Language death is a scary concept as it can really happen to any language. What causes this to happen has been debate by linguists, from minority communities being suppressed and overridden by majority force in society, to a phenomenon called “language shift” where a community starts off as bilingual but gradually loses their native tongue.
Viewshare was pretty awesome the first time around. The best part of it was the map that was auto created. Not only did it show the plotted points but by hovering over the points you can see more specific things (such as which person reported speaking a language) and by clicking on that person’s randomized ID number, you could see all the details of their entry.
However, the amazement soon fell away after I took down the data to make adjustments. The second time around, I could not re-upload the files. We lost all the visuals from the first data set and we could not recover it. According to the site, the file was corrupted. Luckily the second data set went up with only a few minor problems; the map was generated and any other issues, I was able to fix quickly.
Overall Viewshare is not too bad; it could be even better if you are using smaller and simpler data sets. The map and charts, when functioning properly, are very user friendly and interactive which was our main goal when presenting our data.
ViewShare is a website in which people can input a selection of data, like an excel chart, and the program will allow the person to create different charts, maps, lists and timelines, depending on what kind of information the program can read from the data. Professor Quizon set up the account and I, Ellie Hautz, explored it’s features with a mock Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to see how we could use ViewShare in our research. We all worked on coding the information onto the Microsoft Excel file. I took the final version and uploaded it to ViewShare to see what I could do with it. I was so excited to see the amount of charts I could make with it. I looked at the map portion and it had plotted points that I had not intended it to. For instance our version of New York was specifying New York, NY. However, the program read it as New York in the United Kingdom. So I thought that maybe putting in coordinates would plot easily. I then had a discussion with the group to decided what coordinates we were going to use. We decided that for everyone using North New Jersey English would be based on Bergen County and South New Jersey English would be Cape May County since they were the most coastal north and the most coastal south.The majority of our participants were from New Jersey. However, a good deal of participants indicated other states our countries. For plotting these, we decided to use the capital of the state or country origin of the language unless otherwise specified by the participant. So I made an extra section of my own Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with the coordinates for these areas, however, it still was not working properly. I looked closely and the program asked for the city and state and/or country of each data point. So I went through again and used the capital of every county, state, and country. Finally it worked and the map plotted correctly.
Unfortunately, after a week or so of the corrected data, ViewShare stopped being compatible with our first set of data.
Our team member Ellie Hautz was tasked with figuring out how to map place names that were provided as regional descriptors for a language. In a sense, individuals were identifying where a particular speech community lives, either as a result of their own lived experience or inferred from information shared by others. The map that this query generates is quite distinct: using Viewshare we see a wider and richer distribution, encompassing both the perceived geographical origins of a language but also the location of speech communities as witnessed or inferred by our respondents.
One of the most interesting decisions made by the team was how to capture the high incidence of descriptors for New Jersey and New York varieties of English. Viewshare required specific latitude/longitude codes in order to generate a map. As a New Jersey-based university, our team felt obliged to step up to the richness of the local data before us. After exploring various strategies, we decided to adapt principles used in Rick Aschmann’s American Dialects website. Like Aschmann’s site as well as the broader literature on English dispersal in the US, we used the Eastern seaboard as starting point. However, to graphically capture what our respondents refer to as “northern NJ,” we decided to map it onto New Jersey’s northernmost seaside county (Bergen) with the capital city of Hackensack. Similarly, verbatim descriptors of “southern NJ” were mapped onto the southernmost seaside county (Cape May) with the same-named capital city. Aschmann used slightly different terms, however, because he was plotting nationally beyond a single state. For purposes of this specific data set, what appears elsewhere as “Inland North” was coded as “Northern NJ”; what is referred to elsewhere as Atlantic Midland is what was coded as “Southern NJ.” Whenever New York was mentioned, the variety descriptor “Greater New York City” was used.
Interestingly, our college campus is located in Essex County, NJ located in a geographical region that falls somewhere at the cusp of the language varieties of Northern NJ/Inland North as well as Greater New York City.