H.O.L.D – Holistic Oral Language Documentation

HOLD, or Holistic Oral Language Documentation, is an approach to documenting the language and expressive arts of a language group. This is done by sending a small group of people to a language area for a few weeks to record stories, traditional dance and music, traditional architecture, and traditional objects or art forms. People from the language group then provide a recorded commentary on each item documented in the language of wider communication (Melanesian Pidgin or English).

The documentation process may also include participatory methods of survey. Participatory methods utilize a trained facilitator to explore a topic with a group resulting in group discussion and often a visual representation of the answer. Both the discussion and answers are valuable. One example would be to ask the group to make a map of the area (using stones or objects) and identify all the villages where they have relationships (marriage, trading, other). Once that is done, they will be asked to put those relationships in order of importance. This tells much about what they value and various things that are happening between communities.

We hope to utilize short term teams and PNG university students or church designated personnel to do HOLD. If this is something that you may be interested in doing, please contact us for more information.

There are several aims or benefits of HOLD.

1. Preserve/document language and visual arts
There are many dead or dying languages and changing cultures in PNG. In communities where this is happening the people often feel a real loss of identity. Recording the language and culture helps to document it, meeting a deep felt need of PNG language communities to have some of their heritage preserved. Many of the languages in PNG are currently undocumented.

2. Make it available to the wider linguistic community, PNG government and educational institutions, and other interested people
The linguistic world is crying for the documentation of languages worldwide and they desire to analyze previously undocumented languages. There is also a real pride and interest within PNG to document and analyze different cultural expressions and possibly display or publish them. This could make information available to educational institutions, museums, and many others.

3. Be able to classify similarities and differences in languages and arts
Classifying the language helps us to know how widespread the language is and identify related languages and dialects. This helps us to determine which groups might be able to combine resources in language development. Survey and documentation can possibly give clues to the structure and unique aspects of the languages.

4. Identify the viability of the language or areas that could provide for fertile further study
Since we will be documenting a wide variety of items (but none of them in-depth), this can identify arts or language areas that may offer fertile further study. It also has a great potential to map traditional culture or vernacular vitality. Survey and documentation can also lay a good foundation for further language development in languages.

5. Identify needed areas of vernacular work, both felt needs and those maybe not apparent
Our desire is for people in language communities throughout PNG to take an interest in vernacular Scripture and language development. This begins with open dialogue with them about language development which may also help to answer questions they may have related to their language and culture, including helping them to identify what they currently have, what has been lost, and why things have changed.

6. Find out how God’s Word has or has not impacted multiple areas of their lives
Sometimes God’s Word co-exists with animistic beliefs and practices and sometimes it only touches a few domains of life in a community. We hope to also gather information related to how God’s Word has or has not impacted their lives which could be valuable to pastors and church leaders. This information should enable them to better teach or equip people to apply God’s Word across all areas of life.


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