RAPID WORD COLLECTION
Understanding Rapid Word Collection
What is Rapid Word Collection?
According to SIL International Rapidwords.net, the Rapid Word Collection method aims to revolutionize the task of collecting words by using a systematic method to capture these words in a workshop organized in the language community. Rather than the default language worker’s process of collecting words over a period of years and then publishing a work containing 5,000 words or so, RWC workshops consistently achieve a total of 10,000 or more raw entries during a brief two-week period. When compiled in lexical format, this will result in approximately two thirds of that amount as unique lexical entries with one or more senses. The only other method that comes close to the effectiveness of Rapid Word Collection is the text corpus method--the highly technical process of gleaning words from thousands of vernacular texts, which are in short supply for most languages which have only recently begun to be expressed in written form. The text corpus method requires a computer-savvy linguist, while the Rapid Word Collection method has been used in over a hundred languages by previously untrained native speakers.
How does it work?
According to Rapidword.net, it is based on principles of cognitive theory, Ron Moe of SIL International pioneered a technique called the Dictionary Development Process (DDP), of which the first phase is Rapid Word Collection. There is substantial evidence that we organize words in our minds in a giant network of relationships. Words tend to cluster in groups called “semantic domains.” So a semantic domain is like a family of closely related words that are linked in a variety of ways. Linguists call the semantic relationships between words "lexical relations."
Why collect words?
100% of surviving First Nations languages across British Columbia are critically endangered , with fears of many of these languages disappearing in years, rather than decades. Given that Indigenous languages carry within them a community’s history, cultural traditions, and spiritual beliefs, and that Indigenous health and well-being is tied to language and culture identity , it is imperative that language revitalization activities begin immediately that focus on tools for the intergenerational transmission of knowledge; not word collections only but linked to their use in context, in conversation, and the communities world view while the fluent elders and knowledge keepers are still able to do so.
Indigenous language loss is a direct result of historical colonization and forced assimilation, including the implementation of the Indian Act and the residential school system. This language loss has been heightened by the intergenerational trauma perpetuated by forced colonization and current concerns about the stigmatization of First Nations communities, urbanization and colonial policies that do not prioritize Indigenous language revitalization . Additional factors include inadequate curricula and text corpora available to teach Indigenous languages, community preferences for speaking English, and the dominance of western approaches and English in public schools/online . Colonial Eurocentric approaches to language capture have also been highlighted as systemic ‘basic routines’ that need to be addressed.
University of British Columbia. (n.d.). Indigenous Languages Fluency Symposium. https://bit.ly/39OUWsi
Gessner, S., Herbert, T., Parker, A., Thorburn, B., & Wadsworth, A. (2014). Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages 2014. First Peoples’ Cultural Council.