The politics of transcription

Haberland, H. (Lecturer)

Activity: Talk or presentationLecture and oral contribution


Transcription is one way of reducing speech to text (Haberland 1998, 1999) – not of reducing languages to writing as for Kenneth L. Pike – or, with a fancier expression, of ‘entextualization’ (Bucholtz and Park 2009).

Ever since the common availability of electronical (and now digital) recording devices, linguists and other field worker have produced large corpora of transcriptions of their data. Without these transcriptions, much research would have been impossible, since the data are volatile and only a fixation through transcription makes them analyzable. This does not mean that a transcription is, or could be, a faithful rendering of the data. It is always reduced in some way.

Transcription is always partial in both senses of the word and involves choices. In this sense transcriptions are political, since they are made for a specific purpose and serve that purpose: often they do not serve other purposes as well.

Transcription involves necessarily interpretation. I am going to present a catalogue of issues that have been discussed in connection with the establishment of a data and transcription storehouse for the CALPIU Research center in Roskilde for the study of cultural and linguistic practices in internationalized universities.

oHow readable should a transcription be, how technical may it be?

oHow do we deal with transcriptions in languages with logographic and/or syllabic scripts?

oHow fine-grained does a transcription have to be?

oDo we recognize words and sentences in transcriptions?

oDo multilingual data require special coding? How many languages do we recognize in a multilingual transcription? Are languages ‘segregable and countable’?

oDoes the choice of software (e.g. CLAN) limit our choice of transcription formats (e.g. CHAT)?

Period18 Mar 2010
Event titleThe politics of transcription: null
Event typeConference
LocationHong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong