MAPS – Designing culturally relevant elicitation stimuli

If you are thinking animations could be useful to your future research project or study, don’t hesitate to reach out, I can help!

Linguistic fieldwork and elicitation-based data collection has been hit hard by the pandemic. But these challenges turned into the opportunity to train myself in design and character animation. I followed a four month intensive training and although I will not be hired by Pixar anytime soon, I can now design and animate simple scenes!

These new skills allowed me to build the possessive structure elicitation stimuli for my on-going project, MAPS (Multifactorial Analysis of Possessive Structures). Data can then fully be collected online, or locally on a laptop. These are two clips taken from the MAPS stimuli with the two main characters: Maki and Niklas, respectively from Paama island and Sápmi!

The advantage of using animation for elicitation stimuli is that one can not only ensure comparability across linguistic groups, but also adapt the stimuli to the target ethnolinguistic communities. Shooting elicitation videos on a European campus, with European actors, and a European landscape in the background can come out very odd to non-European participants. The unfamiliarity of the elicitation material could even potentially skew their descriptions, and hence the results of the study.

Once the scene is animated, updating the background or the character is very easy and can therefore be extended to any ethnolinguistic group on the planet! This was certainly useful for MAPS, where I study the evolution of possessive constructions used by North Sámi speakers who live in the Arctic and Paamese speakers from Vanuatu who live in the Tropics.

Within the next few months, I will make the MAPS elicitation stimuli and the code for the online experiment openly accessible from this website.

Published by

Simon Devylder

Linguistic Anthropologist

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