Developing without Developers: Choosing Labor-saving Tools for Language Documentation Apps

  • Luke D. Gessler Georgetown University


Application software has the potential to greatly reduce the amount of human labor needed in common language documentation tasks. But despite great advances in the maturity of tools available for apps, language documentation apps have not attained their full potential, and language documentation projects are forgoing apps in favor of less specialized tools like paper and spreadsheets. We argue that this is due to the scarcity of software development labor in language documentation, and that a careful choice of software development tools could make up for this labor shortage by increasing developer productivity. We demonstrate the benefits of strategic tool choice by reimplementing a subset of the popular linguistic annotation app ELAN using tools carefully selected for their potential to minimize developer labor.