Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Juliette Blevins

Committee Members

Jason Kandybowicz

Daniel Kaufman

Subject Categories

Digital Humanities | Language Description and Documentation | Linguistics | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures


language documentation, virtual reality, Akwesasne, Iroquoian


Robust documentation is a major goal of documentary linguistics. Recognizing spoken language as a multimodal phenomenon, researchers working in this field broadly agree that video is an improvement over audio-only recording. At the same time, video is limited by the format’s frame, which permits only a relatively small portion of the visual field to be recorded at any given time. This results in much data being lost, as the documenter must decide where to aim their camera, necessarily leaving out more than they record.

In this dissertation, I apply 360º video to language documentation for the first time. 360º video, which is one variety of virtual reality, improves upon traditional video by drastically expanding the frame, recording in all directions surrounding the camera. In this way, a maximum of visual data is recorded, and there is no need for the camera to be redirected as participants take turns speaking or move around the space. I recorded over 10 hours of 360º video with ambisonic audio, containing mostly naturalistic conversation in the Akwesasne variety of Kanien’kéha (Mohawk), an endangered Northern Iroquoian language spoken in New York State, Ontario, and Quebec. Most of the existing documentation of Kanien’kéha outside of this corpus is formal or non-naturalistic. The resulting corpus thus serves a dual purpose: it is both a demonstration of the capabilities of 360º video for language documentation, and a contribution to the documentation of Kanien’kéha.

This dissertation includes a brief grammatical description of Kanien’kéha phonology and morphology, a discussion of the interplay between technology and language documentation throughout North American history, an exploration of the significance of 360º video to documentary linguistics, a brief analysis of gesture and intonation in the present corpus, and an assessment of the suitability of ambisonic audio for linguistic analysis. Directions for potential future research are indicated throughout.