Language and Culture Archive of Ashkenazic Jewry Digital Archive User Guide: Overview of the Collection

This is a guide to using the Digital Archive to the Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry (dlc.library.columbia.edu/lcaaj)

Help us update the LCAAJ!

A link to a Google Folder with the OCRed answers to the LCAAJ will be available here, and individual spreadsheets will be made available upon request for updating and transcription.  If you will be working with materials that have not been included in the printouts and would like to transcribe data to add to the spreadsheet, please be in touch!

lcaaj@library.columbia.edu

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Introduction

The answer data for the Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry has been digitized and made available in a searchable database.For information on how to search it, see Searching for Answers to Questions, part of a more extensive section on Using the Data. Along with the answer data, the Libraries have digitzed some key tools essential for its use.  The components of  the whole digital collection are as follows:

  • The Questionnaire: A combined list of more than 3000 questions comprising a larger "Eastern" questionnaire administered to speakers from areas where Yiddish was still a living language and a shorter  "Western"
     one administered to speakers from  areas where Yiddish still had significant traces in local dialects.   The questions in the Eastern questionnaire (and more selectively in the Western questionnaire)  are grouped and/or qualified by an ethnographic table of contents indentifying broad topic areas, and an extensive set of linguistic questions that individual questions were designed to address.
  • Interviewee (Location) Data: Information about the approximately 640 informants chosen to represent a meaningful range of the Yiddish language communities of Europe (and in two instances, Israel), along with the names of the localities they represented, the broad regions into which the LCAAJ interviewers divided those localities, and the presence or absence of data from their interviews in one or more of the series of Printouts (see below in the next section).
  • Answer Data: The specific answers to questions, written down by interviewers in the course of a lengthy interview process, are available in three different formats, arranged below in the order that researchers will probably find most efficient to use them:
    • Printouts: Starting in the early 1960s, the staff of the LCAAJ entered eidted responses to the questionnaire into a computer and then printed out the information in question number order. These printouts represent the contents of about  one half of the entire corpus.  Because of the limitations of computing at the time, four separate batches, nearly unique in terms of the interviewees they represent, were produced.  The blue, yellow, and black binder series represent answers to the Standardized Master Questionnaire, while the red dot series represents answers to the Western Questionnaire.  The text of the printouts have been OCRed (i.e., made machine readable) and are available in pdf form on this site, and, on request, in a cleaner and more manipulable form through the crowd-sourcing LCAAJResearch workspace.
    • Answer Sheets: Form documents created to standardize entry of the answers  to the specific questions questionnaire.  Each page for a given informant represents one page of the questionnaire, and the questions from that exact page (e.g., page 002 contains lines to record the answers to the questions 010-070 assigned to that page).  The answers were entered by hand, using a project-specific transcription and notation system, These are the primary source of information for interviewees not included in the printouts, and the presence of  both the raw answers noted down by the interviewers and the subsequent edits of the project team make this a valuable secondary source for those that are.
    • Blue books: Blue books represent the earliest phase of the project, before a standard answer form had been created.  These are simply university blue books (such as what you might use to take an exam).  They are only identified by geographic location (used to identify the interviewees), although the answers follow the order of the Stabillized Master Questionnaire. Because most of these answers were photocopied and placed on standard answer forms, the blue books will only need to be used in exceptional cases.
  • Appendix: Contains supplemental information files, most linked to the text of the documents in the main part of the guide.

The following external resources will also be important for many researchers working with the data

  • Audio Tapes: Thanks to grants in the 1990s from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the New York State Program for the Conservation and Preservation of Library Research Materials, and a number of private foundations in the 1990s, the audio from the full interviews has been digitized, and is available via EYDES (Evidence for Yiddish Documented in European Societies) along with a rich array of tools and resources, including full transcriptions of some of the interviews. Consulting the audio will be essential for anyone who wants to take in the full context of the information source of the answer data for any informant, to get a truer sense of the accentual and speech patterns of any locality, or to verify the original interviewer's assessment in the answer sheets of the word or phrase provided by an informant
  • Non-digitized and related material
    • The Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry was published in three volumes by Niemeyer (ten volumes were initially planned), and is available in Butler Library (Digital Humanities Center Reference, 305 Butler R016.296 L25)
    • The remainder of the LCAAJ archive, which consists of the day-to-day files of the project, are available physically at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library.  A finding aid for the entire archive is available online.
    • The Marvin Herzog papers also contain documents related to the LCAAJ.  Processing of the Herzog collection is in progress, and should be completed by the end of 2018.