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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Language Sciences

Postgraduate Course: Linguistic Fieldwork and Language Description (LASC11061)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course offers students the opportunity to gain expertise in a methodology that will enable them to study linguistic phenomena first-hand, that is, on the basis of data that they themselves collect from a native-speaker consultant and then proceed to process and analyse. Through elicitation sessions with a native speaker of an unfamiliar language, the students experience first-hand the stages of discovery, confusion and hypothesis-testing that are inherent to the study of undocumented language phenomena. The lectures and the readings support this process, by offering insight into a wide range of language structures at different levels of the grammar.

The course covers the following general topics: (1) approaches and issues in fieldwork data collection; (2) analysing the sound system of an unfamiliar language; (3) analysing the morphosyntax of an unfamiliar language. These topics are explored through lectures, data collection sessions with a native-speaker consultant, readings, and two project papers.

The sessions with a native-speaker consultant constitute the backbone of the course. Active participation is essential here : it is up to the students themselves to elicit most of the data. These sessions make up two thirds of the total contact time. In these sessions, the participants elicit data from a native speaker of an unfamiliar language, and analyse narrative material with the native speaker's assistance. The students themselves prepare the material to be elicited before the session. Recordings are made at several points, to support the analysis of the sound system and the grammar, and also to have a narrative to use for text analysis.
Course description Week 1: Introduction and getting ready for first session
Reading: Vaux & Cooper pp. 37-45 (chapter 3 Basic lexicography); Payne pp. 111-128 (chapter 6 Predicate nominals and related constructions)
Monday - lecture
Wednesday - lecture
Thursday - data collection

Week 2: The sound system / nouns and noun phrases
Reading: Two Illustration of the IPA papers (Tuttle & Sandoval 2002, Remijsen & Manyang 2009)
Monday - data collection
Wednesday - lecture
Thursday - data collection

Week 3: The sound system / nouns and noun phrases
Reading: Payne pp. 192-110 (chapter 5 Noun and noun phrase operations)
Monday - data collection
Wednesday - lecture
Thursday - data collection

Week 4: The sound system / nouns and noun phrases
Reading: Payne pp. 32-70 (chapter 3 Grammatical categories)
Monday - data collection
Wednesday - lecture
Thursday - data collection

Week 5
Reading: Matthewson (2004)
No lecture or data collection sessions

Week 6: The verb system
Reading: Payne pp. 129-139 (sections 7.1 and 7.2 of chapter 7 Grammatical relations), plus revision of chapter 8 Voice and valence adjusting operations [familiar from LEL2D]
Monday - data collection
Wednesday - lecture
Thursday - data collection

Week 7: The verb system
Reading: Payne pp. 223-260 (chapter 9 Other verb and verb-phrase operations)
Monday - data collection
Wednesday - lecture
Thursday - data collection

Week 8: The verb system
Reading: [to be determined later]
Monday - data collection
Wednesday - lecture
Thursday - data collection

Week 9
Reading: Dryer (2006)
Monday - data collection
Wednesday - lecture
Thursday - data collection

Week 10
Reading: Woodbury (2003)
Monday - data collection
Wednesday - lecture
Thursday - data collection
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2019/20, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 27, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 169 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The course is assessed in three ways: participation in elicitation sessions (20%); a short paper outlining the sound system of the target language, halfway through the course (20%); a longer project paper at the end of the course (60%). The shorter paper is approx. 1500-2000 words long. The final project paper presents a descriptive analysis of a topic in the sound system or the morphosyntax of the target language, on the basis of original data collected during the course. It is at least 4000 words long.
Feedback The first project paper is submitted halfway through the course. Soon afterwards, the lecturer meets individually with each student to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of this paper. In this way, feedback on the first project paper will inform both the linguistic analysis and the academic writing in the final project paper, on the basis of which 60% of the overall mark is awarded. In this way formative feedback can play an important role in helping the students to improve.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. investigate language using two data collection techniques: controlled elicitation and text analysis
  2. independently process and analyze linguistic data
  3. develop a descriptive analysis through a dialectic between data collection and reflection upon those data
Reading List
References re. the set readings:
Dryer, Matthew S. (2006). Descriptive theories, explanatory theories, and basic linguistic theory. In Felix Ameka, Alan Dench, & Nicholas Evans (eds.) Catching language: issues in grammar writing. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Matthewson, Lisa (2004). On the methodology of semantic fieldwork. International Journal of American Linguistics 70, 369-415.
Payne, Thomas E. (1997). Describing Morphosyntax: A guide for field linguists. Cambridge University Press.
Remijsen, Bert & Caguor Adong Manyang (2009). Luanyjang Dinka. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 39(1), 113-124. [please use the version with embedded sound examples]
Tuttle, Siri & Merton Sandoval (2002) Jicarilla Apache. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 32(1), 105-112.
Vaux, Bert & Justin Cooper (1999). Introduction to linguistic field methods. Lincom Europe.
Woodbury, Tony (2003). Defining documentary linguistics. Language Documentation and Description 1, 35-51.

Here are some suggestions for optional further reading. If you are interested to learn more about linguistic fieldwork in general, then the Newman & Ratliff volume is my top recommendation.
Dixon, R.M.W. (1997). The rise and fall of languages. Cambridge University Press. [An introduction to issues in language diversity, aimed at a general-interest audience.]
Evans, Nicholas (2010). Dying words: endangered languages and what they have to tell us. Wiley-Blackwell. [This book approaches language diversity from a variety of angles. Very accessibly written.]
Newman, Paul & Martha Ratliff (eds.) (2001). Linguistic Fieldwork. Cambridge University Press. [Inspired personal accounts by experienced fieldwork linguists. It offers valuable best-practice recommendations for data collection. I particularly recommend the paper by David Gil ┐Escaping Eurocentrism: fieldwork as a process of unlearning┐.]
Sakel, Jeanette & Daniel L. Everett (2012). Linguistic Fieldwork. Cambridge University Press. [The title is the same as the publication above, but the content is quite different. Sakel & Everett try to comprehensively cover the practical aspects of doing fieldwork.]
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Data analysis: the students are responsible for the processing and analysis of their raw session notes after each of the elicitation session, and this work is critical to the quality of the project papers.
Team work: a) the students are responsible for the recording and processing of audio data; b) the students work together during the elicitation sessions.
Social skills / cross-culture communication: the native-speaker consultant is typically from a non-western country. The students are establishing and developing a social relationship with him or her.
Effort and diligence: the course has a relatively high workload, and the various tasks (preparing materials for elicitation, processing of data) need to happen on a regular basis for analytic insight to develop.
Keywordslinguistic fieldwork,descriptive linguistics
Course organiserDr Albert Remijsen
Tel: (0131 6)50 6657
Course secretaryMiss Toni Noble
Tel: (0131 6)51 3188
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