Postgraduate Course: Linguistic Fieldwork and Language Description (LASC11061)
|School||School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||This 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.
There are two main components to this course: data collection sessions (two classes per week) and discussion sessions (one class per week).
The data collection sessions with a native speaker consultant form the backbone of this course. Initially, students take turns eliciting data from the speaker. It is the responsibility of the student to plan their data collection, and analyse the data. These sessions will be recorded, and the data will be made available to all students after the session. The class works together to process and distribute the data. Towards the end of the course, students work on analysing a naturalistic text in the target language, in order to complement the elicited data.
In the discussion sessions, the class meets without the native speaker consultant. The format of these sessions varies, depending on what challenges the data present. For example, we might discuss possible analyses of the data, formulate hypotheses, and plan what data we could collect to choose between competing hypotheses. Sometimes there may be mini-lectures on a particular phenomenon that we have come across in the target language, to help guide students in their analysis of the data.
The classes are supplemented by additional weekly readings, which will help to broaden and deepen students¿ skills in data collection and analysis.
*Please note that the weekly reading list is available on Learn, via the Resource List*
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2021/22, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Lecture Hours 27,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|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.
||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
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- investigate language using two data collection techniques: controlled elicitation and text analysis
- independently process and analyze linguistic data
- develop a descriptive analysis through a dialectic between data collection and reflection upon those data
|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.]
|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.
|Keywords||linguistic fieldwork,descriptive linguistics
|Course organiser||Dr Laura Arnold
Tel: (0131 6)50 6977
|Course secretary||Mrs Elinor Lange
Tel: (0131 6)51 3188