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Field Methods


Field Methods

This course provides an introduction to linguistic field methods. Working with a speaker of a language that the class does not know, we will attempt to determine as much as possible about the structure of the languages, including the phonetic, phonological, morphological, syntactic and semantic systems. This will be done using a variety of structured elicitation techniques, with non-verbal prompts, and by analyzing texts that we will elicit from the speaker. The course covers elicitation techniques, data management, transcription and analysis, with close attention on how to discover and describe a language on its own terms. The class outcome will be a jointly-produced thumbnail grammar, set of texts, and dictionary database for the language. 
The course will meet in two sections, each limited to 12 students, one led by Lenore Grenoble and the other led by Tony Woodbury. Each section will work with a different speaker (we do not yet know if the sections will work with the same language or different languages). It is a ‘double course’ in that each section will have four two-hour class meetings per week, and students, in addition, will be expected to conduct individual or small-group elicitation sessions outside of class. Each week, three days of class time will be organized around group elicitation in teams and analysis of technique and results. The two Field Methods sections will join together on the fourth day of class time for a discussion of general readings on language documentation and description; its role in linguistic inquiry; and the role of linguistics and linguistic training in community efforts to preserve and support local languages.
As a ‘double course’, field methods will require a substantial commitment on the parts of the students and the instructors. Because of this, and because we have set a cap on enrollments, we request that those wishing to register for the course complete a short questionnaire telling us of your interests and goals in taking the course. We are looking for commitment, but emphasize that we want to attract any linguist wanting to make field work a part of their working repertoire, including not only documentarian/descriptivists, but also experimental and computational linguists, typologists and theoreticians, historical and sociolinguists, and specialists in particular languages.

If you would like to be considered for the field methods class, please fill out the survey at the link below no later than July 3, 2015. Applicants will be informed about the outcome of their applications shortly after. You can register for a full load of other courses to hold your spaces in them in case your application to the field methods class is not successful. If it is successful, you will be contacted to discuss how to adjust your schedule to accommodate field methods.


Required textbook:
Linguistic fieldwork: A practical guide, 2015 edition, by C. Bowern.

Course Status: Open

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Course Number:


Course Session:

Four-week Session


Monday - Tuesday:
8:30 am-10:20 am
Thursday - Friday:
8:30 am-10:20 am


One year of graduate school, or the equivalent of an undergraduate major in linguistics.