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Linguistic Fieldwork A


Admission requirements

‘N.B. Course descriptions are subject to change’

The examination and, if indicated, the teaching of the following units of study can only be taken if the examinations of the preceding units of study have been passed of Speech Sounds of the World/Klanken van de Wereld.

Entry requirement: Speech Sounds of the World/Klanken van de Wereld. (Please contact the lecturer in advance if you wish to do this course but do not meet this requirement.) It is advised to combine Linguistic Fieldwork A with the course Language Documentation.


Brief introductory description of the course. Please include course subject and teaching materials used.
This course introduces students to linguistic fieldwork. Students are trained to carry out linguistic fieldwork by working with a native speaker of an unfamiliar or under-described non-European language. The aim is to collect and analyse sufficient field data to be able to write a basic grammar sketch of the language.
Data are collected through interviews with the language consultant and by using various elicitation and grammar gathering techniques, including visual stimuli.
The data collected during the fieldwork sessions will be analysed by applying theoretical knowledge of linguistics on primary data. For this reason, a basic knowledge and understanding of articulatory phonetics, phonology, morphology and syntax is required.
The course takes place twice a week: one class is dedicated to the data collection with the native speaker, and the other is devoted to the discussion and the analysis of the collected data. Students are asked to transcribe the recordings and analyse their field notes at home on a weekly basis.
The course additionally includes software-training sessions during which the students work with the software FLEx and ELAN in order to provide a small lexicon and an annotated text of the studied language.
Linguistic Fieldwork A in the first semester is a pre-requisite for Linguistic Fieldwork B in the second semester. In Linguistic Fieldwork A we focus on the basic phonology, morphology and syntax of the language, up to the clause level. In Linguistic Fieldwork B, we go beyond the clause level and students work on a topic of their own choice.

Course objectives

At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Record, transcribe and annotate speech data of a previously unfamiliar language, through the interaction with a native speaker.

  • Collect data through word lists, visual stimuli and other techniques

  • Use audio and video recording techniques and relevant software (Elan, Toolbox/Flex) to collect and annotate language data.

  • Apply adequate data management strategies to the collected data

  • Present a basic analysis of the phonology, morphology and syntax of the language in written form

  • Identify which data gaps still exist for the analysis

  • Identify practical issues related to doing fieldwork (choosing a field site, orthography design, how to work with speakers, etc.)


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Seminars, own research and hands-on training.

*We will meet twice every week: once for a field session and once for a data discussion meeting. Students will be responsible to carry out elicitation sessions, and transcribing and analysing the data. In the data discussion meetings we will address practical issues as they arise, and we will discuss proposed linguistic analyses for the collected data.
*All students will have to prepare the field session in advance, take notes during the recording sessions, transcribe, gloss, and translate the collected data. For each field session, two “session leaders” will be chosen. Duties of the session leaders include: lead the elicitation; set up the video/audio recording equipment and monitor the recording process; transcribe, gloss and translate the data; submit their own field notes before the next class.
*A number of classes will be reserved to software training sessions: during these sessions students are expected to bring their own laptops.

Assessment method

As midterm paper, students submit the first half of their grammar sketch, containing an introduction to the language and a sketch of the phonology of the language, with an Appendix containing a lexicon.
The final paper will contain a revision of the midterm paper, plus information on the basic morphology and clausal syntax of the language. The final paper will contain an Appendix with an (extended) lexicon and a glossed and translated text.
The final mark is a weighted average of the following components:
*Class attendance and performance in field sessions: 30%
*Midterm paper: 20%
*Final paper (revised midterm paper, with morphology and syntax, lexicon and glossed & translated text): 50%


Students can resit the final paper.

Exam review

Mid-term papers are thoroughly discussed in class. Students will be given the opportunity to inspect their graded final papers within a month after disclosure of the results.

Reading list

We will use chapters of the following textbook as background literature during the course. The book is available in the library.

Bowern, Claire. 2008. Linguistic Fieldwork: A practical guide. Palgrave Macmillan.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


For questions related to the content of the course, please contact the lecturer, you can find their contact information by clicking on their name in the sidebar.

For questions regarding enrollment please contact the Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats
E-mail address Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats:

For questions regarding your studyprogress contact the Coordinator of Studies