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Linguistic Fieldwork A


Admission requirements

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.


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 a language consultant and by using various elicitation and grammar gathering techniques.
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.
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 and morphology of the language. In Linguistic Fieldwork B, we extend our knowledge of the phonology and morphology, in addition to studying syntax and information structure.

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

  • Apply adequate data management strategies to the collected data

  • Present a basic analysis of the phonology and morphology 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 for carrying 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. Session leaders will prepare and lead the field session

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.
The final paper will contain a revision of the midterm paper, plus information on the morphology of the language. The final paper will contain an Appendix with a lexicon.

The final mark is a weighted average of the following components:
*Participation (class attendance, performance in field session, active participation in class discussions on data analysis and other topics, peer review): 25%

Participation involves;

  • being present in class (if you cannot be present, inform the lecturer beforehand. Unexplained absences may affect your participation grade)

  • actively participating in discussions, asking and answering questions

  • preparation of and performance in field sessions

  • peer reviewing mid-term paper

*Midterm paper: 25%
*Final paper (revised midterm paper, with morphology and lexicon): 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 My Studymap is mandatory.

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For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar

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.

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