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Language Documentation


Admission requirements



In response to the growing awareness of (1) the diversity of knowledge systems globally,
including languages, (2) the ongoing language and cultural attrition that undermines this
diversity, and (3) the consequent need for language revitalization, Language
Documentation has developed in the last two decades as a new subfield of linguistics. It
encompasses the collection, preservation, and distribution of primary linguistic data,
often in a long-term transdisciplinary approach and in close collaboration with language
speakers, typically people from highly marginalized groups who speak highly
endangered languages. The aim of Language Documentation is to create a lasting, multi-
media, and multi-purpose record of a language that can serve academic and non-
academic purposes.
In the first part of this course each student will have gained a thorough
understanding of the key topics in Language Documentation (LD), namely:

  • origin of LD and its positioning with respect to other branches of linguistics

  • language vitality, contact, change, and variation in the context of LD

  • multi-, inter-, and transdisciplinary approaches to research and their relevance to LD

  • colonial underpinnings of LD and how to deal with them when designing LD projects

  • ethical and societal aspects of LD, such as collaboration, revitalization, policy

In the second part of the course, the students will gain a set of basic practical skills
and an understanding of the Language Documentation workflow, including:

  • working with LD hardware such as video and audio recorders to create primary data

  • using LD software for transcribing recordings and for creating adequate metadata

  • uploading and depositing the data with professional digital LD archives

The course material for each class consists of short readings, including both general
overviews of relevant topics and case-based studies, and listening material, including 30-minute presentations by experts with first-hand experience of language documentation projects focusing on spoken and sign languages across the globe. It is important to note that this class is discussion- and task-based and full participation of students is mandatory.

Course objectives

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • familiarize oneself with LD literature, institutions, tools, and events

  • understand the long-term transdisciplinary nature of LD

  • critically reflect on the theory and methods of LD

  • acquire basic practical skills of the LD workflow

  • plan individual or collaborative LD projects


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Midterm (30%). After the first, more theoretical, part of the course, there will be
    an electronic take-home exam focused on the critical concepts discussed.

  • Assignment (10%). Each student will have to put to use the practical skills
    learned during the course and complete a mini LD workflow: create a short
    recording and associated files and, if possible, deposit it with a professional

  • Presentation (10%). Each student will have to present their idea for a LD project
    in a 5 min pre-recorded presentation (aka “elevator pitch”). The presentations
    will be shared online with the rest of the class and peer reviewed.

  • Final paper (50%). Using the theoretical knowledge and practical skills gained,
    the students will have to develop their own LD project throughout the course.
    The students will submit them to the lecturer in the form of grant application
    using a simplified version of a real grant form.


  1. Midterm 30%
  2. Assignment 10%
  3. Presentation 10%
  4. Final paper 50%


Re-sit will consist of re-writing the final

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Reading list will be distributed during the first class.

Brightspace will be used for:

  • information on the course and on assignments

  • notifications

  • submission of assignments and the final paper through turnitin.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Konrad Rybka Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats

E-mail address Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats:

Coordinator of Studies