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Fields Methods and Linguistic Analysis


Admission requirements

BA/MA in linguistics or a particular language (e.g. Dutch, Indonesian, French, Arabic). BA/MA in Anthropology or Bible Translation with an interest in linguistic fieldwork.

Please study the following pre-requisite readings beforehand, as a basic knowledge of linguistic concepts and how to apply them on actual language data is assumed:

  • (i) Gussenhoven, C. and H. Jacobs. 1998 (2nd ed.) Understanding Phonology. London: Arnold and/or

  • (ii) Davenport, Mike and S.J. Hannahs. 2005 (2nd ed.) Introducing Phonetics and Phonology. London: Hodder Arnold

  • (iii) Payne, Thomas E., 2006. Exploring language structure: A student’s guide. Cambridge: CUP and/or

  • (iv) Kroeger, Paul R., 2005. Analyzing grammar: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    A recommended co-requisite course is the elective Articulatory Phonetics & Typology of sounds (also a 5 ECT Research Master elective).


An exciting part of studying linguistics is learning about a language from speakers rather than from books. Good linguistic theory is not only based on finding the universals of language, but also on an appreciation of how languages vary.
In this course we will learn about a poorly described language by working with a native speaker. The aim is to document and analyze linguistic data, ranging from segments, to words, to utterances.
The field work practice includes learning about tools and techniques for eliciting, recording, transcribing, archiving and presenting linguistic material, including the creation, use and archiving of digital audio and video data. At the same time we will discuss ethical and practical issues of working in the field. Students will carry out both group work and an individual project.

Course objectives

  • Learn about a poorly described language by working with a native speaker.

  • Practice data collection and analysis (phonological, morphological, syntactic, semantic, textual)

  • Practice data organisation in database and on paper

  • Learn about the relationship between the collected data and the theory that shapes data collection and research questions

  • Learn about the ethical and practical issues of working in the field, such as: the goals of language documentation, choosing a field site, choosing a consultant, processing field data, fieldwork methods, orthography design, how to work with speakers, reference grammar design, dictionaries and word lists.

  • Learn about tools and techniques for eliciting, recording, transcribing, archiving linguistic material, including the creation, use and archiving of digital data.

  • Learn how to apply for grants for field research


The timetable will be available by June 1st at the website of Research Master in Linguistics

Mode of instruction

Tutorial, group research work, individual research work.
Students taking this course must be prepared to attend all classes and to work intensively throughout the course.
Students take turns in being the manager of the field sessions in class. Duties include:

  • Keep elicitation going

  • Take notes of the results

  • Transcribe, gloss and translate the data

  • Make the transcription and the translation available before the next class
    Each week we meet for four hours in class. Three hours will be dedicated to field sessions in class, and one hour for discussion of the data collected, as well as the practical, analytical and ethical issues that arise.

Assessment method

  • Students will be assessed on how they perform in the field sessions, transcription, annotation of data, and class attendance (20%)

  • Phonology sketch (approx 5 pages) (20%)

  • Morpho-syntax sketch (approx 8 pages) (20%)

  • Final paper: a grammar sketch with (i) an introduction, (ii) a chapter on phonology (revision of sketch), (iii) a chapter on morpho-syntax (revision of sketch), (iv) a chapter on a special topic chosen by the student, (v) a glossed and transcribed text, (vi) a word list. Minimally 20 pages, due end of term (40%)


Yes. Blackboard

Reading list

  • Bowern, Claire. 2008. Linguistic Fieldwork: A Practical Guide. Palgrave MacMillan, 253 pp. Additional readings will be handed out, or put on Blackboard.

  • Plus: the pre-requisite readings mentioned above!


Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Application for Contractonderwijs

After application, students can register for courses and exams through uSis

Contact information

Coordinator of Studies