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Field Methods


Admission requirements

BA in Linguistics or related discipline. This course has two prerequisites

  1. A course in articulatory phonetics, such as the BA Taalwetenschap course ‘Klanken van de wereld’ (=‘Sounds of the World’) or an equivalent.

  2. A basic knowledge of linguistic concepts and how to apply them to language data, as described for morphology and syntax in e.g.
    Payne, Thomas E., 2006. Exploring language structure: A student’s guide. Cambridge: CUP.
    Kroeger, Paul R., 2005. Analyzing grammar: An Introduction. Cambridge: CUP.


An exciting part of studying linguistics is learning about a language from speakers rather than from books. This course is aimed at preparing students for a real-world field situation by learning to work with a native speaker of an endangered language. The main goal is to learn the skills required for interacting with members of the speaker community with an aim to learning (and analyzing) their language while taking a collaborative approach to the research at hand. Forming an intellectual partnership with the people is crucial to the fieldwork endeavour since this may involve a new perspective on what one researches and how one gathers data. Students are required to reflect in this course on the roles of both the researcher and the speakers involved. A native speaker of Kari’na, a Cariban language of Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana, shall be present each week to simulate the field situation in all its aspects and to guide the students to make ethical choices. We will meet once a week for 3 hours in Blocks III & IV, from February 3rd until and including April 6th . Students are required to bring their own laptop and/or recording equipment each week, as well as pens and paper.

  • Each week we meet once for 3 hours where we collect data in class and have plenary discussion of data collection, analysis, and practical or ethical issues as they arise.

  • Students taking this course must be prepared to attend all classes and to be engaged and work intensively throughout the course.

Some topics we will deal with are: Language endangerment (what to expect when working on an endangered language); The fieldwork situation (preparation, implementation, writing up afterwards); Ethics while carrying out fieldwork; Cooperation with communities (what can linguists do); the role of ethnography in language research; Sociocultural context (incl. language genres, oral traditions); cultural scripts.

Course objectives

By the end of this course, students will be able to: • Discuss the motivations for and pitfalls of language research in situ;

  • Discuss the various ethical questions and good practices involved in fieldwork research;

  • Understand the role of the researcher and the community in language field research;

  • Record, transcribe, translate and annotate a Kari’na narrative text as told by a native speaker.


The timetable will be available on Blackboard by the start of the course.

Mode of instruction

Combination of lecture, seminar, and research

Course Load

Attending class: 27 hours
Studying the compulsory literature and preparing for class: 58 hours
Preparation of the presentation (including reading/research) : 55 hours
Essay: 140 hours

Assessment Method

This course will have three assessment components:
1) Class participation & weekly (reading) assignments/practical exercises (20%)
2) An in-class presentation as a reflection on field research (30%)
3) Essay on an aspect of the Kari’na language including a transcribed, translated and annotated narrative text (50%)
Due date for essay: April 20th, 2016 at 24:00.


Blackboard will be used to provide students with an overview of current affairs, as well as specific information about (components of) the course.

Reading list

Background reading:

  • Bowern, Claire. 2008. Linguistic Fieldwork: A Practical Guide. Palgrave MacMillan.

  • Carlin, Eithne B. 2002 ‘_Patterns of language, patterns of thought: the Cariban languages_’, in: Carlin, Eithne B. and Jacques Arends (eds.), Atlas of the Languages of Suriname. Leiden: KITLV Press. Pp. 47-81.

  • Derbyshire, D.C. 1999 ‘Carib’, in: Dixon, R.M.W. and A.Y. Aikhenvald (eds.), The Amazonian Languages. Cambridge: University Press. Pp. 23-64.

  • Nicholas Thieberger, The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic fieldwork. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Payne, Thomas. 1997. Describing Morphosyntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Other reading materials will be announced during class.


Enrolment in uSis is obligatory. If you have any questions, please contact the student administration, tel. 071 5272144 or mail:

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

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Registration Contractonderwijs via:


MA Linguistics departmental office, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144;