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Field Methods


Admission requirements

  1. A course in articulatory phonetics, such as the BA Taalwetenschap course ‘Klanken van de wereld’ (=‘Sounds of the World’) or an equivalent, is a prerequisite.
    Students with no previous training in articulatory phonetics are required to make up for this deficiency before or during the Field Methods course. Please contact the lecturer if you have questions.

  2. A basic knowledge of linguistic concepts and how to apply them to language data is assumed; 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.
    and for phonetics and phonology in e.g.
    Gussenhoven, C. and H. Jacobs. 1998 (2nd ed.) Understanding Phonology. London: Arnold
    Davenport, Mike and S.J. Hannahs. 2005 (2nd ed.) Introducing Phonetics and Phonology. London: Arnold.


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 working with a native speaker of a language unfamiliar to them. The main goal is to document and analyze central areas of the language, ranging from sounds, to words, to sentences and utterances. The course will additionally include information on the use of tools and techniques for eliciting, recording, transcribing, archiving and presenting linguistic material, while ethical and practical issues of working in the field will also be discussed. Students will carry out both group work and an individual project.

Course objectives

  1. To be able to record, transcribe and annotate speech data of a previously unfamiliar language, through the interaction with a native speaker.
    1. To be able to gather data from the language through elicitation of word lists and grammar, as well as analysis of (spoken) texts .
    2. To be able to organise linguistic data in a database.
    3. To have achieved a basic analysis of the phonology, morphology and syntax of the language and be able to present this coherently in written form .
    4. To be able to identify which data gaps still exist for the analysis .
    5. To be able to evaluate usefulness of different elicitation methods for different linguistic domains.
    6. To be able to evaluate the relationship between the collected primary data and the theory that shapes linguistic research questions.
    7. To have acquired skills in the use of audio and video recording techniques as well as relevant software (Elan, Toolbox/Flex).
    8. To have an overview of the practical issues related to fieldwork (choosing a field site, orthography design, how to work with speakers, etc.)


The timetable is available on the “MA Linguistics website”:

Mode of instruction

Combination of lecture, seminar, and independent research: In addition to 2 hours of class per week, students are expected to also collect their own data with the native speaker outside of class, for minimally 30 minutes per week. Students taking this course must be prepared to make time for such meetings, and are expected to attend all classes. Students take turns in being the manager of the field sessions in class. Duties include: prepare the sesssion, keep elicitation going, take notes of the results, transcribe, gloss and translate the data, and submit a written report before the next class.

Course Load

Attending lectures: 30 hours
Work with consultant outside class: minimally 10 hours
Time for studying the compulsory literature: 80 hours
Time for completing assignments during the course: 70 hours
Time to write the term paper: 90 hours

Assessment method

I. Performance in field sessions, transcription, data annotation, class attendance: 20%
II. Essay 1: Introduction to the language (1 page)
III. Essay 2: Phonology sketch (5 pages) (20%)
IV. Essay 3: Morpho-syntax sketch (approx 8-10 pages) (20%)
V. Term paper: A grammar sketch of minimally 20 pages (plus appendix) (40%).
It contains:
(i) An introduction to the language (revision of essay 1)
(ii) A chapter on the phonology (revision of essay 2)
(iii) A chapter on the morpho-syntax (revision of essay 3)
(iv) A chapter / section on a special topic chosen by the student (3-5 pages),
(v) An Appendix with (a) a text of a few minutes (transcribed, glossed and translated), (b) A word list (local language-English, English-local language)
The term paper is due before the end of the semester. Not meeting this deadline means that the next opportunity to have your work graded will be at the end of the following semester.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • distribution of readings

  • communication

Reading list

Bowern, Claire. 2008. Linguistic Fieldwork: A Practical Guide. Palgrave MacMillan.
Chelliah, Shobhana L. and Willem J. de Reuse. 2011. Handbook of Descriptive Linguistic Fieldwork. London: Springer.
Payne, Thomas. 1997. Describing Morphosyntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
When registering, students that are registered for the specialisation that this course belongs to, or the Research Master, take priority. The deadline for registration is August 15. All other students should contact the “coordinator of studies”:
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Student administration Van Eyckhof