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Seminar Linguistic Fieldwork A


Admission requirements

  • The BA Taalwetenschap course Klanken van de Wereld is a prerequisite.

  • It is strongly advised to take Taalkundig Veldwerk in combination with Taaldocumentatie.

  • Taalkundig Veldwerk B can only be followed after successful completion of Veldwerk A.


This course introduces students to the methods of linguistic fieldwork. Students are trained to carry out linguistic fieldwork, design interviews with the language consultant and use various visual stimuli, elicitation and grammar gathering techniques; this is achieved by working with a native speaker of an unfamiliar or under-described African language, and by applying theoretical linguistic knowledge to the material collected during fieldwork sessions. For this reason a basic knowledge and understanding of articulatory phonetics, phonology, morphology and syntax is required. The data collected during the fieldwork sessions is analysed and used to write a grammar sketch of the language. 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. The course additionally includes software-training sessions during which the students work with the software FLEx and ELAN in order to provide a small lexicon and an annotated text of the studied language.

Course objectives

At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • record, transcribe and annotate speech data of an unfamiliar language through the interaction with a native speaker

  • collect language data through word lists, visual stimuli and other grammar gathering techniques

  • apply theoretical linguistic knowledge to first-hand data and provide a basic analysis of the phonology, morphology and syntax of an unfamiliar language

  • compile a lexicon of the language using Fieldwork Language Explorer (FLEx)

  • transcribe texts in ELAN and provide time-aligned glossed texts by working with FLEx and ELAN together.


The timetable is available on the website of the BA African Languages and Cultures

Mode of instruction

Seminars, own research and hands-on training.
*We will meet twice a week for a field session and for a data discussion meeting. Students are responsible 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. Duties of the session leaders include: lead the elicitation; set up the video/audio recording equipment and monitor the recording process; transcribe, gloss and translate the data; submit their own field notes before the next class.
*A number of classes are reserved to software training sessions: during these sessions students are expected to bring their own laptops.

Course Load

*Total course load: 280 hours (10EC)
*Lectures: 13X4= 52 hours (1st semester), 13x4=52 hours (2nd semester), total: 104 hours
*Homework and assignments: 176 hours

Assessment method

In the first semester (Veldwerk A, 5 EC) the focus is on the phonology and on the morphology of the language. Students submit a preliminary phonology sketch (mid-term paper) and a description of the nominal and verbal morphology of the language (final paper). A small English-target language-English lexicon compiled with the software Fieldwork Language Explorer (FLEx) is handed in together with the final paper.
In the second semester (Veldwerk B, 5 EC) the focus is on the syntax of the language, and particular attention is given to a specific grammatical topic which is investigated through dedicated field sessions. This allows students to further refine grammar gathering techniques and to work more closely on a topic of their choice. Students submit a preliminary sketch of the syntax (mid-term paper) and a full grammar sketch (final paper). The grammar sketch consists of the revised phonology, morphology, and syntax of the language, plus a more detailed analysis of a grammatical topic chosen by the students. By the end of the course students are asked to process and analyse a text using both ELAN and FLEx.
Students of Afrikaanse talen en culturen can use the second part of the course (Veldwerk B) to develop their BA thesis. The same applies to students who take this course in the framework of the minor track Taalbeschrijving.


The final mark is a weighted average of different components.
Veldwerk A:
*Data annotation and transcription, class attendance and performance in field sessions: 20%
*Midterm paper (Phonology sketch): 20%
*FLEx project (English-target language-English lexicon of min. 200 words): 20%
*Term paper (Revised Phonology + Morphology sketch): 40%
Veldwerk B
*Data annotation and transcription, class attendance and performance in field sessions: 20%
*Midterm paper (Syntax sketch): 20%
*ELAN-FLEx project (transcribed, analysed and time-aligned text): 20%
*Term paper (Grammar sketch, incl. revised phonology, morphology and syntax + chosen grammar topic): 40%


Students who fail the course can resit the term paper + the FLEx project (Veldwerk A), and the term paper + the ELAN-FLEx project (Veldwerk B).

Exam review

Mid-term and term papers are thoroughly discussed in class, and students can request individual meetings within 30 days after publication of the results if they need further clarifications.



Blackboard will be used for:
*access to stimuli and elicitation material
*access to recordings
*announcements (session leaders and other practical information)

Reading list



This has to be filled out by the key-user of the department.

Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

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Contact information

Dr. S. Petrollino

Coordinator of Studies: P.C. Lai LL.M. MSc

Education Administration Office: van Wijkplaats


Languages used in class: Dutch, French or English, depending on the contact language of the informant.