Linguistic Field Methods

Instructor(s): Nick Evans and Wasang Baiio

This course is an introduction to linguistic field methods. As a class we will work from scratch with a speaker of a minority language that none of us know, endeavoring to discover as much as possible about the structure of the language, at all levels - phonological, morphological, syntactic, semantic - through a combination of structured questioning and working with texts that we will record from the speaker. The emphasis will be on how to discover the systematicity of an unknown language on its own terms, through asking the right questions as its architecture gradually emerges. By the end of the course our goal will be to present a collective mini-description of the language with accompanying archived materials: this will involve intense and close collaboration among all participants, necessitating a limited class size.

Note that this course will occupy two regular class slots to ensure adequate cumulative time to reach breakthrough stage in our understanding of the language. In addition to collective class time, students will be grouped into twos or threes, each of which will meet with the speaker once a week to pursue individual topics.

The identity of the language will be revealed on the first day of the class.

Natural companion subjects for this course include:

  • Other courses on field methods which focus more on data-processing and archiving
  • Other courses on the structure of individual languages in presenting an integrative model of all aspects of a language

Textbook (Available at CU Bookstore):
Title: Dying Words: Endangered Languages and What They Have to Tell Us
ISBN: 978-0-631-23306-0
Author/Editor: Nicholas Evans
Edition: 2010
Publisher: Wiley Blackwell

Special Enrollment Procedures for Field Methods:
This course (along with the other Field Methods course) has a limited enrollment in order to ensure the effectiveness of the class. At all past Institutes, requests for enrollment have far exceeded capacity, and we anticipate this will again be the case. Therefore you cannot enroll directly in this course, unlike other Institute courses. Instead, you must send an expression of your interest in the course to . The Institute directors, in conjunction with the two instructors of the field methods courses, will make the final decision as to who will be enrolled. You will then be automatically enrolled by the Institute, or else notified that you have not been accepted into the course and that you should enroll in another course.

Your expression of interest should include:

  1. what region of the world you come from, what languages you can speak, and what regions of the world you might expect to work in using your field methods experience (specific targetted languages are a plus).
  2. how you might expect to apply this field methods training within the next few years, in terms of specific theoretical research interests and goals.
  3. what other opportunites you have had or will have to pursue field methods training as a graduate student.
  4. whether you have done previous linguistic fieldwork.

Please limit your response to 250 words. We will of course also consult your application for further details of your academic record.

Note that, depending on exactly how the instructor chooses to conduct the course, you will most likely be required to pass an on-line Institutional Review Board exam on human research, hosted by the University of Colorado, which normally takes around 2-3 hours to complete. You will need to do this prior to arrival at the Institute. If you are selected for the course, we will give you the details about this on-line exam well in advance of the Institute.

Field Methods registration requests are still open! All requests will be considered as a group AFTER registration closes. We will notify you at that point if you have been admitted. Please remember to register for four courses now (other than field methods) and you can then drop one course later if admitted to field methods.