SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Field Methods

Module Code:
Taught in:
Full Year

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  • An ability to record, transcribe and annotate speech data of a language, students were previously not familiar with, through the interaction with a native speaker
  • An ability to gather language data through word lists and grammatical elicitation
  • An ability to identify the kinds of data needed to fill gaps in the analysis
  • An ability to evaluate the usefulness of the different elicitation methods for different linguistic domains
  • An ability to analyse the data collected using different elicitation methods
  • An ability to achieve a basic morphological and syntactic analysis of the relevant language
  • An ability to acquire skills related to the use of audio and video recording techniques, as well as relevant software (Elan, Transcriber, Toolbox, etc.)


Total of 20 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

This module 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 of this module is to cover some aspects of central areas of language, e.g. phonology, lexicon, and grammar. The module will additionally concentrate on the practical use of technology in language documentation and demonstrate how it will be applied in linguistic analysis of an unfamiliar language, as well as on providing annotation (metadata) for recordings.

Method of assessment

  • A critical assessment of audio-video recording techniques (1500 words) to be submitted on the Friday after reading week in term 1 (20%)
  • Analysis of data set (1500 words) to be submitted on the Friday after the reading week in term 2 (20%)
  • Research essay (3000 words) to be submitted on the Friday of week 1 in term 3 (60%).

Suggested reading

  • Abbi, Anvita, 2001. A manual of linguistic field work and structures of Indian languages. München: LINCOM EUROPA.
  • Himmelmann, Nikolaus P. 1998. Documentary and descriptive linguistics, Linguistics 36: 161-195.
  • Newman, Paul & Martha Ratliff (eds.) 2001. Linguistic fieldwork. Cambridge, UK; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
  • Payne, Thomas E. 1997. Describing morphosyntax. A guide for field linguists. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Vaux, Bert & Justin Cooper. 1999. Introduction to linguistic field methods.
    München: LINCOM EUROPA.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules