SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics

Field Methods

Module Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

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


This course will be taught over 22 weeks with 2 hours per week classroom contact.  In addition to this students will have 9 x 1 hour tutorials per term.

Scope and syllabus

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 of this course is to cover some aspects of central areas of language, e.g. phonology, lexicon, and grammar. The course 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. It will be co-ordinated with other courses taught in the programme, in particular, “Technology in Language Documentation”, which will allow the incorporation of more advanced recording and elicitation techniques and achieve an overall better analysis of the studied language.

Method of assessment

One essay of 1,500 words to be submitted on day 1, week 6, term 1 (15%); one essay of 1,500 words to be submitted on Friday, week 10, term 1 (15%); one essay of 1,500 words to be submitted on day 1, week 6, term 2 (15%); one essay of 1,500 words to be submitted on Friday, week 10, term 2 (15%); one essay of 4,000 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 3 (40%).

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