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Teaching fieldwork skills Friederike Lüpke Fl2@soas.ac.uk
Three relevant components Methodological skills Analytical skills Fieldwork skills How these are understood and taught differs considerably. Practical skills
Analytical skills • Often understood as the core linguistic skills necessary to arrive at descriptive statements based on empirical data: • Building an analysis based on paradigm elicitation or from a text. • Generally starting with phonemic analysis because of its importance for understanding morphology.
Methodological skills • The knowledge to employ varied and adequate data collection techniques in order to arrive at a valid analysis of a given linguistic domain. • Potential and limits of corpus data • Benefits and challenges of elicitation • Knowledge of stimulus-based data collection techniques • Expertise with the collection and analysis of quantitative data
The skills necessary in order to conduct a field-based research project: Getting accepted by the speech community Setting up a field base Selecting, using, maintaining and repairing equipment Collecting, editing, digitising and analysing primary data Dealing with health and safety issues … Practical skills
Crucial: interdependence of the components Analytical skills Methodological skills Fieldwork skills Practical skills Art Craft
What can be taught in class? • The format of field method courses should be expected to have consequences for their content: • Number of consultants • Choice of language • Length of course • Availability of equipment and technical and IT support and expertise However, there is less variation than one would expect between the basic setup and focus of field method courses.
Number of consultants This setup entails limits regarding the nature of linguistic information and interaction. Courses generally work with one consultant, one or more instructors, and a group of students of varying size.
A number of courses work with speakers of any ‘exotic’ language, even if there is a wealth of information on it available, e.g. Korean, Swahili, etc. Other courses insist on selecting a language for which little or no linguistic information exists. Choice of language This setup is more similar to the initial situation in the field, where all areas of grammar need to be understood before specific areas can be researched. This setup entails more scope for in-depth investigation of specific areas of grammar.
Length of course • Courses vary dramatically in length, from a whole academic year to a trimester. • However, depending on the language chosen, the analytical and methodological task for a course of twelve weeks in length can be as big as that for a course spanning two semesters Maybe only longer courses should focus on un(der)described languages?
The old ELAP LDD model Term 2 Term 1 Issues in LDD – ‘artsy’ practical and methodological skills Field methods – focus on analytical skills Technology and LDD – ‘craftsy’ practical and methodological skills Problem: practical and methodological skills are learned through working with language data, so should ideally use the data collected in field methods.
The new ELAP LDD model Term 2 Term 1 Field methods – focus on analytical skills, but more inclusion of practical and methodological skills Issues in LDD – ‘artsy’ practical and methodological skills Technology and LDD – ‘craftsy’ practical and methodological skills Problem: skills learned in the Issues and Technology courses don’t build up on each other but are needed simultaneously, ideally at the beginning of Field methods.
No more field methods course? Term 2 Term 1 Project work finding a language community in London and collecting first sociolinguistic data Project work: student groups investigate different areas of that language and exchange data and findings Assessment Issues in LDD – ‘artsy’ practical and methodological skills Technology and LDD – ‘craftsy’ practical and methodological skills
Your vote • Please vote for one of the course layouts: • Classic (one speaker, focus on analytical skills) • Old ELAP LDD (Issues and Technology precede Field methods) • New ELAP LDD (Field methods alongside Issues and Technology) • No more Field methods course, but integrated project work
Challenges • The more controlled the teaching of field work skills is, the more it is removed from the reality of working with a language under field conditions. • However, the setup of higher education requires modularity and effectiveness of assessment, more difficult to achieve in integrated setups. • In addition, integrated setups are more difficult to realise because skills and approaches across teaching staff are not identical.
“For description, the main concern is the production of grammars and dictionaries whose primary audience are linguists… In these products language data serves essentially as exemplification and support for the linguist’s analysis.” (Austin 2006: 87) [..] Language documentation, on the other hand, places data at the center of its concerns.” (Austin 2006:87) Description vs. documentation
If we are serious about the centrality of data, the skills associated with their collection and analysis should be a central part of the curriculum, be it in a designated course or distributed over the syllabus.