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Handbooks Courses Units

LIN4040 - Researching and documenting languages

12 points, SCA Band 1, 0.250 EFTSL

Postgraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Dr Margaret Florey


Clayton Second semester 2008 (Day)
Clayton Second semester 2008 (Off-campus)


This unit provides students with knowledge and skills in methods used in researching endangered languages covering both elicitation methods involving working directly with a speaker of a language and the location, identification, and analysis of historical/archival language material. It develops the ability to select and use appropriate methodologies for the recording of grammatical and sociolinguistic data, including quantitative and qualitative methods, as well as the use of archived texts and audio recordings, and the comparison of extant material for closely related languages and families. The unit also addresses fieldwork practicalities, and issues of ethics, advocacy and empowerment.


On completion of this unit students should be able to:

  1. formulate research questions associated with the documentation of languages, the classification of languages, and the social contexts of language relatedness, particularly in non-literate societies,
  2. evaluate and apply appropriate methodologies to implement research questions,
  3. demonstrate familiarity with a range of methods appropriate for the rich documentation of language including preparing elicitation questions to document a linguistic feature and developing a questionnaire for sociolinguistic research,
  4. discuss and critique the sociopolitical issues of advocacy and empowerment in relation to fieldwork,
  5. demonstrate an understanding of the context in which historical archival materials might have been written down and named,
  6. understand general principles for evaluating different naming practices for languages and language varieties,
  7. analyse historical archival material in terms of the sound system, and aspects of the grammatical system including word building, as revealed by notes and translations provided,
  8. consider word meaning and pragmatics of language use by reference to general principles as well as the systems evident in the material being analysed,
  9. apply theoretical frameworks utilised by researchers in the analysis of phonology, syntax, language relatedness and historical change; and in the design of practical orthographies.

Students should also demonstrate competence in the following skills:

  • obtaining access to source materials and secondary writings through the library and other resources (including publications produced by community and non-government organisations),

  • analysis and interpretation of texts and audio resources, including the application of appropriate terms, concepts and theoretical frameworks for the discussion of their content and form,

  • application of key concepts to new sets of data,

  • critical academic discussion of information and argument,

  • presentation of their results orally and in written exposition (including planning, arguing on the basis of evidence, and documenting),

  • engagement in team work,

  • advanced skills in research essay writing.

  • Assessment

    Analytic exercise (1250): 15%; Research proposal (1000 words):12.5%; Preparatory materials for data collection (questionnaire, elicitation questions) - 1000 words:12.5%; Data collection (750 words): 10%; Research Essay (4500 words): 45%; Group/Online participation: 5%.

    Contact hours

    2 hour seminar per week


    LIN1020 or ALM4110


    ALM 4150, LIN 3040

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