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Semester 1

Linguistic Fieldwork and Language Description (LASC10050)


Language Sciences and Linguistics





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Visiting student must have completed at least 3 Linguistics/Language Sciences courses at grade B or above. We will only consider University/College level courses. This course cannot be taken alongside LEL2A (LASC08017) or LEL2B (LASC08018). **The Language Sciences courses offered at the University of Edinburgh are extremely intensive and visiting students have struggled with these courses in previous years. Students are expected to have a strong background in Linguistics as an academic discipline; courses that are part of a Modern Foreign Languages degree may not provide students with an adequate background**

Course Summary

In this course, students gain expertise in methodologies that enable them to study linguistic phenomena first-hand, using data that they themselves collect from a native-speaker consultant and then proceed to process and analyse. Through sessions with a native speaker of an unfamiliar language, the students experience the stages of discovery, confusion, and hypothesis-testing that are inherent to the study of undocumented language phenomena. The lectures and the readings support this process, by offering insight into a wide range of language structures at different levels of the grammar. The course covers the following general topics: (1) approaches and issues in fieldwork data collection; (2) analysing the sound system of an unfamiliar language; (3) analysing the morphology, syntax, and semantics of an unfamiliar language. These topics are explored through lectures, data collection sessions with a native speaker consultant, readings, and two project papers.

Course Description

There are two main components to this course: data collection sessions (two classes per week) and discussion sessions (one class per week). The data collection sessions with a native speaker consultant form the backbone of this course. Active participation is essential here. Initially, students take turns eliciting data from the speaker. It is the responsibility of each student to plan their data collection, and to analyse the data. These sessions will be recorded, and the data will be made available to all students after the session. The class works together to process, store, and distribute the data. Towards the end of the course, students work with the speaker to analyse a naturalistic text in the target language, which complements the elicited data. In the discussion sessions, the class meets without the native speaker consultant. The format of these sessions varies, depending on what challenges the data present. For example, we might discuss possible analyses of the data, formulate hypotheses, and plan what data we could collect to choose between competing hypotheses. Sometimes there may be mini-lectures on a particular phenomenon that we have come across in the target language, to help guide students in their analysis of the data. The classes are supplemented by additional weekly readings, which will help to broaden and deepen students' skills in data collection and analysis.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 0%, Coursework 100%, Practical Exam 0%

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