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Language Documentation


Admission requirements

Not applicable


In response to a growing awareness about language endangerment and language death, language documentation has developed in the last two decades as a new area in linguistics. It encompasses the collection and preservation of primary linguistic data. This course will introduce the concept of language documentation and will train students in issues pertaining to optimizing data collection and good conduct in the field. The topics we will deal with per week are: Language endangerment (what to expect when working on an endangered language); The fieldwork situation (preparation, implementation, writing up afterwards); Ethics of carrying out fieldwork; Cooperation with communities (what can linguists do); Revitalization/preservation (de-colonization of revitalization efforts); Orthography (if your language has not been described before); software programmes FleX and ELAN; Ethnography & language documentation; Sociocultural context (incl. language genres, oral traditions); Sociolinguistic context; Semantic domains and Cultural Scripts (e.g. ethnobiology; stellar lore etc., MPI tools).

Course objectives

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Discuss the motivations for and pitfalls of language documentation;

  • Discuss the various ethical questions and good practices involved in different regions.

  • Understand the role of the researcher and the community in language documentation research;

  • Plan a documentation project.



Mode of instruction


Course Load

The course load for this course is 140 hours.

Hours spent on attending seminars: 28 hours (2 hours a week x 14 weeks)
Hours spent on reading the compulsory literature: 50
Hours spent on completing small assignments: 15
Hours spent on completing documentation project: 47

Assessment method

This course will be assessed on three components: small weekly assignments, an in-class presentation and a documentation project.
The small weekly assignments are collectively worth 20% of the final mark, the presentation is worth 30% and the final documentation project is worth 50% of the total mark.
Retakes can only be done if the student handed in the original assignment before the deadline. They will consist in a repetition of the same task.


This course is supported by Blackboard. Blackboard will be used to provide students with an overview of current affairs, as well as specific information about (components of) the course. Please see:

Reading list

A full literature list will be posted in June 2015


Enrollment through uSis for the course and the examination or paper is mandatory.

Contact information