Max Planck Institute
for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Linguistics

Typological tools for field linguistics



This website contains tools for use in field linguistics and language description. Most of the items on the website are questionnaires designed to assist in eliciting data in such a fashion that the data will be comparable across languages. The idea behind this website was that field linguistics should be typologically informed and that the results of field work should be of typological interest. The questionnaires and other tools presented here help the field linguist understand what questions might be of typological (and theoretical) interest and guide the linguist in both eliciting data and extracting information from naturalistic texts. In addition, we included "elicitation kits", allowing the researcher to present movie clips and similar language stimuli to native speaker consultants to see how they would describe the event shown. The number of elicitation kits available is still very limited, but we hope that more will be available in the future. We also included information on books and articles that provide down-to-earth guidance to the field linguist.

The emphasis in this website is on tools for language description, as opposed to tools for language documentation, suggestions for choice of hardware etc. By a "typologically informed field linguistics" we mean field work guided by the goal of examining the range of possible variation in human language. This goal can be approached in a very concrete fashion that examines surface variation, or it can be approached from the perspective of a highly abstract model in which surface variation is of less interest than variation in abstract patterns or distributions. Our intent was to be resolutely agnostic about such questions, and to include "tools" designed for both purposes. We see questionnaires, elicitation kits etc. as a way for experts in a particular area of interest to pass on their practical knowledge to field workers whose training or primary interest may be in some other area of linguistics. We also see the website as a useful tool for classes in linguistic field methods. The materials on our website can help guide the students toward a productive use of their time with native speaker consultants.

The site was edited by Peter Cole (MPI EVA and the University of Delaware) and Jeff Good (MPI EVA and SUNY Buffalo), the webpage coordinator was Claudia Bavero (MPI EVA). Please note that the tools listed on the website remain the property and responsibility of their authors. This is true regardless of whether the tool in question is accessed by a link to an external website or whether it is stored on the server for this website.

(Leipzig, last actualization May 31, 2015)