Documentary linguistics

Prof. Nicole Nau, Winter term 2016/2017
Monday, 13:30-15:00, room 212 (Collegium Novum B). Start: 10 October 2016
30 contact hours (1 class a week)
ECTS credits: 4

This lecture is part of the MA program Empirical Linguistics and Language Documentation.
Students of other programs are welcome.

Find new information and course material for this class on the ELLDo-homepage, here.

The lecture introduces students to basic tasks and methods of contemporary documentary linguistics and helps them acquire the skills necessary to participate in documentation projects. The focus is on lesser used and endangered languages, but general principles will also be applied to other languages (taking into account students’ wishes). This first semester is concerned with gathering and annotating linguistic data. In particular, students will:

  • learn about content, methods and aims of language documentation and explore documentations available on the Internet;
  • learn how to elicit and record data in linguistic fieldwork;
  • learn to apply techniques and tools for the transcription and annotation of linguistic data;
  • explore possibilities and techniques for “data harvesting” from Internet sources;
  • acquire a basic understanding of data management.

Assessment and grading:
Student’s activity in class = 10%, written reports of three assessment tasks = 90%

Work load:
30 contact hours (15 classes)
15 hours preparatory reading
60 hours exercises, assessment tasks and reports

Bibliography (detailed recommendation for reading will be given in class)

  • Austin, Peter K. & Sallabank, Julia, eds. 2011. Cambridge Handbook of Endangered Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Cooper, Justin & Vaux, Bert A.. 1999. Introduction to Linguistic Field Methods. München: Lincom.
  • Crowley, Terry. 2007. Field Linguistics: A Beginner’s Guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Drude, Sebastian & Trilsbeek, Paul & Broeder, Daan. 2012. Language documentation and digital humanities: The (DoBeS) language archive. Conference abstract, Digital Humanities 2012, Hamburg.
  • Gippert, Jost &Himmelmann, Nikolaus & Mosel, Ulrike, eds. 2006. Essentials of language documentation. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Haig, Geoffrey L. J. & Nau, Nicole & Schnell, Stefan & Wegener, Clauda, eds. 2011. Documenting endangered languages. Achievements and perspectives. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton.
  • Himmelmann, Nikolaus P. 1998. Documentary and descriptive linguistics. Linguistics 36(1): 161-95.
  • Ostler, Nicholas. 2009. Corpora of less studied languages. Corpus Linguistics: An International Handbook, ed. by Anke Lüdeling and Merja Kytö, 457-483. Berlin / New York: Walter de Gruyter.
  • Seifart, Frank et al., eds. 2012. Potentials of language documentation: methods, analyses, and utilization. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. Available online at:
  • Thieberger, Nicholas, ed. 2011. The Oxford handbook of linguistic fieldwork. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Selected online resources