ANTH 305

Faculty: Denice Szafran Office: Sturges 13F

Class: W-F 1-2:15 pm Sturges 14 Phone: 245-5174

Office Hours: T-Th 2-3:30 pm Email: szafran©

Course description:

In this course we will learn how to document an unfamiliar language by interacting with a person who speaks it natively. Over the course of the term, we will gain some familiarity with the phonology, morphology and syntax of the language while developing techniques for studying a new language more generally and approaching a language consultant. In addition, we will learn about practical issues in linguistic fieldwork.

Although we will not be enduring the hardships of actually being abroad in the field, we will approach our investigation with a clean slate, treating our language as though it had never been documented before. Together, we will be developing a dictionary, grammatical sketch and phrase book for the language.

There is a service learning component to the course this semester. Students will spend two hours a week in the classroom learning methods and techniques in linguistic fieldwork, and two hours a week conducting fieldwork while returning service to the individuals/communities they learn from, continuing a tradition of hands-on learning in our field and returning something of value to the communities with which we work as researchers. There are several options for this service learning: Maplewood Library in Rochester teaching ESL learners oral English communication skills on an individual basis and in groups; working with ESL learners here on Geneseo campus; working with the Somali community of ELL in Rochester. Students are required to undertake training sessions in ESL instruction, and this would take place at Maplewood and count towards their service hours.

Learning Outcomes:

·      Students will demonstrate knowledge of the empirical and theoretical aspects of linguistic fieldwork through class discussions and a final project.

·      Students will demonstrate an ability to collect, describe, and analyze sounds and speech in situ through data submissions.

·      Students will demonstrate the ability to think critically, present their ideas clearly, and argue their case coherently in projects and the write-up of a field project or term paper.

·      Students will demonstrate an acquaintance with digital technology and its use in the collection and analysis of data from the field.

·      Students will show an understanding of the differences between the issues of English as a Second Language and the needs of ESL learners and their home

Text Box: Procedure:
We will learn about linguistic documentation by documenting as much as we can of one
communities in Rochester by keeping a weekly journal of their field and service experiences, and presenting an ethnography of their field work as a final project.


Bowern, Claire. Linguistic Fieldwork. ISBN 978-0-23054-0.

Other resources: IPA keyboard online Sounds of American English audio and video files

Course Requirements:

Participation: This course demands an unusually high degree of participation from everyone. This means that you must be present at every meeting. We will have a plan of action every time we meet, but we are guaranteed to deviate from that plan due to the unexpected.

Reporting: You are required to have a digital recorder, either one of your own or one that you can sign out from,the Anthropology Department, in order to record the information you obtain. It is up to you and your informant to arrange a schedule to meet and obtain your information (outlined in the syllabus). Once each assignment is complete, you must transcribe(broad transcriptions only required) the data and then add it to a page on the class wiki specific for your project. You are asked to post your material weekly by the Tuesday night before our next meeting, even if you haven't finished the transcription or analysis. I will expect to have you bring your recordings and your notes every week so that we can discuss and compare your analysis.

Journal: You are required to make journal entries of field notes from your research weekly, to include your impressions, questions, and concerns about your research, very similar to writing a diary. It is from this information that you will create your final project, so please be thorough in your reporting. The journal is private — only you and I can see what you write, so feel free to be honest and open in your commentary.

Projects: You will be responsible for, and graded on, three projects. You will write (a) a visitor's phrase book, to be posted on your wiki page (b) a lexicon and short grammatical sketch that is posted on your wiki page, and (c) a transcribed, glossed and translated text (e,g., a short story told by the speaker).

Final paper: An ethnography/case study of your experience in the community you worked with for the semester, based in part on theories of immigration and refugee status, but focused on the linguistic experience of these two groups. We will discuss the format and requirements for this paper as the semester progresses.

particular language through consultation with a native speaker. Our work will be aimed toward the production of a lexicon, representing the form, meaning, and use of the closed-class formatives (function words and inflectional morphology), as well as what we can of the open-class formatives (typically nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives) and derivational processes. To do this, we inevitably must discover quite a bit about grammar and so you will spend some time working out the basic syntactic details of the language. The lexicon will therefore be accompanied by a short grammatical sketch.


Participation 10%

Data posting 10%

Journal 10%

Projects (3) 45%

Ethnography 25%

Grading scale:

93 -100


73 - 76.9


90 - 92.9


70 - 72.9


87 - 89.9


67 - 69.9


83 - 86.9


63 - 66.9


80 - 82.9


> 62.9


77 - 79.9





Schedule of activities:

Week 1: January 23 & 25. - Basic Introduction Administrative details

Introduction to field recording

Guest speaker January 25th

Week 2: January 30 & February 1 - Technology in the Field Recording, taking notes

Transcription and the IPA

Week 3: February 6 & 8 - Starting to Work on a Language What to do at your first session

Phoneme inventory, Errors and Cues, What to record

Week 4: February 13 & 15 - Data Organization and Archiving

How to run your session and save the data you record

In your first session with the consultant, elicit as many words as you can from the Swadesh list, which is posted on myCourses. Get each word in isolation, and in a very simple sentence.

Week 5: February 20 & 22 — Fieldwork on Phonetics and Phonology Broad and narrow transcription, suprasegmentals, and research design Elicit as many nouns as you can, getting the following forms:.

(a)             singular

(b)           plural

(c)             possessed for all persons and numbers of the possessor (my, your, his/her/its,our, your, their)

(d)           One (consistent) form with a demonstrative or determiner, e.g., English 'a tree,"the tree', or 'this tree'. Be sure to do this for as wide a semantic range of nouns as possible.

Week 6: February 27 & March 1 — Basic Morphology and Syntax

Why do elicitation?

Work to make a preliminary summary of the consonant and vowel segments that occur in your corpus so far, and the syllable shapes you think you are seeing there (formalize them as CV, CVV, CVC, etc.). You are free to indicate whether any sets of segments pattern as allophones of the same phoneme; however, that should not be your main goal in this assignment.

Week 7: March 6 & 8 — Even More Morphology

Paradigms and Productivity

Elicit as many new verbs as you can, getting the following kinds of forms:

(a)           All persons and numbers of subject, to the extent necessary;

(b)           For transitive/ditransitive verbs, all persons and numbers of object, to the extent necessary.

(c)           As full a set of tense/aspect distinctions as you can (give priority to simple forms over compound or periphrastic forms (i.e., forms involving repetitive auxiliaries). Be sure to do this for as wide a semantic range of verbs as possible.

(d)           negative forms

Week 8: March 13 & 16 — Lexical and Semantic Data

Lexicons and Domains

See if you can establish classes of noun stems according to how they form singular, plural, possessed, and demonstrative forms. These classes may end up being phonologically defined, morphologically defined, semantically defined, or, failing any of these, simply arbitrarily defined. It may also be some combination of these possibilities (as with gender in Romance languages). Post a summary of your analysis.

Week 9: March 20 & 22 - Spring Break

Week 10: Ma-rch 27 & 29 — Discourse, Pragmatics and Narrative Data Working with texts, and discourse data

See if you can establish classes of verb stems according to how they combine with forms for person, number, tense, aspect, or anything else you find relevant.

These classes may end up being phonologically defined, morphologically defined, semantically defined, or, failing any of these, simply arbitrarily defined. It may also be some combination of these possibilities (as with the conjugations in Romance languages). Be sure to indicate as large a verbal paradigm as you can.

Week 11: April 3 & 5 — Consultants and Field Locations

Consultants, Semi-speakers, and Life in the Field

Find a dictionary - any dictionary - and describe what kinds of information it includes and how that information is organized. Can you think of some kinds of information, or some alternative types of organization, that might have been useful or valuable in this dictionary?

Week 12: April 10 & 12 — Ethical Field Research

Ethics, archives, permissions, and endangered languages

Work to produce a visitor's phrase book. Include greetings, leave-takings, simple questions/requests/commands, direction and orientation, and likely-to-be-needed collocations in simple situations (eating, finding a place to stay, looking for someone; dealing with illness...and whatever else you think of.)

Week 13: April 17 & 19 — Working with Existing Materials

Published sources, other people's recordings, videos, other people's research Prepare a lexicon covering your corpus so far, along with a thumbnail grammatical sketch. The sketch should have sections for phonology, morphology, and syntax. It will be limited, of course, by the preliminary nature of your corpus, but this is no reason not to attempt such a summary. Work with the consultant to determine the structure of yes/no questions, wh-questions, complement clauses, relative clauses, basic adjectival/adverbial modification structures and any other important structures you believe are missing from your grammatical sketch.

Week 14: April 24 & 26 — Fieldwork Results

Guides, grammars, web sites, and how to pass your information along

(a)           Record a short text.

(b)           Text transcription/translation/analysis. Work with the consultant to transcribe, translate, and gloss a portion (to be specified in class) of the text, and to turn in a clean re-presentation of your results.

(c)           In your clean draft, flag those items that you had trouble segmenting, labeling, or analyzing.

Week 15: May 1 & 3 final edition of lexicon, grammatical sketch and text due. FINAL EXAM DATE: May 13th — Ethnography due in the dropbox no later than 3:30 pm. No printed copies accepted, absolute!y no late work accepted.