Documentary Linguistics I (2018)

Winter term 2018/2019
Tuesday, 16:45-18:15 in Collegium Novum A 204
30 contact hours (1 class a week)
ECTS credits: 4
Lecturer: Nicole Nau


Course description:
This is the first part of a lecture that introduces students to basic tasks and methods of contemporary documentary linguistics and let 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%
Examples for assessment tasks:
Task 1: Explore language archives (DOBES, ELAR) and answer given questions about the organization and the content of a language documentation.
Task 2: Elicit and record spoken data, using techniques and tools discussed in class.
Task 3: Transcribe and annotate a sample of spoken language using techniques and tools discussed in class

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