The centrality of language in human life means we cannot document any language without understanding all the spheres of knowledge it is used to talk about. Equally, undocumented languages contain too much information to be wasted on linguists alone. As the medium through which the whole fabric of traditional knowledge about everything in the world is transmitted, the importance of these languages stretches out in the direction of many fields of enquiry, from ethnoecology to comparative jurisprudence to deep history to the study of musical and verbal art. Linguists, then, have a responsibility not just to their own field but to all areas of scholarship concerned with the almost infinite varieties of human creativity, and we abrogate this responsibility if we do not seek to follow our documentation of the languages we study down all these lanes and by ways of orally transmitted lore. One of the appeals of fieldwork is that we get the opportunity to develop interests in many new subjects, from botany through ethnography to thatch-making. But few linguists reach the point where we are able to really penetrate to the heart of all these fields, and in practice the best way to extend our documentary coverage is through some form of interdisciplinary fieldwork. The advantages of interdisciplinary fieldwork are most obvious in the way it can extend the detailed lexicon of targeted areas — botanical terms with the botanist, rock types with the geologist, terms for spear or personal adornment types with the material culture specialist, and so forth.
Anna Margetts and Andrew Margetts
This article gives an account of practical issues with audio and video recordings in a fieldwork setting, based on real-life experiences. In addition to some standard recommendations, it includes points learned through mistakes, happy accidents, and trial and error. Comments about specific equipment will be out of date by the time this volume is published. Nevertheless this article gives specifications for at least some items in the hope that this will help to identify types of equipment that have been found to be worthwhile. This article first addresses some general points about what to record in a field situation, outlines the workflow of data processing, and provides notes on managing equipment. It then discusses audio and video recordings and raises the question of energy supply and useful auxiliary equipment. The appendix provides suggestions for a basic field equipment kit. This article also elaborates upon what to record for linguistic analysis followed by the workflow that would allow some of the data to be fully processed during the fieldtrip.
Barry J. Conn
This article illustrates the requirement of plants and their association with people. Since plants are a very important part of the material and cultural heritage of all communities, those who are interested in studying the culture of a people require an understanding of the plants associated with them. To understand plants and their association with the people, it is important to know the identity of the plant species used by them. Knowing the vernacular name of a plant used by a community assists with communication within that community but fails to provide information to a broader group. Furthermore, the information on how this plant is used by other communities remains inaccessible to most researchers. Therefore, it is important to link local plants to their scientific names so that all the information about these plants is available to everyone. However, the identification of plants is often quite difficult and requires careful examination of the features of the plant and comparison with other previously identified species. Therefore, carefully prepared botanical collections are always required to identify plants with certainty. The study provides a brief introduction to the techniques used for collecting botanical specimens that will enable fieldworkers to provide specimens of plants that are adequate for identification and valuable for scientific study.
Gary B. Palmer
Emotion language has been the object of intensive study in recent years, both in cognitive linguistics and in anthropology. Cognitive and anthropological linguists are struggling to parse out the influences of heredity, basic experience, and culture on semantics. This article focuses on the intersection of cultural knowledge with the semantic component of cognitive grammar. It examines research in two broad semantic domains: agency and emotion and spatial orientation. There is no presumption that these categories have folk or emic status in other languages; their status is merely analytic. In actual case studies, one seeks to discover how speakers themselves delineate their semantic domains. One can think of other semantic domains that linguists and anthropologists have studied, from kinship and illness to botany, anatomy, and the earmarkings of reindeer. This article discusses new approaches and findings in each of the selected domains that offer promise for anthropological linguistics. It focuses on studies demonstrating strong interdependencies between grammar and culture, but shows that the findings do not support a strong Whorfian position on the determination of perception by grammar.
Copyright and other legal concerns are enumerated in this article. Fieldworkers normally think of copyright as something that they will have to deal with later when they have returned home and are involved in writing up and publishing, and not something to worry about when they are busy in the field with data and text collection, participant observation, or controlled experiments. At one time this may have been the case, de facto if not legally. But nowadays, when people are sensitive to the reach of copyright and the protection of indigenous intellectual property rights, failure by the linguist to pay attention to copyright concerns in the field could create unpleasant complications later, cause frictions for future researchers, and even present obstacles to using one's own research materials.
Humans have a long history of watching the sky and incorporating the sky into their culture in the form of art and stories. This article tries to explore the importance of cultural astronomy for linguists. They developed uses for the sky such as for timekeeping and night navigation. As with other parts of their natural environment, humans continued to watch and learn about the sky to better their lives throughout their history, resulting in an aspect of environmental adaptation that is often overlooked by scholars today. This article begins with definitions presented as a first step towards thinking about the many ways that people relate to the sky. This crash course in cultural astronomy should enable the reader to collect relevant information with some rigor and confidence. The interdisciplinary field of cultural astronomy is currently dominated by astronomers, and the goal here is to increase linguists' awareness of astronomy as a topic in field research, leading to them attending cultural astronomy meetings and publishing in cultural astronomy journals. Cultural astronomy is broadly defined as the study of the relationship between humans and the sky. There are a couple of working definitions that provide details of this relationship such as that of Campion ‘the use of astronomical knowledge, beliefs or theories to inspire, inform or influence social forms and ideologies, or any aspect of human behaviour’.
Anthony K. Webster
This article argues for the continuing importance of ethnopoetics/cultural poetics in the work of linguists and anthropologists. A heuristic definition of ethnopoetics (or cultural poetics) is given as the various traditions of such recurrent patternings of linguistic forms (and the thwarting of such expectations of such patternings). The continuing relevance of a Hymesian-inspired anthropological philology is noted. After framing the discussion of poetry and poetics as both linguistic and ethnographic questions, this article engages questions of linguistic relativity and its relationship to poetics, as well as poetry and poetics as social practices. Examples of parallelism and metaphor are given and discussed both in relation to their poetic form and to their social work. A final extended illustration is given concerning Navajo poetry as an example of a cultural poetics informed by both linguistics and anthropology. It is argued that research on cultural poetics/ethnopoetics encourages patience and reflection.
This article exemplifies some of the ethical issues that abound the linguistic fieldwork. In the past decade or so, there has been a resurgence of attention to ethics in linguistic fieldwork. It is surprising to find the huge amount of literature existing on the scholarly aspects of ethics in fieldwork — namely the imperative for fieldwork on endangered languages in order to have records of the languages. This surge of interest around ethics in linguistic fieldwork is likely closely related to the impact of changes in social science research more generally on linguistics, where there has been increased interest in participatory action and community-based research in recent years, as well as to the developing influence of indigenous methodologies on linguistic fieldwork. Many linguistic fieldworkers, like others in social science areas, are attempting to move away from an ‘expert subject’ model to more collaborative types of research. The study examines ethics with respect to ethic codes, individuals, codes, communities, languages beginning with a dictionary definition of ethics followed by research with people. This is followed by an overview of ethical codes relevant to linguistic fieldwork focusing on traditional questions. Subsequently the article questions concerning the responsibilities of the linguist in the field.
This article resorts to ethnobiology for documenting biological knowledge represented in languages. Ethnobiology methods are undergoing a certain degree of standardization following Martin's very influential ethnobotany methods book outlining many of the basic field techniques. Among its many useful chapters is one on linguistic methods. The descriptions provided in this article are intended to build on Martin's procedures, but add recent trends that reflect recent important changes in ethnobiological research. It begins with a discussion of some of the sorts of research ethnobiologists are doing around the globe. The primary purposes of this study are to provide encouragement to field linguists considering working with biological materials, and to promote collaboration among scholars, particularly linguists and ethnobiologists. Ethnobiology is the scientific study of dynamic relationships among peoples, biota, and environments. This discipline was developed to understand and explain cultural differences and similarities in the knowledge and use of biota and environments. The study shows that how linguistics can benefit not only from recent developments in ethnobiological techniques, but also from the advances in scientific theory being generated in the above research. An area of past and future research cooperation between linguists and ethnobiologists is a focus on cognitive research. Further, the article outlines a general understanding of this area by ethnobiologists, and this is presented here as a starting point for further discussion and research. Finally, the study focuses on basic methodological aspects of ethnobiological research, particularly as they relate to linguistic researchers.
This article focuses on the subject of fieldwork research addressing mathematical concepts developed in elaborated traditional knowledge. Its goal is to give advice to fieldworkers from this particular point of view, and to draw their attention to methodological issues with respect to the completeness of data collection during fieldwork and the veracity of the interpretations and analyses subsequent researchers are able to undertake without visiting the field. The same holds for more recent books on a similar subject. One must distinguish a mathematical concept and its application. From an ethnomathematical point of view it is useful to make a few observations on the best way to record annotated new media while visiting the field, whether video or computer experiment, in order to make possible afterwards the exploration of their mathematical content. The study devoted to the question of completeness of data collection during fieldwork, a crucial point in ethnomathematics for checking the consistency of mathematical knowledge embedded in the data. The study tackles the question of vernacular lexicons used for numbers and measurement, and it will be seen that it only partly meet the general goals of an ethnomathematical approach. Furthermore, the article discusses the use of measurement terms. Finally, it addresses the question of mathematical operations on approximate quantities carried out in a society where there are no number words above five.