hiring fieldworkers

Mark Donohue donohue at coombs.anu.edu.au
Wed Feb 5 10:21:24 UTC 1997

Leanne Hinton made my point for me:

> First of all, being a fieldworker doesn't say anything about one's
> linguistic specialization.  Fieldworkers may of course be theoretical
> syntacticians or phonologists, and are in my experience (as a teacher of
> people who go off to look for jobs, and a member of a linguistics
> department who occasionally hires people) MORE employable than the theorist
> who has never been to the field.
But when do they find tome ot be theoretical syntacticians or phonologists,
if they're spending a large portion of their time in the field? Sure, a
theoretical syntactician or phonologist may well become a fieldworker: but
what about the fieldworker, just finished a description, and seeking
employment as a generalist?

> Even when a department wants to hire,
> say, a syntactician, it is the syntactician who has some interesting
> secondary specialization (e.g. fieldwork studying endangered languages) who
> catches people's attention.
This is the point: if you want ot hire a syntactician, you'd (I imagine,
never ahving hired one myself) want someone with a good knowledge of basic
syntax in a range of fields, but also a specialisation in some theory or
the other, the odd ocnference or two, and a few articles; the "secondary
specialisation" is nice.

But do you see what this relegates the whole area of descriptive
linguistics to? A "secondary specialisation"! Is that really what we want
it to be? Is that in and of itself not enough? No. You must be firstly
someone with a linguistic specialisation, secondarily a fieldworker.

> Fieldworkers often tend to be broader in their
> orientation than others, and may find that they will be attractive to an
> array of departments seeking an array of different specializations.
Maybe, but those ads are few and far between. Most jobs are for a
specialist in [syntax, phonology, grammaticalisation, etc]; again, this
assumes specialisation in theory first, and fieldworking descriptivism

To paraphrse myself, what if someone's not a specialist in the latest OT
minimalist a-structure based HPSGing construction grammar comparativist
grammaticalisational type thing? A field worker needs to be, first and
foremost, at least reasonably good at ALL aspects of linguistics, and needs
to spend a lot of time away from conferences and from the latest theory
(what if it's simply inappropriate? No aspect of the phonology of the
language I've most worked on is amenable to OT analysis: does this make me
a better or worse phonologist for not having pursued it and pushed it in?
No, I think,  but it does mean that I ahven't demonstrated my ability to
keep up with the ever-changing field of phonological theory.


Endangered-Languages-L Forum: endangered-languages-l at carmen.murdoch.edu.au
Web pages http://carmen.murdoch.edu.au/lists/endangered-languages-l/
Subscribe/unsubscribe and other commands: majordomo at carmen.murdoch.edu.au

More information about the Endangered-languages-l mailing list