"fieldwork" and "language / consultant work"

Mark Donohue mark.donohue at man.ac.uk
Thu Feb 13 17:00:51 UTC 1997

Seems that the server ate a large chunk of my last posting.

What I meant to say, but which didn't come out, was that important language
work does not have to be done by fieldwork, and I think some of the debate
going on is not about fieldwork, but about valid linguistics. The two are
neither mutually exclusive, nor is there a dependency relationship between
the two, in either direction: fine linguistic work can be done without
muddying your feet in the field, but that doesn't make it fieldwork, nor
does it make it any less valid. But to say that

>I have worked in my
>academic setting with native speakers, I have used native speakers as
>informants in field methods classes. All of this is serious linguistic

Doesn't hold water: fieldwork is a noun made up of "field" and "work":
discovering language facts in an academic setting, or in a classroom, is
not "serious linguistic fieldwork"; but it is "serious linguistic work",
and it doesn't need "field-" prefixed in there somewhere in order to become
respectable. The same points are, I think, valid for

>serious field research is
>possible without becoming a native speaker and without living in the

Serious research is possible, but it isn't research in the field. It's
research with other languages, and it is different to fieldwork.

We could call it "consultant work", or somesuch, but not "fieldwork", but,
having done both (mainly fieldwork), I am certain tht there's a difference
between them. It's jsut that "fieldwork" seems to ahve become very
politically correct of late, to the (unfortunate) detriment of "consultant
work", or whatever we decide to call it. It's important to remember that
linguistics is not just fieldwork, and that fieldwork would not survive
without the non-fieldwork part.

My two cents' worth.


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