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45. General Methods of Obtaining and Processing Linguistic Data

Method in a science presupposes the terminology and definite means of research and description of the material within the framework of a certain theory.

A theory should contain the data about the properties which are necessary and highly ikely for a –ge, which are true of a certain l-ge and majority of l-ges.

Diachronic (historical) & synchronic types of lin-cs have developed as a result of the distinction introduced by Saussure, the former is the study of l-ge change, the latter is the study of l-ge states regardless of their history.

When lin-cs try to establish general principles for the study of all l-ges, they are said to be practicing Theoretical (General) Ling-cs. When they concentrate on establishing the facts of a particular l-ge system, they practice Descriptive Ling-cs. And when the focus is on the similarities and differences btw l-ges, the subject is often reffered to as Comparative (Typological) Lin-cs.

L-cs (scientific study of l-ge) shares with other sciences a concern to be objective, systematic, consistent, and explicit in its accounts of l-ge. Like other sciences, lin-cs aims to collect data, test hypotheses, design models, and construct theories.


1. Informants – an empirical, active method

In all cases someone has to act as a source of l-ge data- an informant or consultant. Informants are ideally native speakers of a l-ge, who provide utterances for analysis and other kinds of information about the –ge (e.g. translation, comment about correctness or judgment on usage). Many factors must be considered when selecting informants:

  • Whether one is working with single speakers, 2 ppl interacting, small groups, or large-scale samples

  • Age, sex, social background and other aspects of identity

  • The topic of the conversation, the characteristics of the social setting (e.g. level of formality)

  • The personal qualities of the informants (fluency and consistency)

2. Recording – an empirical, active, instrumental method

Form: audio-recording and video-recording

Useful techniques for obtaining good quality data:

  • Some recordings are made without the speakers being aware of the fact

  • To make the speaker forget about the recording, such as keeping the recorder out of sight of using radio microphones

  • To introduce a topic that quickly involves the speaker, and stimulates a natural l-ge style.

A facial expression can dramatically alter the meaning of what is said. Video recordings avoid these problems to a large extend, but even they have limitations ( the cameras can be highly intrusive, and cannot be everywhere) and transcriptions always benefit from any additional commentary provided by an observer.

3. Elicitation (встановлення правди)

- structured sessions

- translation techniques (bi-linguistics)

- interview worksheets and questionnaires

- a restricted set of questions

- indirect methods of elicitation: asking info to fill the blanks in a substitution frame or feeding them with the wrong stimulus for correction (is it possible to say “ I no can see”?)

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