Fieldwork is an age-
The advisor is the most critical part of your dissertation experience. You want one who is appropriate for the task, and this is a lot more difficult to arrange than you might expect. On the one hand, you have to avoid the Überfieldworker, whose 36 years of language analysis (including seven years of living in the language community) have resulted in the perception that “grammatical description” means eight volumes; on the other hand, you have equally to watch out for the theoretician who will perceive you as the coauthor (unacknowledged) of chapter 6 of her next book on theta roles (or some other topic of marginal relevance to the language you are actually working on), and will “guide” your research along this track. The perfect fieldwork dissertation advisor has done some fieldwork, but is neither ostentatiously proud nor meekly humble about it. Furthermore, he or she can be neither too interested nor too uninterested in your own project.
Depending on your department, the prevailing doctrinal winds, and most especially your advisor, you may have actually some choice as to which theoretical “model” you use to frame your study. If so, choose wisely, because you will have to live with the results of your choice for three or four years. If you are lucky, the theory you choose will still have a few adherents when you interview for your first job. It is unlikely to survive until the publication of your dissertation as a book, but this does not matter much, since the publication of books is not related to the current state of the field.
More than any other single factor, software can really make or break your linguistic fieldwork. It’s important to have the ideal suite of programs for the work you want to do. Most likely you don’t want to pay for software, so you probably are going to stick to standard Microsoft issue such as FreeCell and Hearts. Don’t be too frugal, though; you may increase your productivity dramatically if you shell out some cash for top of the line Electronic Arts games. Online gaming is ok, but MMORPGs are to be avoided if at all possible
You may also want some form of academic software, and I am proud to recommend to you the software produced by my own— [Managing Editor’s Note: to avoid the prospect of lawsuits or the appearance of editorial impropriety, Suvarnabhumi’s recommendations have been redacted. Also, there is no point in recommending software, since it is invariably out of date before the recommendation is even published.]
There are an ever-
Once you get to the field, don’t follow anyone’s recommendations about gathering data. This is a personal matter, best not discussed in public. Just realize ahead of time that you won’t gather enough data, no matter how you try, and be prepared. Smiles are good for the heart, and somehow healing.
You can count on your advisor getting tired of your project. (Not until long after you’ve gotten tired of it, most likely.) Before this happens, though, innumerable “suggestions” will be made, ostensibly in pursuit of “improving” your work; probably some reference will also be made to your marketability as a job candidate (not in precisely those terms). Do not be alarmed
At some point your advisor, whether or not she is a fan of
On the whole, there are roughly about six thousand serious errors you could make in the design and execution of a fieldwork project, and a similar number that could derail your attempt to massage a dissertation out of the resulting field notes (if you produce any notes at all). The project may be worthwhile, or it may not. There’s just no way to tell beforehand.
|Classical Pinnacle Sherpa—A living exercise in proto-language reconstruction—Keith W. Slater|
|Doing Fieldwork on Constructed Languages—Curtis U. Lehder|
|SpecGram Vol CLIX, No 1 Contents|