How to Pay for Linguistic Fieldwork
by the SpecGram Editorial Board
The thing is is that fieldwork is expensive, and yet we have to somehow pay for it. Or we won’t get to do it. And really, heaven help the poor soul who can’t pay for a trip even to Tahiti, and has to try to come up with some topic on English syntax that hasn’t already been beaten like a dead metaphor.
At SpecGram, our interest is is to help people in this kind of situation. So, in the interest of new data (or, should we say, in the interest of no more old English data), and out of a sense of selfless devotion to the betterment of Ph.D. students all across Linguistica, the SpecGram editorial board has pulled together the following testimonials—tried and true and really truly reliable ways by which we knowEVID.FIRSTHAND that you can make fieldwork affordable.
- Do sociolinguistic fieldwork on language used by the immensely rich, and write a grant proposal arguing that you have to appear to fit in with that group to elicit realistic data, and thus need 500 million dollars for “expenses.”
- Create a random word-generating program, and as part of the patent application claim rights to any of its “outputs” that aren’t already in use. Charge royalties for any new product name. It doesn’t matter what it is, it’ll be an output.
- Give linguistics lectures at New York and Paris galleries as a type of “performance art.”
- Register the null allomorph as a trademark. Sue everyone for infringement.
- Open the first advertising business in the language community. Get Nike to sponsor your project, with an exclusive sneaker contract for the entire community. Nike will pay you for your fieldwork, and will give everybody a free pair of shoes, too. They may even make you a lifelong “consultant.”
- Take up prostitution.
- Get a military research grant for the High-Energy Pronoun Accelerator.
- Teach English. Oh, sorry, we already listed prostitution above.
- Make paper for your data notebooks out of hemp. Sell excess raw materials. (To your committee members, preferably.)
- Give linguistics lectures at comedy clubs.
- Pitch a reality show called America’s Top Graduate Student. In the show, your graduate students will compete against each other in a series of challenges and attempt to develop interpersonal relationships. At the end of each term, viewers will vote one of your grad students out of the department. This reduces competition for funding. (As producer, you cannot be voted out.)
- Give linguistics lectures in subway stations. Collect donations.
- Sell /ˌlɛməˈneɪd/ during the summer.
- Choose only informants who are too noble to accept payment. (Professors in the humanities departments in your local university are usually your best chance for this.)
- Choose to do fieldwork in a language located in a country with valuable black market items. Smuggle as needed.
- Get some of those NLP nerds in your department to write a program to automatically answer tech support emails, then get a side job answering tech support email.
- Charge a fee for each handout in the class you are TAing.
- Give linguistics lectures late on Friday evenings in your university’s largest lecture hall. Dress in a Ph.D. cap and gown and call yourself “Dr. Everyprof.” Let undergrad students in for free but sell styrofoam bats. Encourage audience participation. (This won’t really hurt too much. Trust us.)
- Gloss your texts with lots of techno-babble words, and then sell the language (and yourself) to a TV series or movie studio that wants a lot of alien-sounding sci-fi dialog.
- Charge a fee for every revision your professor demands in your dissertation. Have the professor sign a voucher without reading it, and submit the bill directly to the department. (Come on, you know you can pull this one off.)
- Serve as a simultaneous interpreter at a conference where both formalists and functionalists present papers.
- Start a satirical linguistics journal. Charge exorbitant subscription rates.
If none of these methods pay off for you, then we just have to conclude that you aren’t fieldwork material. Give up and study something else.