To Be Or Not To Be Passivized—Joel Boyd Ps. Q. Vol XVI, No 2 Contents The Capitol Area Linguistics League—Advertisement

Towards a Practical Model of Effective Field Research

It is well-known that linguistic theorists would be unable to perform their work productively, if not for the thankless efforts of countless dedicated field researchers. Deprived of fresh data, linguistics would die the same horrible death of strangulation that can even now be observed to have laid its icy grip on such once-favored fields as history, geology, and anesthesiology.

But desk-bound theorists, by and large, have failed to express their gratitude to their less sedentary counterparts. The aim of this article is to rectify this situation. It is hoped that the field linguists of the world will find this work most helpful, as they continue to dig up the facts upon which we base our theories.

Field Procedures

Effective Field Research (EFR) hinges on a number of critical factors, the most important of which must universally be agreed to be the linguist’s choice of living quarters. Choose your dwelling with caution; you are already sending messages to the group among whom you will work. Living in a hotel, for example, would be ill-advised, chiefly because most hotels are in metropolitan areas, while field research must be carried out in small villages in order to be esthetically satisfactory. Research shows that one can best promote the all-important EFR by choosing a large, ranch-style dwelling, preferably with garage for only a single car (avoid showy pretensions).

Your next task is that of procuring an EFR language consultant. Here, you must hold out for the very best. Do not hire any consultant who cannot reproduce from memory the Swadesh word list, in addition to demonstrating understanding of the terms morpheme, phoneme, Deep Structure, langue, and parole. This is of utmost importancedo not cheat yourself by settling for inferior consultation.

In addition to the rigors of locating a helpful and willing speaker of the language to be studied, the EFR linguist will also be confronted with the arduous task of finding an appropriate appellation for this person. Traditionally, such language consultants have been known as “informants” or “native speakers,” but these terms are old and should be replaced. I suggest the label “the big old guy I got my data from” as a healthy substitute. Alternatively, one could simple employ the person’s name, if it is pronounceable.

The big old guy you got your data from will be afraid of your portable computer. This is only natural: he is a red-blooded human being, too. However, you must overcome this barrier to EFR. It would not do to have the big old guy you got your data from running to hide every time you wanted to enter some of that (precious) data. The universally acclaimed method is to teach him to play either Space Invaders of Pac-manwhichever is more culturally relevant. Thereafter, the big old guy you got your data from will love your computer, and you can probably convince him to do most of your typing in the future. This will have the added benefit of freeing your time for more important pursuits, such as the reading of theoretical articles and books.

The analysis of collected data is, of course, the greatest reward of EFR. Nothing will be as satisfying to the field linguist as those blissful moments in which he employs the appropriate theoretical keys to unlock the secrets of the language he studies. He will naturally be exhilarated by this opportunity to provide yet more material for study to those of us who draw upon his work (and others’) to make the truly meaningful contributions to linguistic science.

Keith W. Slater Michigan State University

To Be Or Not To Be Passivized—Joel Boyd
The Capitol Area Linguistics League—Advertisement
Ps. Q. Vol XVI, No 2 Contents