Research Articles

Research methods in language documentation

  • Friederike Lüpke


Language documentation, understood as the creation of corpora of annotated and translated speech data in audio and video format, is a recently developed field of empirical linguistics (Himmelmann 1998, 2006a; Woodbury 2003). Since it owes its existence partly to rapidly evolving digital technologies for the recording, processing, and archiving of these data, it is not surprising that the main methodological focus so far has been on the form a documentation should take. Thus, we find explicit recommendations on such things as suitable data formats, form and content of metadata descriptions, minimally required levels of annotation, and access to and portability of data (Austin 2006; Bird & Simons 2003; Nathan & Austin 2004; Nathan 2006; Thieberger 2004; Wittenburg et al. 2002). This paper focuses on another central question for good practices in language documentation and description (henceforth LDD): what linguistic goals it can have and how methods of data collection are related to achieving these goals. By doing so, it joins a growing body of literature drawing attention to the various methodological challenges of LDD.

Keywords: language documentation, language documentation and description, LDD, best practices, goals, methods, data collection, challenges

How to Cite:

Lüpke, F., (2010) “Research methods in language documentation”, Language Documentation and Description 7, 55-104. doi:

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Published on
31 Jul 2010
Peer Reviewed