Language Documentation

Graduate student Don Daniels working with a consultant in Papua New Guinea.The UCSB Department of Linguistics is strongly committed to the description and documentation of the languages of the world. UCSB linguists feel that the collection and analysis of natural discourse data provide the richest and most rewarding means to understanding the structures of a language and how they are used, and that such insights come only through careful and respectful collaborative work with native speakers. Fieldwork is a complex undertaking, requiring rigorous academic training in techniques of data collection and analysis, competent use of technology, cross-cultural awareness and sensitivity, and the ability to work successfully within a community that may at first be quite unfamiliar to the researcher. An integral part of documentation training at UCSB is an intensive, year-long field-methods course that teaches skills of data collection, analysis and writing through a collaborative research project involving one or more speakers of the l­anguage of focus. This is complemented by a quarter-long course on language documentation that covers the theory and practice of documentary linguistics, ethics, fieldwork, archiving, and revitalization. Supporting courses include grammar writing, corpus construction, prosody, and seminars on advanced tools and methods.

Much remains to be learned about all languages through good fieldwork. UCSB is especially interested in supporting fieldwork on languages that are currently undocumented or underdocumented, many of which are endangered. A number of faculty members and students are involved in ongoing fieldwork, documenting language in use both as an empirical basis for current linguistic work and as a resource for language communities. Many are also collaborating with communities in literacy development and language revitalization projects.

Graduate students and faculty in the department regularly meet as part of the Language Documented (LangDoc) Lab. 

Core Faculty

Eric W. CampbellMatthew GordonLina HouMarianne Mithun


Linguistics 216: Grammar Writing
Linguistics 218: Corpus Linguistics
Linguistics 220: Prosody 
Linguistics 221A-B-C: Field Methods
Linguistics 223: Languages in Contact


A Reference Grammar of Wappo, by Sandra A. Thompson, Joseph Sung-Yul Park, and Charles N. Li.