Background Research

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Intelligibility Interviews
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The information you gather before a survey will shape your proposal and your final report. If you take good notes while doing library research and do not rush the process, you will improve the quality of your work. There have been times when a team has gathered all the necessary information in a library and eliminated the need for a field trip. Even if you don't cite all your sources in your proposal, an annotated bibliography of your complete findings could be helpful when a team is assigned to do some language development or if follow-up research is required at a later time.

Suggestions for Intelligibility Research

  1. Learn all of the variations of the names for the languages, dialects, and peoples you will be studying that are identified in the Ethnologue and other sources. You should do this every time you come across a new document in your research.
  2. Make copies of maps that you find in reading and write in the margins any additional information or possible contradictions that you notice.
  3. Look for previous research or publications that your entity has completed in this particular language or dialect cluster. Be sure to search according to variations of the language names discovered in the first step and keep track of any new names that come up. Check with your entity administrators for additional information that is not freely available.
  4. Visit each of the local libraries and look for linguistic publications. You never know where you might find a previous study of the language you're researching.
  5. Do not forget to take notes on hypotheses or findings dealing with intelligibility between the lects in question. The same reminder applies to sociolinguistic information. The information that may help you develop hypotheses regarding intelligibility will include:
    1. Language attitudes
    2. Previous testing
    3. Historical-comparative work that shows actual linguistic relatedness (it is expected that lects which are more closely related may share more features in common and thus share a higher degree of intelligibility), etc.
    4. Reported intelligibility. These reports may come from speakers who live outside the area or from people who frequently visit or work in the area (especially linguists who have worked there).
  6. Write an annotated bibliography of all publications that make reference to the particular peoples, languages, and/or dialect clusters.
  7. If you have access to the Internet, conduct the same type of search there using each of the names your earlier search revealed. If you do not have Internet access, contact Wycliffe Associates, UK and they might be able to conduct this online search for you.
    1. If you find new references to printed material, return to the library to search for these.
    2. If you find names of researchers, note their names and contact information.
  8. Determine whether or not you can meet with any of the knowledgeable people mentioned in publications you have come across and set up an interview in person if possible or dialog with them via email or via regular mail (see Intelligibility Interviews).