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Title: Plenary: Linguistic fieldwork as a scientific enterprise 
Author: Newman, Paul
Date: 2009-03-14
Description: After years of neglect in which linguistics lost sight of the value of empirical field
research, new life has finally been breathed into this fundamentally important component
of our discipline. But in the process, linguistic fieldwork has ironically lost sight of
linguistics! That is, if by linguistics one means the scientific study of language, fieldwork
ideology and practice have gone askew. The major movements and individuals that we
can thank for the resurgence of interest in linguistic fieldwork all promote (in words or
deeds) approaches to field research that fall far short of the tenets of science. Examples of
such misguided directions include (a) the endangered languages movement, (b) language
documentation, and (c) the traditional-orthodox school. In my talk, I expose the failings
of these non-scientific approaches to linguistic field research and set out what would be
required for linguistic fieldwork to qualify as truly scientific and thus be entitled to
recognition as an essential subfield within linguistics per se.
Rights: Copyright © Paul Newman 2009

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