9.1 Ethnographic data as a part of language documentation

We’ve neared the end of this course. To conclude, we’ll finish by exploring ways in which language documentation can be enriched with ethnographic data. Beyond the basics of a language that you have learned to document and analyze thus far, there are culturally relevant aspects of language that are tied to ethnographic information such as stories, music, animal and plant names, and other forms of linguistic expression.

This module seeks to introduce you to the concepts of verbal art, speech play, ethnomusicology, ethnobotany, and ethnozoology and act as a springboard for you to pursue these topics in more detail if you wish.


After completing this module. You will have learned about the nature of:

  1. Verbal art
  2. Speech play
  3. Ethnobotany
  4. Ethnozoology


Cannon, C. & Wilken, M. (2020).  We Were Once One People;  A Comparative Ethnobotany of the Pai Language.  Presentation at LSA.  New Orleans.  Sunday, January 5, 2020, Session on The Responsibilities and Benefits of Language Documentation Research to Broader Populations.

Conn, B.J. (2011). Botanical collecting. In N. Thieberger (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of linguistic fieldwork. Oxford University Press.

French, B.M. (2010). Maya ethnolinguistic identity: Violence, cultural rights, and modernity in highland Guatemala. University of Arizona Press.

Hymes, D.  (1974).  Ways of Speaking.  In R Bauman and J Sherzer.  Explorations in the Ethnography of Speaking.  Cambridge University of Press.

McClatchey, W. (2012). Ethnobiology: Basic methods for documenting biological knowledge represented in languages. In N. Thieberger (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of linguistic fieldwork. Oxford University Press online.  DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199571888.013.0013