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Linguistics Research Guide

Research guide for courses and research projects in linguistics.

Library Research on a Language

When researching a language, it is often helpful to start with the most general research materials, then work you way toward the most specific (and perhaps most recent) studies.  Try the following steps:

1. Look up your language in an encyclopedia or reference sourceEthnologue is an online source of basic facts and data on over 7,000 languages. The information is basic, but a good start to know the official name of the language, the number of speakers, etc.  An encyclopedia, such as the Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics may not have the most recent statistics, but will include more description of language features, and have useful citations for further resesarch.

2.  Find a book.  Books might be older, but will often have more background information and more explanation of specialized terminology.  Find the best subject heading in the library catalog for your language, or browse the stacks around the call number for your language family, to find useful books on language structure, history, and culture.

3.  Find journal articles.  Once you have enough background on a language, look for journal articles. These will likely be studies on very specific aspects of a language and its speakers, and are a great way to find the most recent scholarly work on a topic. Read the "discussion" or "conclusion" section first to efficiently lean the results of the study, then go back to the methodology and literature review of past works if you need more information on the study.

How to Read an Academic Article

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