Sociolinguistic Fieldwork and Minority Communities

Workshop conveners:

Carmen Fought Pitzer College
James Stanford (organizer) Dartmouth College
Nacole Walker Sitting Bull College & University of British Columbia

What do Native Americans wish that sociolinguists knew about them? What can sociolinguists learn from Latina/o communities? How can you get started researching a less commonly studied community? What new insights can minority communities provide about language variation and change?

This workshop will explore the rewards and challenges of sociolinguistic fieldwork in ethnic minority communities, including practical insights from field experiences in Latina/o communities of California, Native American communities, and Southeast Asian communities in the U.S. and China. Issues to be discussed during the workshop include:      


  1. Carmen Fought will discuss her fieldwork with young Latina/o teenagers in California, focusing on how local categories emerged as significant. She will provide a critical look at her own research in this community, including mistakes to avoid and suggestions for first-time fieldworkers.
  2. Nacole Walker (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe) will provide a “cultural insider” perspective on sociolinguistic research in Native American communities, sharing their views on what researchers should understand about such communities, and describing their own research of the construction of Native ethnic identity through English dialect features.
  3. James Stanford will discuss his field research among indigenous communities in China and the U.S. (Sui, Hmong, Zhuang), including fieldwork in rural villages, investigating child dialect acquisition in exogamous settings, gender and dialect research in clan-based societies, and building collaborative, mutually beneficial relationships.
  4. Panel discussion.