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Descriptive Linguistics


Descriptive linguistics at LUCL covers documentation and descriptive analysis of lesser-studied languages as well as typological and historical comparison.

There are more than 7,000 languages spoken on our planet. Only a small percentage of these has been studied extensively. At LUCL, we document and describe a broad range of languages from around the world. We specialise in languages of Africa, including sign languages, the Americas, and Asia. Language is key to understanding culture and studying the link between language and cultural phenomena is a central part of descriptive linguistics.

Documenting and describing

As descriptive linguists, we aim to understand the structure and functioning of a specific language. We do this by documenting and describing the major components that make up a language (sounds, words and sentences). Many of us conduct fieldwork to document underdescribed languages and to provide descriptive analyses, which include:

  • working together with speech communities to create long-lasting culturally-rich records of their languages
  • making recordings of language use in natural contexts (daily interactions, culture-unique performances)
  • preserving data in language archives to be used by the communities themselves and for further research


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