Getting the Story Straight: Language Fieldwork Using a Narrative Problem-Solving Task

Lila San Roque, Alan Rumsey, Lauren Gawne, Stef Spronck, Darja Hoenigman, Alice Carroll, Julia Miller, Nicholas Evans

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    We describe a structured task for gathering enriched language data for descriptive, comparative, and documentary purposes, focusing on the domain of social cognition. The task involves collaborative narrative problem-solving and retelling by a pair or small group of language speakers, and was developed as an aid to investigating grammatical categories relevant to social cognition. The pictures set up a dramatic story in which participants can feel empathetic involvement with the characters, and trace individual motivations, mental and physical states, and points of view. The data-gathering task allows different cultural groups to imbue the pictures with their own experiences, concerns, and conventions, and stimulates the spontaneous use of previously under-recorded linguistic structures. We argue that stimulus-based elicitation tasks that are designed to stimulate a range of speech types (descriptions, dialogic interactions, narrative) within the single task contribute quantitatively and qualitatively to language documentation, and provide an important means of gathering spontaneous but broadly parallel, and thus comparable, linguistic data.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)135-174
    JournalLanguage Documentation and Conservation
    Volume6
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

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