Permaculture, Sustainable Research & Digital Practices

Researchers who combine linguistic fieldwork with psycholinguistic studies want to ensure that their research, digital, and social practices are sustainable. Hence, many try to

  1. develop and implement sustainable systems for data collection, storage, and management that ensure reliable long-term open access to their data and findings,
  2. employ technology and procedures that are environmentally sustainable (“Green IT”, “Sustainable HCI”),
  3. create sustainable social systems with local communities, collaborators, and “users” of their research.

Systematic research into such sustainable systems and practices is still in its infancy, but I have put together some initial resources and publications about sustainability in these domains below. Some of these publications involve a permaculture approach to the design of sustainable systems. Hence, I have added some information about permaculture and its design approach and ethical principles. I have also provided some initial information about the way in which I have started to incorporate sustainable practices into my own work – in addition to storing my data in the sustainability-oriented Language Archive at the Max-Plank Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen.

Sustainable Digital Systems and Sustainable Digital and Social Practices

These publications provide a first overview of research sustainable digital systems and practices in (linguistic) data collection, storage, and management. More can be found on my reading list for sustainable digital systems and practices, which I will continue to update (suggestions more than welcome!):

Note: some chapters of the books above can be found freely accessible via Google Scholar.

There is also a Zotero Group with a bibliography on Permaculture and Open Access.

If you want to find out whether the websites and technologies that you have selected for your work make use of clean energy, you can try out this browser extension


Permaculture Design

The word ‘permaculture’ derives from ‘permanent agriculture‘ and ‘permanent culture‘. Permaculture is a design process and approach that aims to create sustainable places, spaces, systems, and communities, guided by the three core ethical principles of Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share. Many permaculture designs focus on gardens and agriculture, but permaculture principles and design processes have also been applied to other domains, in particular to systems for the collection, storage, and management of data. Such designs are typically called “non-land-based” permaculture designs, in contrast to “land-based” designs for gardens and agricultural systems. Permaculture is part of an international movement, involving a growing number of national and international organisations. You can find out more about permaculture and these organisations on the following resource sites and blogs (and the associated social media accounts):

These institutions and projects organise many permaculture workshops and gatherings around the world, e.g. the London Permaculture Festival on July 31, 2016.

For more information, you can start with the Wikipedia article about permaculture and a lists of introductory books and key texts.There is also a LinkedIn Topic “principles of permaculture” that allows you to find relevant people, slide shares, groups, etc.

Training in Permaculture can lead to internationally recognised qualifications: the Permaculture Design Certificate and the Permaculture Design Diploma. I have obtained my own Permaculture Design Certificate with Marina O’Connell and a great team of fellow students at the Apricot Centre for Sustainable Living in Essex, UK. My project was a backyard “food forest” with fruit, edible plants and flowers.

This project has inspired me to use more natural materials in language games for linguistic data collection. For instance, I used to create laminated printed pictures to elicit noun phrases with adjectives like big, small, green, pink, etc. from children. Now, we have been piloting  materials that consist of recycled conference ID lanyards, and edible leaves or flowers. These materials can be completely re-used, recycled, or composted (I never thought I would use the word “composted” in a blog about linguistics…).

"Green" language game materials with edible leaves and flowers |

“Green” language game materials with edible leaves and flowers

I have also developed a multi-purpose elicitation toolkit that involves these materials plus boards and pockets with recycled or left-over pieces of textiles and haberdashery.

The "Language in a Bag" toolkit for elicitation games in linguistic research |

The “Language in a Bag” toolkit for elicitation games in linguistic research

I have been improving and piloting the toolkit in collaboration with the Essex Language Games Club that I have organised at the University of Essex, local charities, and the Wivenhoe Transition Town initiative (part of the larger sustainability-focused Transition Town Movement). Here, you can see us during a “sew-in” in Wivenhoe Library, with Chris Blomeley from Wivenhoe Repair-Reuse-Recycle, a project that grew out of a repair cafe linked to Wivenhoe Transition Town.

A "sew-in" with Essex Language Games Club and Chris Blomeley from Wivenhoe Repair-Reuse-Recycle |

A “sew-in” with Essex Language Games Club and Chris Blomeley from Wivenhoe Repair-Reuse-Recycle |

If you have any readings for my reading list, any projects to link to, or other suggestions, please let me know! And if you are interested in joint projects, e.g. projects with a focus on greener research materials or language games for community projects, please get in touch!

Sonja Eisenbeiss (


Experimental Linguistics in the Field – Special Issues and Overview Articles in 2015

In recent years, more and more psycholinguists and experimental linguists have gone beyond the limited set of well-researched languages or they have left their labs to collect spontaneous speech data or experimental data in fieldwork contexts. Thus, it does not come as a surprise that in 2015, at least two special issues of journals have had a focus on psycholinguistics in the field:

First Language, 35 (4-5): Indigenous children’s language: Acquisition, preservation and evolution of language in minority contexts

Language, Cognition, and Neuroscience, 9: Laboratory in the Field: Advances in cross-linguistic psycholinguistics.

These special issues have introductory articles that give an overview of current research topics, field-appropriate methods, or theoretical issues that require widening the set of languages, research settings, and methodologies for experimental linguistics. These issues have also been addressed in another overview article in 2015:

Whalen, D. H., & McDonough, J. (2015). Taking the Laboratory into the Field. Annual Review of Linguistics, 1(1), 395-415.

We in Essex have continued and extended our psycholinguistic work on previously under-researched languages as our ExperimentalFieldLinguistics resource site and the following studies demonstrate:

Kgolo, N., & Eisenbeiss, S. (2015). The role of morphological structure in the processing of complex forms: Evidence from Setswana deverbative nouns. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 9, .1116-1133

Kula, N. & Braun, B. (2015). Mental representation of tonal spreading in Bemba: Evidence from elicited production and perception. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 33.3: 307-323.

Results of cross-linguistic studies in recent years can also be found in my recent handbook article:

Eisenbeiss, S. (2015). Syntax and Language Acquisition. In T. Kiss and A. Alexiadou (Eds.), Syntax: an international handbook (2nd edition) (pp. 1792-1832). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. (pre-print downloadable:




Kgolo & Eisenbeiss in special issue in “Cross-linguistic #Psycholinguistics” #PsychoLingFieldLab #linguistics #fieldwork #languages #Bantu

It looks as if more and more people are now taking the psycholinguistics lab to the field. Our paper about morphological processing in the Bantu language Setswana has just appeared in a special issue of Language, Cognition, and Neuroscience: “Laboratory in the Field: Advances in cross-linguistic psycholinguistics”. And today, I found a hard copy of the volume in my pigeonhole!

Our paper is: Kgolo, N., & Eisenbeiss, S. (2015). The role of morphological structure in the processing of complex forms: Evidence from Setswana deverbative nouns. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 9, .1116-1133

The editors for the special issue were Alice C. Harris, T.Florian Jaeger, and Elisabeth Norcliffe. Florian Jaeger has written a blog post about the special issue that you can find on his blog.

Thanks again to the editors!


OpenSesame, #Python & #PsychoPy links added to #Psycholinguistics #Experiments Tools List

We have added the following links about the free experiment software Open Sesame (now available in version 3.0, with Python scripting options) to our list of software and tools.

We also have a separate page with Python links. and our list of software and tools contains information about PsychoPy, another experiment software package that works with Python.

Some of our students are trying this out and comments/suggestions are more than welcome!


Resources & Readings about #ChildDirectedSpeech: #corpora #corpusresources #experiments

chick_directed_speech_sleepy_time_2015_09_20We have created a new blog and website to present our own research and other people’s cross-linguistic and cross-cultural research on child-directed speech (CDS) and its effects on children’s linguistic development:

We will use this site to provide resources for researchers, parents, and language professionals like teachers or speech and language therapists (e.g. reading lists, fact sheets, etc.). Readers of our experimentalfieldlinguistics blog might be particularly interested in our list of readings about cross-cultural differences. Some of the studies that we list or discuss involve naturalistic data or semi-structured language games played in the family, but others involve systematic training studies that investigate effects of feedback or different types of models in the child’s input; e.g. work by Saxton, Waterfall, and others.

If you have any information about interesting studies, books, blog posts, fact sheets, or social media accounts, please let us know so that we can share the information. We also welcome suggestions for blog post topics, resource creation, etc. You can follow the blog directly on WordPress or follow us on Twitter @LanguageGames4a . The blog is associated with our new Ladeli Centre for Language Development throughout the Lifespan at the University of Essex, which has a strong cross-cultural and cross-linguistic focus and will carry  out studies on under-researched languages.

In some of our projects on child-directed speech, we will use our new “Language in a bag” toolkit for the creation of language games

We hope you will find our resources useful and spread the word!


Sonja Eisenbeiss

New Essex Research Centre for Research on Language Development throughout the Lifespan (LaDeLi)

Our new research Centre at the University of Essex, the Centre for Research in LAnguage DEvelopment throughout the LIfespan (LaDeLi), has just been approved. As part of this Centre, we will carry out experimental research on under-researched languages. We will have a public launch in the brand new Business School, on 2nd July, 9.00 – 16.00, followed by a reception. We have three great speakers lined up, representing the three main foci of the Centre:
  • Stephen Crain (early language development)
  • Carmen Munoz (second language learning and teaching)
  • Loraine Obler (language loss, ageing and impairment)

We will post more details nearer to the time