Slides of Research Ethics Talk in JNU / Delhi

Extending Experimental Linguistics to Under-Researched Languages and Populations – The Principle of Justice and New Ethical Challenges (click to download pdf)

The majority of experimental studies in linguistics, psychology, and the social sciences involve participants who are undergraduate students in research-active universities or children of educated families in societies that are WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic; see Henrichs et al. 2010). This leads to claims about universals of human language and behaviour that are not based on an appropriate empirical basis. It also violates the Principle of Justice as many populations are excluded from such studies and their benefits, for instance the development of appropriate materials for teaching or speech and language therapy. Hence, more and more experimental linguists have started to study previously under-researched languages and populations; and we are providing resources and information to support such projects (
These projects pose a broad range of ethical challenges. Some of them are challenges that any “traditional” linguistic fieldworker has to face, for instance avoiding coercion and guaranteeing informed consent when dealing with communities that are poor and characterised by low levels of education. However, the introduction of experimental methods into fieldwork contexts also gives rise to new ethical problems. In particular, we will discuss ethical issues that arise when standardized tests of performance (e.g. IQ-tests or tests of working memory) are carried out in small, close-knit communities where native speakers from the same community may become involved in the analysis of such data. We will also discuss (i) problems caused by data sharing in cross-linguistic and cross-cultural studies and (ii) conflicts that can occur when inter-disciplinary studies require ethical approval from boards with members from different disciplines (e.g. medical sciences, linguistics, psychology, and anthropology).

Keywords: linguistics, justice, psycholinguistics, experiments, ethics

University of Essex Postgraduate Schemes for Experimental Linguists

Funding Opportunities

Seminar Talk on Syntactic Processing in Akan

On the 7th of November, Helen Goodluck (York) will come to Essex and give a seminar talk on the processing of Akan, a Kwa language spoken in Ghana.

Kgolo and Eisenbeiss in York

Yesterday, I presented work with Naledi Kgolo in York: “Taking psycholinguistics to the field: A case study on morphological processing in Setswana”

Helen Goodluck in York is doing some interesting comparative work on the processing of English and Akan questions.

Presentation at the 2013 Language and Computation Day

Sonja Eisenbeiss, Naledi Kgolo, Sarah Schmid, and Janina Fickel will present at the Essex Language and Computation Day 2013: “Experimental Linguistics in the Field: A Morphological Processing Study on Setswana Noun Derivations and a New Resource Repository”. Come and join us.