Linguistics 202/502
Field Linguistics
Fall 2003-2004


Instruction and practice in primary linguistic research, i.e. the elicitation of linguistic data through direct work with a native speaker of a language not previously known to the students. Some reference materials may be consulted to supplement and direct the elicitation.


Bill Poser
Web Page:


In order to make use of everything on this web site, you will need Unicode-encoded fonts for both the Ethiopic writing system and the International Phonetic Alphabet. You'll need them in order to read some parts of these pages in your browser and to view Unicode-encoded text files. You'll also need them if you're going to write in Unicode.

Probably the easiest way to get the necessary fonts is to get a copy of James Kass' font Code 2000. This is a TrueType font that covers the entire first plane of the Unicode standard. That means that it includes Ethiopic, the Roman alphabet and its various extensions, including the IPA symbols, and most of the other writing systems currently in use. This font will allow you to view everything on these pages in Galeon (the browser I usually use), Internet Explorer, Netscape and Mozilla. It will also work with Yudit, allowing you to use Yudit to view Unicode files and to write in IPA and Tigrinya and generate Unicode files.

If you want to write web pages of your own in Unicode, you can either compose directly in Unicode, using a Unicode editor such as Yudit and inserting the HTML yourself, or you can write them however you usually do, in a smaller character set, and insert the Unicode manually. In the latter case, you'll need to know the numerical codes for the IPA symbols. You can find them here or here. The Unicode codes for the Ethiopic writing system can be found here.

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Bibliography on Tigrinya

(This is a list of relevant items, not a list of required reading.)
Berhane, Girmay (1991)
Issues in the Phonology and Morphology of Tigrinya. Ph.D. thesis, Université de Québec a Montréal.

Buckley, Eugene (1990)
Edge-in association and OCP 'violations' in Tigrinya. Proceedings of the Ninth West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, pp. 75-90.

Buckley, Eugene (1994)
Tigrinya vowel features and vowel coalescence. Penn Working Papers in Linguistics 1, 1-28.
Download PDF.

Buckley, Eugene (1997)
Tigrinya root consonants and the OCP. Penn Working Papers in Linguistics 4.3, 19-51.
Download PDF.

Buckley, Eugene (1997)
Against vowel length in Tigrinya. Studies in African Linguistics 26.1,63-102.
Download PDF.

Buckley, Eugene (2000)
Alignment and weight in the Tigrinya verb stem. in Vicki Carstens and Frederick Parkinson (eds.) Advances in African linguistics. (Trends in African linguistics, 4), Africa World Press, 165-176.
Download PDF.

Buckley, Eugene (to appear)
Emergent vowels in Tigrinya templates. in Jacqueline Lecarme (ed.) Research in Afroasiatic Grammar II (Proceedings of the 5th Conference on Afro-Asiatic Linguistics). pp. 104-125. John Benjamins.
Download PDF.

Denais, Michel (1990)
Eléments de Phonologie et de Morphologie Tigrigna. Ph.D. thesis, Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis.

Leslau, Wolf (1939)
Observations sur quelques dialectes du Tigrigna. (Dialectes d'Akkele Gouzay, d'Adoua, et du Hamasen.) Journal Asiatique pp. 61-115.

Leslau, Wolf (1941)
Documents Tigrigna. Paris: C. Klincksieck.
Grammar and texts. The grammar does not cover syntax except insofar as it touches on syntactic points in its discussion of the morphology or of particles. The dialect described is that of Akkele Guzay. This is fairly different from the Hamasien dialect that we are working with.

Mason, John (ed.) (1996)
Tigrinya Grammar. Lawrenceville, New Jersey: Red Sea Press.
In spite of its title, this is not a grammar; it is an introductory textbook. It does, however, cover various aspects of the grammar. The Tigrinya examples are given only in the Tigrinya script.

Palmer, Frank R. (1966)
The `broken plurals' of Tigrinya. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 17.548-66.
Reprinted in Eric Hamp, Fred Householder, and Robert Austerlitz (eds.) Readings in Linguistics II (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966) pp. 341-358.
A cult classic.

Pam, Martin David (1973)
Tigrinya Phonology. Ph.D. dissertation, the City University of New York.

ኣማኑአል ሳህለ[Amanuel Sahle] (1998)
ሰዋስው ትግርኛ ብሰፊሑ [Sewasiw Tigrinya B'sefihu]. Lawrenceville, New Jersey: Red Sea Press.
A comprehensive though brief (118 pp.) grammar .

Ullendorff, Edward (1955)
The Semitic Languages of Ethiopia: a Comparative Phonology. London: Taylor's (Foreign) Press.
Deals with the relationship of Tigrinya to the other Semitic languages.

Ullendorf, Edward (1985)
A Tigrinya Chrestomathy. Stuttgart: F. Steiner.

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Bibliography on Field Methods and Related Topics

(This is a list of relevant items, not a list of required reading.)
Abbi, Anvita (2001)
A Manual of Linguistic Field Work and Structures of Indian Languages. Munich: LINCOM EUROPA.

Bouquiaux, Luc and Jacqueline M. C. Thomas (1992)
Studying and Describing Unwritten Languages. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.

Comrie, Bernard and Norval Smith (1977)
`Lingua Descriptive Studies: questionnaire,' Lingua 42.1.1-72.

Dixon, Robert M. W. (1983)
Searching for Aboriginal Languages: Memoirs of a Field Worker. New York: University of Queensland Press. Reprinted 1989 by the University of Chicago Press.

Everett, Daniel L. (2003)
"Coherent Fieldwork," ms. University of Manchester.

Newman, Paul and Martha Ratliff (eds.) (2001)
Linguistic Fieldwork. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Payne, T. E. (1997)
Describing Morphosyntax: A Guide for Field Linguists. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tepper, Sheri S. (1987)
After Long Silence. New York: Bantam Books.
This is a science fiction novel that turns out, in a way, to be about doing linguistic fieldwork. (Being more specific would give away the story.) It is not in the Penn Library but can be purchased from

Tepper, Sheri S. (2003)
The Companions. New York: Harper Collins.
Another science fiction novel, more explicitly involving linguistic fieldwork than After Long Silence.

Vaux, Bert and Justin Cooper (1999)
Introduction to Linguistic Field Methods. Munich: Lincom Europa. ISBN:3895861987

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Information About Tigrinya


LotteryStory.wav [4,941,100 bytes]
Lottery Story Translation [text]
Vocabulary I

Blackboard Photos

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Publications and Broadcasts in Tigrinya

Background Information on Eritrea and Ethiopia

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Linguistics Resources

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Last modified 2003/12/25 21:51.

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