Chapter 12

§12.4: Human Subjects:

Grant Bodies:


Further information about fieldwork and ethics

  • Ethical issues in linguistic fieldwork: an overview (Keren Rice) [PDF]
  • Legal, Ethical and Policy Issues Concerning the Recording and Publication of Primary Language Materials ( Mark Liberman) [PDF]
  • Thinking about what we are asking speakers to do (Carson Schutze) [PDF]

Ethics and Archiving:

Ethical dilemmas for discussion:

  1. You’re working with two consultants, one of whom is happy to be videoed, the other of whom isn’t. What do you do?
  2. You’re invited to a one-on-one language session with an old man who’s widely rumoured to be beating his wife. What do you do?
  3. You’re working in an area where the leading cause of death is diabetes. Your consultants visit and put 4 tablespoons of sugar in their tea. What do you do (if anything)?
  4. Your IRB requires informed consent in writing, but none of the people you work with can read and write. Your IRB says they will accept consent forms signed on behalf of the consultants by someone who can read and write, but the only person in the area who can do this (beside you) is the local police officer, who is held in extremely low esteem. How will you organise informed consent to everyone’s satisfaction?
  5. You’ve been asked by the local school to start language classes, but the village elders are concerned that a substandard form of the language will be taught. How do you proceed?
  6. Your supervisor doesn’t see what all the fuss with IRBs is about and tells you there’s no need to apply for clearance before you go to the field. Are they right? If not, what do you do?
  7. One of your grant funding conditions is that the results of your research be made generally available, however your consultants aren’t sure they want their language put on the web. How will you proceed?