OLAC Linguistic Field Vocabulary

Date issued:2002-11-27
Status of document:Draft Recommendation. This is only a preliminary draft that is still under development; it has not yet been presented to the whole community for review.
This version:http://www.language-archives.org/REC/field-20021127.html
Latest version:http://www.language-archives.org/REC/field.html
Previous version:None.

This document specifies the codes, or controlled vocabulary, for the 'linguistic-field' value of the xsi:type attribute of the OLAC Subject element. These codes describe the content of a resource as relevant to a particular subfield of linguistic science.

Editors: Helen Aristar Dry (mailto:hdry@linguistlist.org) Michael Appleby (mailto:michael@linguistlist.org)
Copyright © Helen Aristar Dry (Eastern Michigan University), Michael Appleby (Eastern Michigan University) . This material may be distributed and repurposed subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Linguistic Field

1. Introduction

The Linguistic Field extension of the Subject Element is used to describe the content of a resource as relevant to a particular subfield of linguistic science. In many cases, it may be that more than one subfield is relevant; in such cases, all relevant subfields should be chosen. Like other OLAC descriptors, the Linguistic Field descriptor is both optional and repeatable.

Every effort has been made to correlate the OLAC Linguistic Field definitions with current practice in the linguistics community. However, in some cases, the definition may be wider or narrower than some linguists might expect. For example, 'Applied Linguistics' may be narrower, as it applies only to linguistic applications in the classroom, and 'Semantics' might be wider, encompassing as it does Lexical Semantics. Where the OLAC definition is narrower, there will be another, more appropriate subfield for the residual meaning, so, for example, 'Computational Linguistics' is more appropriate than 'Applied Linguistics' for computer applications.

2. Linguistic Field

Each term in the controlled vocabulary is described in one of the following subsections. The heading gives the encoded value for the term that is to be used as the value of the code attribute of the Subject metadata element when the xsi:type attribute is "OLAC:linguistic-field" [OLAC-MS]. Under the heading, the term is described in four ways. Name gives a descriptive label for the term. Definition is a one-line summary of what the term means. Comments offers more details on what the term represents. Examples may also be given to illustrate how the term is meant to be applied.


NameAnthropological Linguistics
DefinitionThe study of language with particular reference to the society and culture of the speakers.

Anthropological linguistics often concerns less well-documented languages. The definition includes 'ethnolinguistics.'


The SIL Ethnologue, which collects data on the number on speakers of a language and the geographical region in which it is spoken.


NameApplied Linguistics
DefinitionThe use of linguistic methods in solving real world problems, especially problems of literacy or language learning.

The definition includes TESOL, ESL, Second Language Teaching, Second Language Learning and Contrastive Linguistics.


Teaching materials, guides for language teachers, and studies of adult language learning.


NameCognitive Science
DefinitionIn terms of linguistics, theories of language that attempt to show language to be a product of general cognitive functions.

A paper on iconicity.


NameComputational Linguistics
DefinitionThe use of computer science in the study of language.

The definition includes Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing, and Mathematical Linguistics.


Books and papers dealing with Machine Translation, Text to Speech software, and algorithms to parse sentences.


NameDiscourse Analysis
DefinitionThe study of the patterns and meanings behind connected speech.

The definition includes Humor Studies, Conversation Analysis, Interactional Sociolinguistics, and studies of language use in special circumstances, e.g. Courtroom Language.


Transcripts of discourse, perhaps with turn taking and speaker overlap highlighted; papers on Discourse Representation Theory or on different talk types such as doctor/patient interaction; and audio and video tapes of interactive discourse which might serve as an object of study.


NameGeneral Linguistics
DefinitionThe broad study of linguistics without specialization in any subfield.

Resources that cover many subfields in depth, perhaps a dissertation on an endangered language with a detailed syntactic and phonological analysis, should be classified under all the relevant subfields instead of 'General Linguistics'.


Broad, often introductory textbooks such as The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language (Crystal, 1987), and glossaries of linguistic terminology.


NameHistorical Linguistics
DefinitionThe diachronic study of language change.

The definition includes Etymology.


Papers on phonological shifts and data exemplifying such shifts.


NameHistory of Linguistics
DefinitionStudy of the history and development of linguistic science, usually pre-20th century.

A biography of Ferdinand de Saussure, or an analysis of Plato's discussions on language.


NameLanguage Description
Definition The report and/or analysis of data from a language, usually previously uncirculated.

Usually, the major purpose of resources classified as Language Description is to provide information on language structure, rather than to critique or support a specific linguistic theory. However, if a descriptive drammar or analysis has a particular theoretical bent it may also be classified under Linguistic Theory.


A grammar, a PhD dissertation on an endangered language, a collection of field notes and recordings.


DefinitionThe creation of dictionaries, monolingual or multilingual, for linguistic purposes.

Swadesh word lists, a reverse dictionary of English, and a collection of legal terms in a particular language.


NameLinguistics and Literature
DefinitionThe application of linguistic analysis to bellettristic texts, such as fiction, drama or poetry.

The definition includes Stylistics and Poetics.


An analysis of lexical patterns characteristic of a particular author or syntactic constructions used to create specific literary effects.


NameLinguistic Theories
DefinitionTheories (argued to be) fundamental to linguistic science, often spanning more than one subfield such as phonology and syntax.

Papers arguing for or against Universal Grammar, Transformational Grammar, or Montague Grammar.


DefinitionThe study of the structure and constituency of individual words.

A resource consisting primarily of data from a morphologically complex language should be classifed as 'Language Description' if the primary purpose is to describe the structure of the language in question.


A paper on morphological theory, Word Grammar (Hudson).


DefinitionThe study of brain structure and the physical representation of language in the brain.

A study of brain damage with respect to language impairment, a study of the neurological development of the brain during first language acquisition.


NamePhilosophy of Language
DefinitionThe application of philosophy to linguistic theory.

A paper on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, a comparative study of verbal and non-verbal thought.


DefinitionThe study and classification of the structure, articulation and perception of speech sounds.

The definition includes both articulatory phonetics and acoustic phonetics. Datasets, lexicons, and graphic representations of experimental results should be classified under Phonetics if they have particular relevance to the sounds of the language.


A sound inventory of a language, a study of the variation of articulation of a particular sound.


DefinitionThe study of the patterns and principles behind the sound system of a language, or languages in general.

The classification is not limited to phonological analyses. Datasets, lexicons, and graphic representations of experimental results should be classified under Phonology if they have particular relevance to the sound system of the language.


Phonological theories applied to a particular language; that is, a study of the syllable structure of a language, or the rules behind sound alternations. Also to be included under 'Phonology' are phoneme datasets, field notes on the phonology of a language, and papers on phonological theories themselves, such as a critique of Optimality Theory.


DefinitionThe study of the use of language in terms of the context in which it is spoken.

The definition includes Non-verbal Communication.


A study of politeness phenomena, honorifics, deixis or speech acts.


DefinitionThe application of Psychology to linguistics, in terms of the development of child language (Developmental Psycholinguistics), or in terms of psychological mechanisms behind language, such as memory and intelligence (Experimental Psycholinguistics).

A cross-linguistic study of acquisition of a particular syntactic constraint, a study of aphasic children's language development.


DefinitionThe study of linguistic meaning.

The study of meaning in conversation should be classified as 'Discourse Analysis' and not 'Semantics'. The Linguistic Field of 'Semantics' includes meaning at the word level ('lexical semantics').


A paper on semantic theory, such as Truth Conditional Semantics. A paper on color lexemes in a particular language.


DefinitionThe study of language in context of the society that speaks it.

Multilingualism, Folklore, Pidgins and Creoles, Dialectology, Language Planning, and Gender Studies should all be classified under 'Sociolinguistics'.


A study of language variation according to such factors as the speakers' gender, age, and/or social class.


Definition'The study of grammatical relations between words and other units within a sentence' (Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics). To be distinguished from morphology, which applies to units smaller than the word.

A syntactic description of a language, using a particular syntactic theory. A paper using language data to criticize a syntactic theory.


NameText and Corpus Linguistics
DefinitionThe study of the structure of an extended passage, text, or set of texts.

The definition includes Semiotics and Genre Analysis. The text itself should be classified under 'Text and Corpus Linguistics,' as well as any analyses of the text.


The British National Corpus. A statistical analysis of the British National Corpus, on the use of modal verbs in spoken and written English.


DefinitionThe act of converting one language into another, and the issues that thereby arise.

The definition includes 'Terminology' and 'Transliteration'. The translated text itself may be better classified under 'Language Description' if the purpose of the translation is to exemplify the structure of a language.


A study of the relative merits of different levels of translation (that is, literal translation, word-for-word translation and so on).


DefinitionThe study of the similarites and differences between languages, regardless of any genetic relation, and the resulting categorization of language into 'types'.

The definition includes the descriptive and comparative study of Universals.


A paper using data from multiple languages as an argument for or against Universal Grammar. An analysis of a poorly documented language in terms of Greenberg's Universals.


NameWriting Systems
DefinitionThe visual representation of spoken language on paper or other media, and the issues involved in writing and creating a writing system.

Resources dealing with literacy may be classified as Writing Systems or Applied Linguistics or both, depending on whether the resource has substantial pedagogic content (Applied Linguistics) or includes an analysis of the graphemic system per se (Writing Systems).


A paper examining issues in a linguist's development of a writing system for a previously unwritten language. An examination of pictographic writing systems.


[OLAC-MS]OLAC Metadata Set.