Today, there are around 6-7,000 languages spoken in the world and it is widely agreed that at least half of those are under threat of extinction within 50 to 100 years. Language documentation is a new sub-discipline within linguistics that has emerged as a response to the growing crisis of language endangerment. It emphasises data collection methodologies, in two ways: first, in encouraging researchers to collect and record a wide range of linguistic phenomena in genuine communicative situations; and secondly, in its use of high quality sound and video recording to make sure that the results are the best possible record of the language.
The MA programme in Language Documentation and Description is intended for students who wish to specialise in the documentation and description of languages, with a focus on minority and endangered languages. This specialist MA is characterised by an integrated core of subject offerings that are oriented around issues in language documentation and description, plus a series of options in linguistics, applied linguistics, and language studies.
The programme is formulated with two main pathways:
MA Language Documentation and Description [Language Support and Revitalisation] provides an introductory overview of the study of language as well as courses geared at enabling students to support endangered and minority language communities in a number of ways. This pathway is open to students with or without a background in linguistics.
MA Language Documentation and Description [Field Linguistics] provides students with a sound knowledge of state-of-the-art methods and technology for language documentation and description with an emphasis on endangered and minority languages. This pathway is open to students who already hold an undergraduate major in linguistics/applied linguistics, or an MA in linguistics.
This course is part of the Endangered Languages Academic Programme (ELAP), which specifically aims to advance the documentation and description of endangered languages. ELAP also runs seminars, workshops, and intensive courses on the documentation of endangered languages. The programme is funded by the Lisbet Rausing Charitable Fund, and forms part of the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project (http://www.hrelp.org/).
The MA Language Documentation and Description (LDD) consists of three components: core courses, option courses and dissertation research. This degree programme is formulated with two different pathways; one specialising in Language Support and Revitalisation and the other specialising in Field Linguistics.
Regardless of the pathway they chose, all students take the equivalent of 2 full units as core courses, and the equivalent of 1 full unit as option courses and submit a Masters dissertation at the end of the year. The MA may be taken part-time, over two or three years, and there is a possibility for transferring between the two pathways for part-time students.
- MA Language Documentation and Description [Language Support and Revitalisation]
This pathway is open for full-time study to students with or without a BA in linguistics and provides an introductory overview of the study of language as well as courses geared at enabling students to support endangered and minority language communities in a number of ways. For part-time options and details please see the MA Handbook.
- MA Language Documentation and Description [Field Linguistics]
This pathway is open to students with a BA in Linguistics and equivalent and provides students with a sound knowledge of state-of-the-art methods and technology for language documentation and description with an emphasis on endangered and minority languages. For part-time options and details please see the MA handbook.
- Optional Courses
Any course/s to the value of 1 unit from the list of running Linguistics PG courses.
Six of the academic departments are devoted to teaching and research in the languages, literatures and cultures of Africa, China and Inner Asia, Japan and Korea, the Near and Middle East, South Asia, and South East Asia, with the seventh teaching and conducting research in Linguistics. The Language Centre caters to the needs of non-degree students and governmental and non-governmental organisations. It maintains a huge portfolio of courses, including year-long diploma programmes, weekly evening classes in about 40 different African and Asian languages, and tailored intensive one-to-one courses. The Language Centre also offers courses in French, Portuguese and Spanish.
Their teaching is in three main areas: - language competence acquisition; - textual and cultural studies - both comparative and language-specific, and covering not only 'literature' in a strict sense but also visual media, performance, folklore, translation etc.; - language studies with linguistics at its core - including the prestigious Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project.
While SOAS as a whole represents the most substantial concentration in the Western world of expertise dedicated to African, Middle Eastern and Asian studies, the Faculty of Languages and Cultures is heavily committed to teaching and research grounded in a knowledge of the principal languages and cultures of two thirds of humankind.
Department of Linguistics
The department is a centre for linguistic study in an unparalleled range of languages, many of which we are documenting for the first time. They include languages of Africa, the Near and Middle East, South Asia, South East Asia, Central Asia, Australia, the Pacific, and Siberia. The department has close academic ties to the rest of our faculty, the Departments of Africa, China and Inner Asia, Japan and Korea, the Near and Middle East, South Asia, and South East Asia, as well as the Language Centre.
The research interests of members of staff cover a wide range of theoretical and applied aspects of linguistics, including syntax, phonology, semantics, information structure, sociolinguistics, historical linguistics, linguistic typology, language documentation and description, language contact and multilingualism, language support and revitalisation, language archiving, lexicography, language pedagogy, translation studies, and the studies of individual languages and language families.