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The Australian National University

2015: Field Methods: བུམ་ཐང་

In LING3012/LING6009 for semester 2, 2015 we will be learning field techniques by investigating Bumthang (བུམ་ཐང་), a Tibeto-Burman language from central Bhutan, learning from Dorji Wangchuk (རྡོ་རྗི་དབང་ཕྱུག་; ±[dɔɹdʑi wɑŋtɕuˑ]) (see below for a picture).


The course will run officially from the week of July 20 until the end of October; meetings with Dorji will be available each week from the beginning of August until the middle of November (including during the teaching break).

Meeting schedule:

Thursday, BPB 3rd floor, 'Departmental Centre' (= Library), optional drop-in, 2-4pm.

Friday, BPB W119):

10-11: Mark + all students

11-12: Mark + all students + Dorji

12-1: Catherine, Yuka + Dorji

1-2: Naomi, Jon, + Dorji + drop-in assistants / Jon

2-3: Tom, Carlo + Dorji

3-4: Bonnie, Naijing + Dorji

4-5: (Mark + Dorji + drop-in curious types)

As you can see, there's room for things getting a bit confused; and, for the first week at least, we might want to have more than two at a time, so we can see how it goes.

We can also swap around with each other, if one week is different from another week. Pre-arrange it with others ahead of time. You might want to swap phone numbers.

Course outline: here.



I have now posted some single words and simple utterances here to give you and idea of how this language will sound. We'll update these as we go along in the course, as well as on the alliance site. Note: this is where recordings of stories (extracted from sessions) go.

Make sure you have notes about details, not just impressions. You want to be able to do a decent, detailed description of the phonetics of the language to tie in with the phonology (cue the next section).


We're work on this in a mixture of together comments and individual observations, and write up individually. Pay attention to word shapes, and syllables; to prosody and to segments; to roots and to morphemes. That order actually makes a lot of sense, more than starting with (for instance) 'consonants and vowels' (which is how most descriptions begin).

(Phonetics/Phonology assignment)


OK, we've noticed some stuff, namely (to quote from 11am, 20150814): tense/aspect (what categories? how certain are you? how will you test for it?; case-marking (alignment? which semantic divisions are marked? how is it more, or less, explicit than English?). We'll look at general works on how to investigate 'language', and delve into some descriptions of related languages.


It would be fair to say thwat we're not yet sure about … well, anything.

Nonetheless, it's time to try your hand at transcribing some running speech.


What do we know? What do we speculate about? What have we forgotten to check yet? What might imply what else?

(Major assignment)


Various useful links, and we'll post some pdfs here as well.

On-line useful things

  • Canadian SIL site (many useful links)
  • Various handy questionaires
  • Our alliance site! (Field Methods 2015)
  • Downloadable resources

    Various pdfs about field work and about the Himalayas:

  • Van Driem: Himalayas (warning: BIG file; it's a largely sociolinguistic overview of languages of the Himalayas)
  • Hildebrandt: Phonetics and Phonology (some problems with fieldworking Himalayan phonology)
  • Bird and Gick, Phonetics
  • Crowley, Field Linguistics (general guidelines)
  • Chelliah and DeReuse, Field Linguistics (general guidelines)
  • Bowern, Field Linguistics (general guidelines)
  • Various pdfs about linguistic analysis:

  • Hildebrandt: Phonetics and Phonology (yes, the same as above)
  • Bird and Gick, Phonetics (yes, the same as above)
  • Sherzer: Speech play and verbal art
  • Smith: Structure of Texts (part 1; also part 2 and part 3)
  • Payne: Morphosyntax
  • Grammar writing vignettes
  • Duranti: Linguistic Anthropology
  • More Linguistic Anthropology
  • Anthropological Linguistics (!)
  • Ameka et al.: Grammatical Description
  • Anthropologically things, including a good chapter on colours
  • Booij: Morphology
  • Booij: Morphology & Typology
  • Coates: morphology
  • Lieber: Lexical semantics
  • … plus many more, to anyone who asks (bring your own USB storage unit).
  • Descriptive grammars of languages near-ish, or related to, Bhutan languages:

  • Lessonbook of Khengkha (this language is spoken immediately south of Ura)
  • Andvik: description of Tshangla (= Sharchop, Sharpyobs; allegedly 'closely related')
  • Hyslop: (draft of) a description of Kurtoep (allegedly 'even more closely related'; spoken NE of Ura, after passing the Kuri Chhu river valley)
  • Short sketch (caricature?) of Dakpa, from north-eastern Bhutan
  • A pedagogical grammar of Dzongkha, from western Bhutan (George van Driem again)
  • A sketch of Dingri Tibetan, NW of Bhutan, but not far
  • A description of a Drokpa Tibetan dialect
  • Stefan Georg's description of Thakali, not so close (?) ly related
  • Sharma's article on Rongpo (even more distant, genealogically and geographically)
  • Overviews that are either relevant or useful (or both):

  • Overview of the language family (while we don't know how they fit together, there is almost certainly some reality to at least some of this family. Contains lots of helpful grammar sketches; particularly, the Bodish ones, the 'TGTM' ones, and the Tshangla one) (well worth looking at)
  • Matisoff on how to assemble the family (only if you're into historical/comparative stuff)
  • Mark's sketch of Warembori (nothing about Bhutan or Tibeto-Burman, but some hopefully useful notes about how to present grammatical description)
  • Guide to the orthography used in Bhutan and how to transliterate it:

  • George van Driem on the Romanisation of Dzongkha
  • Now, I'll admit it, because its obvious: this isn't about Bumthang, it's about another language, a language, what's more, with a truly dreadful spelling system. All true. It is, however, a spelling system that Dorji is familiar with. And if you want to query whether a word is more like 'salt' or like 'nerve', then asking if he would spell it as ཚ་ or ཙ་ is much more likely to get a response than asking for tsha vs. tsa (for instance).
  • You don't have to learn/memorise this; but it might help to interpret some Dorji comments.
  • Description of Bumthang

  • George van Driem's sketch description of Bumthang!
  • Here you have it. I held it back until you'd done your phonetics/phonology thing, because, well, it's highly misleading. It is useful, I feel. More useful thank the Khengkha or Kurtoep stuff? I'm no sure. But useful, in some ways.
  • Possibly fanciful, in others.
  • Stories!

    We generated these! They've also moved to their own page, as this was starting to get out of control. Find them here.




		Dorji dressed

    (Other photos of the class doing its thing: here!)

    Updated:  15 September 2015/ Responsible Officer:  Mark Donohue/ Page Contact:  Mark Donohue