This site contains a bonanza of material for the field elicitation of semantics and and the field collection of verbal behaviour. These are unique resources that have been compiled over twenty years of investigation of under-studied languages by the Language and Cognition department at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. During this period we collectively pioneered the field of semantic typology.
In many cases, the design of the tasks has been refined over recurrent field seasons, yielding well-adapted sensitive instruments for investigating e.g. semantic distinctions in a language without a writing system or a culture with only minimal schooling. In this way, the tasks are the joint product of many scholars working in over 50 languages and cultures.
For years these Field Manuals have been available on demand, but this website provides a freely accessible central repository. A word of caution: not all the materials are self-contained. We have provided downloadable audio-visual material wherever possible. Some tasks however require external props or physical stimuli, as flagged. In publications or presentations based on these materials, please cite correctly as indicated next to each resource, in accordance with the regulations on use.
Looking at these materials may inspire you to make your own. But there is a particular advantage to using these ready made materials as well if they seem appropriate — namely, the data from earlier applications to other languages gives a comparative perspective otherwise hard to get. See a representative selection of our publications for this perspective.
To see the other summaries of earlier comparative efforts, see the publications under the projects Categories across language and cognition and Interactional Foundations of Language on the MPI Nijmegen website.
Stephen C. Levinson