LINGUIST List 33.2867

Thu Sep 22 2022

Review: Anthropological Linguistics: Perrino, Pritzker (2022)

Editor for this issue: Maria Lucero Guillen Puon <>

Date: 29-Aug-2022
From: Marie Rickert <>
Subject: Research Methods in Linguistic Anthropology
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Sabina M. Perrino
EDITOR: Sonya E. Pritzker
TITLE: Research Methods in Linguistic Anthropology
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Publishing (formerly The Continuum International Publishing Group)
YEAR: 2022

REVIEWER: Marie Rickert, Maastricht University


“Research Methods in Linguistic Anthropology”, edited by Sabina M. Perrino and Sonya E. Pritzker is the first textbook solely dedicated to methods in the discipline of Linguistic Anthropology. It presents researchers and students with a detailed introduction to different methods and pays particular attention to practical and ethical considerations. The book includes a variety of examples from different research areas.

The collection contains 12 chapters authored by linguistic anthropologists with diverse research interests, covering the whole research process. While the first chapters revolve around key issues like creating research questions and planning fieldwork, the chapters in the middle zoom in on distinct methods. Analysis, mixed methods and grant writing are discussed in dedicated chapters toward the end of the book. Each chapter contains a section on ethnographic activities, questions to consider and references to further reading which encourage deeper engagement with the topic.

“Research Methods in Linguistic Anthropology” begins with an introduction by the editors who make a case for the urgency of the book. Sabina M. Perrino and Sonya E. Pritzker argue that students and researchers will benefit from a comprehensive overview of the methodological repertoire of the discipline in one collection. An outlook on the contributions which, according to them, are united in highlighting flexibility while simultaneously keeping key anthropological tenets as a solid methodological base.

The first chapter entitled “Navigating topics and creating research questions in Linguistic Anthropology” (Farzad Karimzad and Lydia Catedral) discusses the beginnings and foundations of research projects. The authors draw on Silverstein’s conceptualization of the pragmatics-metapragmatics-nexus (Silverstein 1993) which takes into account language practices and the interrelations with their mediating ideologies to situate linguistic anthropological knowledge production. The authors then discuss coming up with a research focus as a process which entails forms of categorization and zooming in and out on different scales (see Blommaert 2015) as well as attributing topical salience in order to develop a flexible research question. The case study provides insights into the author’s own journey of situating their research and crafting their research questions in a project around discourse, technology, and migration (Karimzad & Catedral 2018).

The next contribution “Reviewing the literature in Linguistic Anthropology”, written by Justin B. Richland, presents key strategies in conducting literature reviews. The author describes the search on platforms which publish annotated bibliographies and literature reviews, as well as other databases, but also suggests library-based research strategies. Richland pays particular attention to the open-ended character of anthropological fieldwork. He discusses how to approach reviewing the literature in this light and suggests including literature reviews as an integral part of the research process which links the topic and field site to wider discussions in the field of Linguistic Anthropology.

Continuing along the trajectory of the research process, the next chapter (Deborah A. Jones and Ilana Gershon) deals with the concrete planning of fieldwork. The authors recommend holding on to the important questions ‘Who?’, ‘Where?’ and ‘How?’ for planning data collection but also for adapting as the unexpectedness of the field unfolds. Besides such general considerations, the chapter provides details on the planning of practicalities (e.g., technical, medical, postal, financial, professional, personal). The authors conclude that, even though anthropological research cannot be foreseen, “good research isn’t random” but “the key to sparkling and surprising ethnography is (…) good planning (p.93).

While ethics are considered and discussed in each chapter of the book, Chapter 4 entitled “Care as methodological stance: Research ethics in linguistic anthropology” is solely dedicated to ethical issues. The authors Steven P. Black and Robin Conley Riner conceptualize ethics from a care perspective (drawing on, e.g. Taylor et al. 2012), which challenges researcher/participant dichotomies and highlights personal and institutional interconnections. Black and Riner go on to central ethical matters such as sexual harassment and discrimination. Issues like confidentiality and anonymity are discussed drawing on examples from the author’s research projects in the US and South Africa.

Getting more concrete regarding specific methods, Chapter 5, authored by Sonya E. Pritzker and Sabina M. Perrino discusses the classical anthropological methods of participant observation and the crafting of fieldnotes. The authors give a practical overview of different types of fieldnotes (e.g., headnotes (Sanjek, 1990), logs, diaries, method notes, analytic notes) and explain different ways to organize and analyse them. Furthermore, they discuss the role of participant observation and fieldnotes in linguistic anthropological research designs where they often go together with, e.g., audio- and video-recorded data. The authors argue that fielnotes are nevertheless indispensable due to the experientiality and relationality of anthropological knowledge production. Pritzker’s example of how she arrived to her field site in Beijing and was told that she would no longer be allowed to make any recordings but only to participate in workshops underscores once more how crucial it is to be able to rely on classical tools like participant observation and fieldnotes.

Chapter 6, written by Sabina M. Perrino, goes on to discuss another key method: interviews. Perrino conceptualizes these as situated speech events where not only the content but also the interactional dynamics during the interview can be insightful for the research process. Examples from her research in Senegal and Northern Italy are used to discuss the role of intimacy and relationship building in the context of interviewing.

The next chapter is entitled “Audio-video technology for and in the field: A primer” (Gregory Kohler and Keith M. Murphy). The chapter covers methodological questions like the selection of events which will be recorded, ethical concerns like privacy as well as very practical matters, e.g., which equipment to use to yield data of high quality. In addition, Kohler and Murphy give an historical overview of how video came to the field, starting with ethnographic recordings conducted by Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson.

Chapter 8 (Teruko Vida Mitsuhara and Jan David Hauck) elaborates the technical details of video ethnography. It provides a detailed guide to conducting video recordings, with steps to consider before, during, and after data collection. The chapter shows that video ethnography requires much more than filming, namely also aspects like familiarizing yourself with the equipment, creating a videographer identity in the field, establishing consent as an ongoing process and creating a database.

Chapter 9 is dedicated to transcription and analysis in Linguistic Anthropology (Merav Shohet and Heather Loyd). Logically following up on prior chapters on data collection, this chapter considers “what to do with the data collected” (p. 261). The authors depict transcription, including the question what to transcribe, as the first step of analysis. They describe transcribing and analyzing as “bricolage works that are never complete, and always collaborative and redolent with the residues (…) contributions of others” (p. 288). Therefore, as the authors suggest, analysis, including transcribing and coding, is a recursive process which entails continuous interpretation and reinterpretation. The chapter includes examples of different forms of transcripts, e.g., multi-modal (Goodwin et al. 2012), audio-recorded data with bolded analytical interest, and translated, multilingual transcript annotated with participant’s rhetorical strategies.

In Chapter 10, Archie Crowley and Elaine Chun discuss online research and new media, a research environment that many linguistic anthropologists have turned to in the context of the COVID-19-pandemic. The authors argue that sociocultural questions as well as semiotic and metadiscursive questions can be addressed through online research, which requires rethinking key concepts like language, interaction, community, identity and ethnography itself. They provide guidance to data collection and analysis, encouraging researchers to maintain a reflexive lens. The case study of the chapter deals with discursive practices of transgender communities online in the context of marginalization.

Chapter 11 (Sonya E. Pritzker) turns toward mixed methods, recognizing that linguistic anthropologists increasingly collaborate with researchers from other disciplines in interdisciplinary projects and also deploy mixed methods themselves. Drawing on Fetters et al’s guidelines for mixing methods (2013), Pritzker discusses processes and challenges in designing and carrying out mixed methods projects, specifically those which integrate qualitative and quantitative data.

The closing chapter, entitled “Grant Writing for Projects in Linguistic Anthropology” and authored by Sonia N. Das, provides reflections and practical advice on grant writing. Using examples of her own successful grants, Das provides insights into the development of a coherent design including research questions, hypotheses, data collection, management, and analysis as well as considerations of the intellectual merit and broader significance. Like in all chapters of the volume, ethics are also discussed in-depth.


‘Research Methods in Linguistic Anthropology’ offers a much needed and valuable collection of reflections on methods as well as practical guidelines for planning and carrying out research projects in linguistic anthropology. While many handbooks from neighbouring (e.g. sociolinguistics) or umbrella (e.g. anthropology) disciplines touch upon linguistic anthropology and its methods, this is the first volume to solely focus on methods in the sub-discipline from beginning to end.

The book holistically discusses a variety of methods which linguistic anthropologists deploy, always paying attention to the particular perspectives and approaches of the field and, thereby, delineating linguistic anthropology from neighbouring disciplines. Each author foregrounds, in their own way, the combination of methodological flexibility and academic rigour needed for a successful planning and carrying out of fieldwork as well as for the analysis of the gathered data. The case studies provide interesting insights into practical research processes, openly presenting challenges that might arise regarding particular methods during planning, fieldwork and analysis, and examples of how to deal with them. The variety of topics and field sites shows how the methods discussed in this volume are applied across diverse contexts which are all shaped by interconnections of culture and linguistic and discursive processes. The editors make clear that the book particularly covers more traditional and core novel methods in linguistic anthropology while linguistic anthropology is a dynamically evolving field. Perrino and Pritzker mention applied linguistic anthropology, sociophonetics and the integration of quantitative and qualitative methods as venues which the book can only attend to in a limited way. Also novel research approaches like posthumanist or multispecies ethnography (Cornips 2022) are not explicitly discussed as the book focuses on core methods.

The editors succeeded in creating coherency by presenting a line-up of chapters which logically follow up on each other, starting with the creation of research questions and preparations for fieldwork, moving on to concrete methods and ending with topics which integrate the elements discussed in the previous chapters, i.e., mixed methods and grant writing. The last chapter on grant writing is especially worth mentioning as it covers a topic which is not often transparently discussed in academic writing. The chapter gives helpful and concrete advice and provides examples from successful grants of linguistic anthropological projects.

Each of the chapters in ‘Research Methods in Linguistic Anthropology’ includes considerations of practicalities regarding the method discussed, of ethics, and of additional ethnographic activities and further reading. While the chapters are generally balanced, audio- and video methods receive slightly more attention than other methods as they are discussed in-depth in two chapters. However, both chapters take a different angle, focusing on either general considerations or technical details and thereby clearly create an added value.

As suggested by the editors, the volume addresses both experienced and new researchers. Students and junior researchers will particularly benefit from the ways in which basic tenets of methods which often remain implicit are made explicit throughout the chapters. How to conduct a literature review, for example, is elsewhere commonly not spelled out beyond the advice to read and summarise what has been read. Richland, in his contribution to the volume, mentions different approaches and does so explicitly for linguistic anthropology by, e.g., suggesting suitable databases.

The high amount of detail and practical guidance to different methods across the chapters makes the book a rich resource for teaching. The ethnographic activities and questions to consider suggested at the end of each chapter can be used both in classrooms and as individual assignments for familiarisation with the methods. For their own preparation of fieldwork, more experienced researchers might not always need this much detail in practical advice. However, the volume likewise offers them many conceptual issues to (re-)consider and presents a wide variety of methods, some of which, e.g., online methods, might be new to more experienced researchers. In addition, the book takes into account the dynamic development of technologies and provides up-to-date advice as well as advice on how to stay up-to-date.

In sum, the volume successfully achieves its aim to provide a comprehensive collection which can guide researchers at all stages in the field of Linguistic Anthropology through the research process. Highly interesting contributions carefully consider practical, ethical and conceptual questions and help readers with the methodological aspects of their research projects. “Research Methods in Linguistic Anthropology” certainly has the potential to help many researchers with their research design and thorough execution of research projects.


Blommaert, J. (2015). Chronotopes, scales, and complexity in the study of language in society. Annual Review of Anthropology, 44, 105-116.

Cornips, L. (2022). The animal turn in postcolonial (socio)linguistics: the interspecies greeting of the dairy cow. Journal of Postcolonial Linguistics, (6), 209-231.

Fetters, M. D., Curry, L. A., & Creswell, J. W. (2013). Achieving integration in mixed methods designs—principles and practices. Health services research, 48(6pt2), 2134-2156.

Goodwin, M. H., Cekaite, A., Goodwin, C., & Tulbert, E. (2012). Emotion as stance. Emotion in interaction, 16, 41.

Karimzad, F., & Catedral, L. (2018). Mobile (dis) connection: New technology and rechronotopized images of the homeland. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 28(3), 293-312.

Sanjek, R. (1990). A vocabulary for fieldnotes. Fieldnotes: The makings of anthropology, 92-121.

Silverstein, M. (1993). “Metapragmatic Discourse and Metapragmatic Function.” In J. Luc ed., Reflexive Language, 32-58. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Taylor, T., Boellstorff, T., Nardi, B. & Pearce, C. (2012). Chapter 8. Ethics. In Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method (pp. 129-150). Princeton: Princeton University Press.


Marie Rickert is a PhD candidate in Linguistic Anthropology based at Maastricht University (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) & University of Münster (Institute of Dutch Philology). She widely applies linguistic ethnographic methods. Her research interests include language socialization, multilingualism in education, child interaction and processes of identification through language practices. Currently, she works on a project on linguistic diversity in Early Childcare and Education, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie-Skłodowska-Curie grant number 847596.

Page Updated: 22-Sep-2022