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You are here: Home / Research / Language Contact In the Field

Language Contact In the Field

Primary investigator: John Lipski (jlipski@psu.edu; www.personal.psu.edu/jml34/)

Graduate students who have participated:


Estilita Cassiani Obeso

Isabel Deibel

Johan de la Rosa

Javier López Ceoane

Deyanira Sindy Moya

Sonya Trawick


Colleen Balukas

Nicole Benevento

Abigaíl Carretero (University of Querétaro, Mexico)

Amelia Dietrich

Yolanda Gordillo

Diana Kobel (University of Basel, Switzerland)

Wilmar López Barrios (University of Massachusetts)

Lauren Perrotti Halberstadt

Emily Sabo (University of Michigan)

Diego Sevilla

Hiram Smith

Undergraduate students who have participated:


Kellie Alexandra

Gabby Herman

Madison Krieger

Daniel Miller

Sara Ostergren

Maggie Rose Pellela

Natalie Wenger


Luisa Arroyave (University of Antioquia, Colombia)

Rebecca Barnes

Melinda Dennis

Lina Duiker

Sarah Heeter

Daniel Magerman

Miguel Muñoz (University of California, Riverside)

Dorothy Schaadt

Mary Beth Spang

Miriam Villazón (University of California, Riverside)

Colleagues who have participated:

Colleen Balukas (Ball State University/The University at Buffalo)

Giuli Dussias

Mike Putnam 

Field research in linguistics is generally associated with ethnographic and sociolinguistic inquiries, while psycholinguistic experiments have traditionally been conducted in controlled laboratory settings, typically at universities and advanced research centers. Participants are usually literate with considerable formal education (e.g. university students). In recent years, there has been a move in psycholinguistics to broaden the scope of inquiry to include less commonly-studied and typologically diverse languages, beyond the “WEIRD” (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic), languages and societies that have formed the core of psycholinguistic research.* In partial response to this goal, “lab in the field” studies are receiving greater attention, and the range of languages and research techniques is steadily increasing. At the same time there is a growing awareness that it is not sufficient to simply expand the list of languages and typologies without taking into account the cultural and ecological settings in which the languages are used, and even the contexts in which the experimental research is conducted, since another source of bias are LOL (Literate, Official, and with Lots of users) languages.**

The thread that unites the individuals here is an interest in extending ethnographic, sociolinguistic, and psycholinguistic research to in situ language contact settings where the effects of prescriptivism, formal schooling, and linguistic insecurity are minimal, and ideally to include languages and communities that are neither WEIRD nor LOL. Although individually and collectively we have collected data in many locations, my primary research sites (and where most of the individuals listed here have worked with me) are:

The Afro-Colombian village of San Basilio de Palenque (a PIRE undergraduate and graduate research site), where the ancestral creole language Palenquero is spoken together with Spanish.

NE Argentina (Misiones province) along the border with Brazil, where vernacular Portuguese and Spanish—sometimes coalescing into “Portuñol”—predominate.

Northern Ecuador, where Quichua (the language of the former Inca empire), is in contact with Media Lengua, a mixed language much like Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” in which all Quichua roots have been replaced by Spanish roots while maintaining the rest of Quichua grammar. 


* Henrich, J., Heine, S., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33, 61-135.

** Dahl, Ö. (2015). How WEIRD are WALS languages. MPI-EVA, Leipzig. Presented at the Diversity Linguistics: Retrospect and Prospect, Leipzig.