Sustainable practice in linguistics

By Celeste Rodríguez Louro

What practices in linguistics / language studies are sustainable? What are not?  

Linguistic research rests on the availability of language data. A sizeable number of linguistic projects focus on understanding minoritized languages, which generally lack existing datasets on which to base analyses. For projects where no previous corpora of materials exist, or where the materials are scarce, it is necessary to collect new datasets. Collecting linguistic data requires travel to the field. For some projects, this travel is minimal, generating near-negligible carbon footprint. However, most fieldwork takes place in geographically distant areas and researchers are required to travel to the communities several times to build relationships of trust and ensure the research is successful.

How to improve your field leading towards a more sustainable linguistics? 

One way to reduce the number of times a researcher must be in the field is to spend as many weeks on site as possible at a time. Fieldworkers should also work closely with the community, building the capacity of select community members who may assist with data collection. Additionally, part of the fieldwork may be conducted online.

Linguistic fieldwork is essential. Because of the climate crisis, however, it is important to consider the researcher’s carbon footprint. Research ethics should expand to safeguard people’s confidentiality but also, and importantly, to protect our planet from further harm.

Please consult the following Working Paper for additional information: