Linguistic Anthropology

The study of language has been part of anthropology since the discipline started in the 1ate 1870s. This site is a place for linguistic anthropologists to post their work and discuss important events and trends in the field.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

LSA Ethics Statement and Blog

[This is a guest post by Claire Bowern, LSA Ethics committee member and blog co-webmaster]

The Linguistic Society of America recently finalized and released a
statement of professional ethics. The statement was approved at the May
Executive Committee meeting after extensive discussion and consultation
with members through a blog site ( A pdf of the
statement can be found at

While the impetus for the ethics statement was the complexity of
interaction that arises in fieldwork, the statement addresses more than
fieldwork ethics alone. It does have a section on work with (fieldwork)
research participants, but it also covers experimental work,
faculty/student interaction, the general public, dissemination of
research results, and scholarly ethics such as plagiarism. The ethics
committee felt strongly that the statement should be a framework for
ethical decision-making rather than either a list of "do's and don'ts"
or something that was narrowly applicable (e.g. to fieldworkers or
experimental linguists alone). This makes the statement somewhat
different from a good practice statement (such as that released by the
British Association for Applied Linguistics).

Because a broad and general statement leaves considerable room for
interpretation (some would say it's too vague on certain points), the
Ethics Committee will be developing a series of case studies over the
coming years. They will be posted on the Ethics Committee's blog: as they are
developed. We would also welcome feedback for topics that readers would
like to see addressed. The case studies will address in more detail some
of the specifics of certain ethical issues (such as experimental design
involving students, fieldwork in fourth-world communities, anonymization
of data, and the like).

There has been some online coverage of the statement's release. Inside
Higher Ed
published an article including an interview with committee
chair Lise Dobrin (U Virginia) on June 2 (see; this article provides some further background to the statement.

The Ethics committee is now a permanent fixture for the LSA and we are
looking forward to hearing more from LSA members and others about what
they would like to see an ethics committee do. Please post your comments
and suggestions on the blog (at or email me (claire.bowern (at) yale (dot) edu) or committee chair Lise Dobrin (ld4n (at) virginia (dot) edu).

[Guest post by Claire Bowern, LSA Ethics committee member and blog