Module 8: Linguistic ethnography

General description

Linguistic ethnography offers a fascinating approach to studying how language operates in real-life social contexts. It involves observing and analyzing how people use language in everyday interactions: by immersing themselves in specific social settings, linguistic ethnographers uncover the intricate ways in which language both reflects and shapes social life. The method offers a unique perspective on the role of language in society, shedding light on how communication practices influence relationships, communities, and broader social structures.

In this first part of the course, participants will delve into the foundational principles of qualitative ethnographic research methods within the realm of linguistics. We will explore the linguistic-ethnographic methodology and the different phases that characterize the research process. The training covers issues at the level of research design (e.g. negotiating access to a research site, gaining ethical clearance, formulating research questions), at the level of data analysis (e.g. techniques, frameworks and digital tools for describing, analyzing, and interpreting data) and at the level of dissemination (e.g. presenting research findings, reporting back, finding your narrative voice). In doing so, the course will introduce seminal linguistic ethnographic concepts and train the participants to engage with them, through a combination of theoretical instruction and practical exercises. Different research contexts will be explored, with a special emphasis on educational, institutional and professional communication.

In the second part of the course (and with the assistance of the lecturers), students will have the opportunity to undertake linguistic-ethnographic research in real-world contexts, engaging in observational studies and/or conducting interviews in the beautiful city of Ghent. Conducting these “mini-ethnographies” and discussing them with peers, allows students to go through all of the phases of the linguistic-ethnographic research process (in a safe environment) and engage with the concepts and theories discussed in class.

By the end of the course, participants will not only gain a comprehensive understanding of linguistic ethnographic research methods but will also be inspired and equipped to employ these methods in their own academic or professional endeavors.

Target audience and course prerequisites

This course is aimed at students from a variety of backgrounds with a keen interest in discourse and (the processes of) communication.

Previous linguistic-ethnographic experience is not required. We welcome master-level students, PhD candidates and post-doctoral researchers (with limited experience in linguistic ethnography). Students are encouraged to bring their own research data, if they have them.

The course will be taught in English.

Course materials

Copies of slides will be provided, as well as reading materials. The latter will be distributed before 1 July for course preparation.


From Ghent University, Departments of Linguistics and of Translation, Interpreting and Communication: Prof. dr. Geert Jacobs, Prof. dr. Stef Slembrouck, Dr. Marie Jacobs, Dr. Ella van Hest, Alexander De Soete, Seppe Goddaert

From the University of Antwerp, Department of Linguistics: Anne-Sophie Bafort

From Lancaster University, Department of Linguistics and English Language: Prof. dr. Karin Tusting


  • Monday 15/07/2024, 9:00-10:30 & 11:00-12:30 & 14:00-15:30 & 16:00-17:30 (lectures)
  • Tuesday 16/07/2024, 9:00-10:30 & 11:00-12:30 & 14:00-15:30 & 16:00-17:30 (lectures)
  • Wednesday 17/07/2024, 9:00-10:30 & 11:00-12:30 (lectures) & 14:00-15:30 & 16:00-17:30 (mini-ethnography, preparation for presentation)
  • Thursday 18/07/2024, 9:00-10:30 & 11:00-12:30 & 14:00-15:30 & 16:00-17:30 (mini-ethnography, preparation for presentation)
  • Friday 19/07/2024, 9:00-10:30 & 11:00-12:30 & 14:00-15:30 & 16:00-17:30 (presentations)