Research Methods in Linguistics by Podesva R.J., Sharma D. (eds.)

By Podesva R.J., Sharma D. (eds.)

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These are familiar problems, but perhaps the more serious consequence is that institutional oversight has also invited researchers to give over their ethical considerations to an external body that almost certainly knows less about the research and the conditions than they do. Rather than drawing back and openly or covertly refusing to comply with regulation, researchers might consider it part of their responsibility to become part of the solution by joining the review board and improving its practices from within, or providing the IRB with welldocumented information about issues specific to their discipline.

An additional threat to consent is the fact that interviews tend to be not just about the interviewee, but about that person’s acquaintances, friends, relatives, enemies. We need to ask ourselves at what point third parties become inadvertent research subjects, and when they do, we need to find a way to gain their consent. Very small children are commonly inadvertent research subjects, particularly in early acquisition studies, with their parents or guardians providing consent on their behalf. As they mature and develop the capacity to understand the implications of participating in research, they are in a position to decide whether or not to participate.

Linguists, particularly those working on endangered languages, generally feel a responsibility to the language itself, as a living, and all too often a dying, practice. This sense of responsibility is often shared with the communities who speak (or spoke) the language, opening possibilities for fruitful collaborations. But linguists’ dependence on, and commitment to, linguistic diversity also leads us to a view of language and languages as the property not just of their speakers, but of humankind more generally.

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