Fieldwork/Study Abroad in the Linguistics Program

About the Community

The dialect spoken in this community of approximately 5,000 has, to date, not been documented systematically in a comprehensive manner. In a collaborative effort between the Museo Comunitario de Teotitlán del Valle and San Francisco State University, a group of qualified students accompany Professor Troi Carleton to Teotitlán del Valle for three weeks in the summer to work with the community to build an archive of the oral tradition of the community in Zapotec for the Museo Comunitario.

The Project

Working and living with members of the community, the SFSU research team works together with the community to decide on a research agenda that addresses both the goals of community and SFSU. One of the exciting things about the project is the truly collaborative effort between the community and SFSU. Members of the community participate in many ways, from providing texts to assisting in linguistic analysis. Part of the project involves training native speakers to be part of the language documentation team so that reliance on outsiders to document their language can eventually be eliminated.

The documentation component of the project has two objectives. There is the interest and commitment to documenting the oral tradition, which includes personal histories, traditional practices and local legends and myths. In addition, there is a commitment to producing a dictionary and grammar of the dialect for the community. These are long-term commitments that have been embraced by both the community of Teotitlan del Valle as well as San Francisco State University.

In addition to the documentation component of the project, the project also has a pedagogical component. There are two major objectives of this component. First, one objective of the program is to train students to conduct collaborative empowering field research and to sensitize them to the critical point at which we have arrived, with respect to endangered languages around the world. The second objective of the project involves training native speakers to document their own language. By putting together a team of native speakers trained in language documentation, the power to preserve their own tradition rests in their hands. Also, by augmenting the research team to include native speakers, the efficiency of the teams is increased exponentially. The ultimate goal of training native speakers is for outside researchers to eventually be an unnecessary participant of the documentation effort, but a welcome collaborator.

Short-term Study Abroad

This three-week, short-term study abroad program offered as a three-unit summer course through the colleges of Liberal & Creative Arts and Extended Learning is a unique opportunity for students to participate in an ongoing linguistic field project in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Participants will:

  • Participate in a collaborative community-based research project
  • Conduct linguistic fieldwork on location
  • Help document the endangered dialect of Teotitlán del Valle Zapotec
  • Learn about dictionary making and archiving oral tradition
  • Build community ties through living in a Zapotec village

In order to participate students must have consent of instructor as well as have completed the following prerequisites:

  • English 424
  • English 421
  • English 727
  • Proficiency in Spanish with at least one year of college-level Spanish

Program includes:

  • Lodging with a Zapotec family
  • Breakfast and Lunch buffets with seminar group
  • Three SFSU course units which will count as an elective toward English B.A., Linguistics M.A. and TESOL M.A. degrees.

For information concerning the cost of the program please contact Troi Carleton at or 415-338-3156.