The Workshop in Grammatical Description June 9 – August 11, 2018 (6-9 weeks)

Make your plans early!

In the summer of 2018, the Canada Institute of Linguistics (CanIL) at Trinity Western University, in Langley, British Columbia plans to host a Workshop in Grammatical Description (6-9 weeks).

We recommend that you plan on arriving June 9 (Sat) and depart on August 11 (Sat). Orientation is on June 10 (Sun). Classes begin June 11 (Mon) and end August 10 (Fri).

Led by Dr. Thomas Payne


Tom and Doris Payne

This workshop is designed for experienced SIL fieldworkers, though it is open to anyone who could profit from six to nine weeks of focused time working on a grammatical description, with the support and guidance of SIL International linguistics consultants. The ideal workshop participant would be a linguist-translator with one or more years of direct experience learning and doing linguistic analysis of one of the many under-documented languages of the world. An annotated (glossed and translated) digital database of texts of various genres (narrative, expository, hortatory, etc.) is also desirable.

The default goal of the workshop is for each participant or team to produce a 30 page or longer “Grammar Sketch” that gives a brief overview of some key morphological and syntactic features of a field language. This sketch will not necessarily be a publishable paper, but may serve as the basis for a future published work. In addition to, or instead of the Grammar Sketch, participants may want to concentrate on another specific topic of interest, whether or not that topic appears on the workshop outline. The Grammar Sketch will be the focus of the workshop plenary sessions, and after the six-week workshop, consultants and workshop staff will be glad to continue working with individuals who wish to develop their papers (grammar sketches and/or other topical papers) into publishable form.

The workshop will be organized as follows:
Plenary sessions, 1 hour a day four days a week, will involve a combination of lectures by the workshop staff and presentations/discussion by the workshop participants of the work they are doing. Thursday plenary sessions will consist of presentation of material by workshop participants.
Consultant sessions. Each individual or team who is participating in the workshop will be assigned a consultant early on. The team will meet with their consultant for up to one hour each day to discuss progress on the Grammar Sketch.

The rest of the work day will involve individual research and writing.
Insights from many different theoretical traditions may be employed in the workshop where they are useful, principally Cognitive Grammar, Construction Grammar, and Role and Reference Grammar. However, this will not be a workshop on linguistic theory. Theory will only be employed as it proves useful to clear, insightful linguistic description.

We are hoping that many SIL and SIL-related entities around the world will encourage and support field linguists who wish to participate in this workshop, as an alternative or supplement to area or entity level workshops.

Download an application form.


  • Linguistics training including introductory morphology and syntax. A minimum of 2 semesters of linguistics courses
  • A corpus of language data to work with
  • Permission of the instructor

Workshop Costs:

  • Workshop in Grammatical Description: $200.
    Note that the Workshop in Grammatical Description is not a for-credit course and thus cannot be applied toward a degree.

However, as part of the workshop, participants do sit in on LING 560 Morphosyntax II lectures. Again, those enrolled exclusively in the workshop will not receive university credit for this course (including audit credit).   If you want to additionally take LING 560 Morphosyntax II for university audit or university credit, please contact CanIL Admissions for more information.

Room and Board costs are projected to be about $130/week ($1170 total for 9 weeks) for a shared dorm room. Equipped cooking facilities provided in shared dorm room accommodation. Other housing opportunities may also be available. Refer to: Summer Cost Calculator for more information.

“The small classroom size offered at this workshop, along with Tom and Doris
Payne’s seasoned expertise in linguistics, make for an intellectually
stimulating and highly motivating environment for students to make great
strides in writing up their linguistic findings. I highly recommend this

very practical course.”  
Colin Suggett, Linguist/Translator, West Africa