The expressions fieldwork and informant1 work are sometimes used interchangeably. As a matter of fact, linguistic fieldwork is research in the field, i.e. in the speech community, whether or not data are obtained from informants, while informant work can be done everywhere in or outside his speech community.

There are many different settings in which a linguist may work with native speakers serving as informants on their language. The following is a list of practical considerations which may be heeded where possible and useful. They start from a set of presuppositions which may or may not be valid in particular cases:


On these presuppositions, the following recommendations may be based:

The observer's paradox

If the task is to obtain absolutely faithful data on natural speech events of the language or linguistic community, then the ideal option would seem to be to just observe such events without any interaction between the researcher and the speech community. This, however, is not feasible:

The only solution to this problem is to be constantly aware of it and to control the data obtained for a possible bias.

1 For readers finding a problem here, a solution may be, for the entire set of these pages: Find ‘informant’, replace by ‘consultant’. The same goes for ‘deaf’ vs. ‘differently hearing’, ‘he’ vs. ‘she’ etc.