Language and Ethnography: Conducting Research in the Kumaun

  • Cynthia Groff
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Minority Languages and Communities book series (PSMLC)


This chapter presents a thorough description of a young researcher’s attempt to navigate methodological options in conducting ethnographic research focused on language, including theoretical and experiential influences on the methods, the details of what the methods looked like on the field and during analysis, and practical influences that called for adjustments in the original plan. Along with traditional ethnography, the research methodology is influenced by language policy studies, the ethnography of communication and principles of “empowering research,” including components of action research, participatory research methods, and attention to methodological rich points in ethnographic research. Details on the general procedures and the various phases of research help to further contextualize the research and provide a model for organizing observations, interviews, field notes, recordings, translation, and analysis.


  1. Agar, M. H. (1986). Speaking of ethnography. Beverly Hills: SAGE Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agar, M. H. (1996). The professional stranger: An informal introduction to ethnography. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  3. Agar, M. (2005). Local discourse and global research: The role of local knowledge. Language in Society, 34(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cameron, D., Frazer, E., Harvey, P., Rampton, M., & Richardson, K. (1992). Researching language: Issues of power and method. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Chambers, R. (1997). Whose reality counts? Putting the first last. London: Intermediate Technology.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Farah, I. (1997). Ethnography of communication. In N. Hornberger & D. Corson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of language and education, Volume 8: Research methods in language and education (pp. 197–206). London: Kluwer Academic.Google Scholar
  7. Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  8. Groff, C. (2000). Development in the Kumaon Himalayas: The Gandhian approach of Lakshmi Ashram. Unpublished Capstone Project. Minnesota Studies in International Development.Google Scholar
  9. Groff, C. (2004). Literacy and language in Andhra Pradesh, India: Socioeconomic and educational contexts of out-of-school youth. Unpublished Research Report. International Literacy Institute.Google Scholar
  10. Hammersley, M., & Atkinson, P. (1995). Ethnography: Principles in practice (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Heller, M., & Martin-Jones, M. (2001). Voices of authority: Education and linguistic difference. Westport: Ablex Publishing.Google Scholar
  12. Hornberger, N. H. (2006). Negotiating methodological rich points in applied linguistics research: An ethnographer’s view. In M. Chalhoub-Deville, C. A. Chapelle, & P. Duff (Eds.), Inference and generalizability in applied linguistics: Multiple perspectives (pp. 221–240). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hornberger, N. H., & Johnson, D. C. (2007). Slicing the onion ethnographically: Layers and spaces in multilingual language education policy and practice. TESOL Quarterly, 41(3), 509–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hymes, D. (1968). The ethnography of speaking. In J. Fishman (Ed.), Readings in the sociology of language (pp. 99–138). The Hague: Moulton.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hymes, D. (1974). Foundations in sociolinguistics: An ethnographic approach. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
  16. Johnson, D. C. (2009). Ethnography of language policy. Language Policy, 8(2), 139–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. LeCompte, M. D., & Schensul, J. J. (1999). Analyzing and interpreting ethnographic data. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar
  18. Maxwell, J. A. (2005). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  19. McCarty, T. L. (Ed.). (2014). Ethnography and language policy. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  20. Norton, B. (1997). Critical discourse research. In N. Hornberger & D. Corson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of language and education, Volume 8: Research methods in language and education (pp. 207–216). London: Kluwer Academic.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Wolcott, H. F. (1994). Transforming qualitative data: Description, analysis, and interpretation. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cynthia Groff
    • 1
  1. 1.Leiden UniversityThe HagueThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations