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LING 301 - Linguistic Argumentation : Case Study Report

The purpose of this guide is to assist you in doing research for the LING 301 case study assignment.

If you need help, please contact Ivana Niseteo, Liaison Librarian for English, French, French Programs (FASS), Humanities, Linguistics, and World Literature at 778.782.6838 or or Ask a librarian.

Reference sources

There are a number of reference books which can help you choose a language and in which you can look up basic information about *your* language. They are an excellent place to get an overview.

  • The Encyclopedia of language and linguistics. 2nd ed. 2006. [print or online]
  • The Cambridge encyclopedia of language. [print]
  • International encyclopedia of linguistics. 2nd ed. (4 vol.) [print or online]
  • The languages of the world / K. Katzner. 3rd ed. 2002. [print and online]
  • Compendium of the world's languages. (2 vol.) [print and online]
  • Ethnologue: languages of the world. An excellent source. Browse the Web version. Search the database, or Browse by language families, language names, or by country to find spoken and extinct languages and the number of speakers.

How to find books

Finding a linguistic description of *your* language can be tricky. Remember that the book has to be written from a linguist's point of view. For example, a textbook for a student learning a particular language (say, Teach Yourself German Grammar) is probably not good enough. It also has to be based on up-to-date linguistic principles and cover the topic thoroughly. So you will probably have to look at a number of books before you find one which is suitable. Also, the Library might not have books on the language you chose if, for example, the language is "too small".

How do you find books on *your* language?

Go into the Catalogue.

1. Do a Subject search for your language. For example: German language; Malay language.

  • You should have noticed that there are more specific subject headings below the main one. For example:
    • Malay language
    • Malay language--Bibliography
    • Malay language--Conversation and phrase books
    • Malay language--Dialects
    • , etc.
  • In fact there are 15 more specific subject headings under 'Malay language'. So you can scan down that list and see if there is another subject heading which might have books on your topic. Several subject headings you can look for are:
    • [your language]--Grammar
    • [your language]--Syntax
    • [your language]--Word order
    • [your language]--Relative clauses

To search for books by subject heading, use the Browse Search option in the SFU Library Catalogue, then select Subject browse from the drop-down menu.

2. If the Subject search doesn't work, try searching by keywords, e.g. 'reference or essential or comprehensive grammar', 'grammar', 'syntax', 'word order', 'clauses', 'sentences', etc - in a combination with 'yourlanguage'.

3. If you are deciding on the language you would choose for your paper, try the keywords: 'grammar' in a combination with 'mouton', 'lincom europa', 'routledge'. This will give you a number of very well written reference, comprehensive, and/or essential grammars of various languages, (e.g. 'Grammar of Basque', 'Grammar of Gaagudju', etc.) from the three series.

How to find journal articles

You are unlikely to find an article which does a systematic survey of *your* language. But, on the other hand, the articles will give you the information that is more specific. For example, you will find discussions on word order, relative clauses, etc. in *your* language. Also, like the reference books above, a journal article's bibliography will likely tell you which book(s) are considered the standard reference grammars for the language.


  • The best index to try for journal articles is Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (LLBA). If you are not familiar with this database, check the Help feature within the database with instructions on how to use it more effectively.
  • Start your search with keywords, like: 'syntax', 'word order', 'relative clauses', etc. in a combination with *your* language.
  • You can also use the Thesaurus [it's located at the bottom of the search screen of the LLBA database and at the top of the MLA database].
  • Use the Thesaurus to find the exact subject headings (=DEscriptors) for your linguistic terms. For example, if you try to search for the term 'clause', the Thesaurus will give you a suggestion to use the term 'Clauses' instead and will offer you narrower terms (e.g. 'Conditional clauses') as well as related terms (e.g. 'Adverbials', 'Sentence structure', etc.). Mark the term(s) you want and click on Search.
  • On the next screen combine the descriptor you found in the Thesaurus with *your* language.


  • You can also search the MLA International Bibliography.
  • From the drop-down menu in the Advanced Search choose 'Subject Language' and in the box type the language of your choice, e.g. 'Spanish'. In the next box type in another term, e.g. 'clause'. Those two terms will be combined and will appear in all retrieved records.
  • You can also use the Thesaurus. Click on the Thesaurus link at the top of the screen, to find the best terms for your concepts.

Getting to the full-text article

Once you've found the citations of the articles you need, you have to check whether the SFU library has the journal where your article is published.

  • Click on the Get@SFU link of the LLBA or MLA record. A new window will open with the information on which library has the journal you need and in which format (print or electronic). If the article is not available full-text online, it may be available in print at Bennett library on the 6th floor. If it is not available in our library, you might be able to request it from another library.

Requesting books and articles from other libraries

If SFU doesn't have a book you would like to have, you can request it via Interlibrary Loan, as long as an academic library in Western Canada has it.

  • In the Library Catalogue go to Citation Finder and sign in with your SFU computing id and password.
  • Choose the Book option if you need a book, or choose the Article option if you need an article. Don't request dissertations for this assignment. All you need to do is type in the title of the book (or whatever information is requested in the form). Be advised: it might take a week for the material to arrive.

Citation Management Tools

Citation or reference management tools collect your journal article, book, or other document citations together in one place, and help you create properly formatted bibliographies in almost any style — in seconds.  Citation management tools help you keep track of your sources while you work and store your references for future use and reuse.