You are here

LING 323 - Morphology : Case Study Report

The purpose of this guide is to assist you in doing research for the LING 323 case study assignment.   If you have any questions, or need more assistance with your research, please contact Ivana Niseteo, the Liaison Librarian for Linguistics, at / 778.782.6838.

Start with 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 Cambridge encyclopedia of language. Bennett & Surrey, [print]
  • International encyclopedia of linguistics. 2nd ed. (4 vol.) [online or print]
  • The Encyclopedia of language and linguistics. 2nd ed. 2006.
  • The languages of the world / K. Katzner. [print and online]
  • The World's major languages. Comrie, Bernard, ed.* 
  • Compendium of the world's languages. (2 vol.) *
  • An introduction to the languages of the world. [print]*
  • *These books can be taken out, but to be fair to your classmates, just photocopy what you need.
  • Key tip: Most of these reference books have a short bibliography at the end of each article. Check the bibliography to find out if there is a 'standard' survey of your language.
  • Ethnologue: languages of the world. An excellent source. Click on the button Ethnologue and choose 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.
  • The Language Families of the World / By Dr. C. George Boeree, Shippensburg University, Pennsylvania. Based on Joseph Greenberg

How to find books

Finding a book that provides a structured survey of the morphology 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: Japanese language; Basque 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
  • 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] -- Morphology
    • [your language] -- Word structure
    • [your language] -- Morphophonemics
    • [your language] -- Morphosyntax
      Or even more specific:
    • [your language] -- Clitics
    • [your language] -- Affixes
  • 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 in Keywords, e.g. 'grammar AND yourlanguage'; 'morphology AND yourlanguage'. Remember to check the book and see whether it really does provide a systematic, up-to-date overview of the morphology of your language.

3. If you are deciding on the language you would choose for your paper, try the keywords: 'grammar of AND mouton'. This will give you a list of very well written reference grammars of various languages, (e.g. 'Grammar of Basque', 'Grammar of Gaagudju', etc.) from the series Mouton grammar library.

How to find journal articles

  • You are unlikely to find an article which does a systematic survey of the morphology 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 affixes, clitics, derivation, 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). 
  • Start your search with broad Subject terms, like: 'Morphology', 'Morphological analysis', 'Word formation', 'Morphology syntax relationship', etc. You can search in 'Words anywhere' (= 'keywords'), but because these are all 'descriptors' (= 'subject headings'), you can also search for these terms in 'Subjects'.
  • Combine these Subjects with *your* language. For example: 'Morphological analysis' AND 'Russian'.
  • An even better approach would be to first use the Thesaurus [it's located in the left column of the LLBA database and at the top of the MLA database].
  • Use the Thesaurus to find the exact subject headings (= DEscriptors) for your language. Start searching the Thesaurus in LLBA for the term 'languages': you will get a list of names of language families and groups as they are used in this database. You will also learn, for example, that the LLBA database lists both terms: 'Amerind languages' and 'Amerinidian languages', but that the latter is not used any more. This way you will learn the terms used in the database, you will use the language of the database.
  • Use the Thesaurus to find the exact subject headings for your linguistic terms. For example, if you try to search for the term 'suffixation', the Thesaurus will give you a suggestion to use the term 'Suffixes' instead, and will offer you more general terms (e.g. 'Affixes') as well as related terms (e.g. 'Reduplication', 'Segmentation', etc.). Click on Search.
  • Combine the descriptor you found in the Thesaurus with *your* language, e.g. de=(suffixes) and russian.


  • 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 language'. In the next box type in another term, e.g. 'suffixation'. Those two terms will be combined and will appear in all retrieved records.
  • Click on the Indexes button, at the top of the screen, and from the drop-down menu choose 'Subject language'. Browse through languages, or find the language of your choice and check the number of records you can possibly retrieve from the database.
  • Click on the Thesaurus button, at the top of the screen, to find the best terms for your concepts. For example, you will see that the MLA database uses the term 'affixation', not 'affixes', and that 'affixation' can be broken down to more specific terms - 'prefixation' or 'suffixation'.

If you're not familiar with searching for articles in the indexes like LLBA and MLA, check our guides How to Find Journal Articles and Moving From Citation to Article.

Where is my 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 Where Can I Get This? link at the top 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 (e.g. print, electronic). If you are lucky, the article will be available full-text online, or it will be available at Bennett library on the 6th floor. If it's not available in our library, you might be able to request it from another library.

Requesting books and articles from other libraries

  • You've browsed the bibliographies of reference book and articles, you've found the perfect grammar for your language ... but SFU doesn't have it. Not to worry. As long as an academic library in Western Canada has it, you can request the book via an Interlibrary Loan.
  • From the Library homepage, click on Request Items from Other Libraries.
  • 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); the computer will do the rest for you, checking to see which libraries (if any) have the item. 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.