In the Linguistics area of service, we learn the language and help others discover it, too. With local speakers of a language, we study language patterns. Together, we learn about sounds, roots and affixes, phrases and sentences, paragraphs and stories. The study of language patterns leads to language knowledge so people can understand God’s written Word.
We have to know the sounds so we can write in ways readers understand. We have to know words and their meanings to make dictionaries. To translate Scripture, we have to know how to write paragraphs and how to tell stories. We collect data and ask questions. We write descriptions. Speakers use our descriptions to write and translate Scripture in consistent, natural ways. We also share our data with university students.
SIL linguists work everywhere SIL does. With us, you might be on the plains, in the mountains or in the tropics. The language you work on may have suffixes and prefixes. It might have a lot of short words that change meaning based on their order. Maybe the language has tone, so you help speakers represent that tone in writing.
You’ll learn linguistics skills at one of SIL’s training schools. Then you’ll get a field assignment. Experienced linguists will mentor and guide you into tackling projects. You’ll share research at conferences, and eventually you’ll be a consultant or specialist.
Linguistic field work is for people who can lead others to new understanding while also learning from them. You need to see patterns and figure out which constructions might or might not work. You have to handle details but finish a project on time. And you need to think outside the box.