The LSA Ethics Statement

The Ethics Statement may be downloaded from These pages record the online discussion with membership about the draft of the statement. [edited 8/21/2015 to update the link.]


Why have a professional ethics statement?

  • Many forms of research require linguists to work directly with speakers, or “human subjects” as participants in our research.
  • The LSA now vigorously advocates endangered language documentation and revitalization. This makes questions of ethics more acute than ever.
    • Endangered Language research and interventions often take place in cross-cultural settings, with marginalized peoples.
    • A new generation of linguists is being trained to carry out endangered language research.
    • Ethical issues arise with respect to archiving, access, intellectual property, etc.
  • Linguists are regularly required to submit protocols for IRB review, and to demonstrate to funding agencies and potential research communities that their work will be carried out ethically.

In 2006 the LSA formed an Ethics Committee and charged it with drafting a statement of professional ethics on the Society’s behalf. The Ethics Committee is now seeking feedback from LSA members on its draft statement through means of this blog.

The statement presented here is influenced in part by the 1988 Statement of Ethics for the American Folklore Society and by the 1998 Code of Ethics of the American Anthropological Association. The authors have not sought to provide guidance on ethical behavior under every eventuality. Please note that the Committee has no power to censure LSA members or adjudicate complaints of unethical behavior; such items should be directed to a university’s IRB or other relevant body.

This statement is a draft which will be revised, taking member feedback into account. Feedback should be submitted by November 8, 2008 to ensure full consideration. [Comments are now closed, but this site will remain available for consultation and further comments may be sent to Lise Dobrin (Chair of the Ethics Committee) at ld4n <at> virginia <dot> edu.]


The blog contains each section of the Draft statement as a separate post which can be commented on. General comments should be added to Section 1. Please provide your name and email address so we can contact you if we require more information. Your email will not be published and will be used only in the event that we need to contact you about your comment.

Go to the Statement [draft discussion]

For more information

More information about the LSA’s Ethics Committee may be found on the LSA web site. This blog is maintained by Claire Bowern on behalf of the Ethics Committee.

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