Theory, Model, Method

Elicitation of Responses

Elicitation is a technique applied for the systematic collection of data. Information about how speakers use a particular aspect of language is gained by asking informants systematic questions or by providing specific material that provokes the informants to give the linguist the desired piece of information. Elicitation procedures can either be used in order to collect primary linguistic data (i.e. the informants are provoked to produce utterances containing the relevant linguistic features) or they can be used to collect language-related information such as judgements or interpretations (secondary data).

Examples of elicitation procedures:

  • subjects are asked to describe a picture

  • subjects are asked to finish an incomplete sentence
Example (source: Mair 1997: 10):
I ___________ her to be honest.

  • subjects have to judge whether sentences are acceptable according to the grammatical rules of that language
Example (source: Foster-Cohen 1999: 6):
Who do you think that knows Mary?
Who do you think knows Mary?
Who do you think that Mary knows?
(The first example is ungrammatical.)

Exercises: Elicitation of Responses