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Ethnology in SIL focuses on developing cultural awareness through training and research.

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Training in ethnology is designed to encourage cultural awareness and to develop practical field research skills. Research is fostered by providing consultant help to SIL fieldworkers, by producing regional and international ethnography publications, and by developing research software tools and support.

Training is vital to the work of SIL. SIL has been training field workers for over 60 years. Cross-cultural training is a natural outgrowth of SIL's original emphasis on applied linguistic fieldwork.This training is an important ingredient for successful cross-cultural living.

Most SIL schools have an intensive introduction to cultural anthropology and field methods. Also available are courses on cultural change and area studies. Instructors have MA or Ph.D. degrees from prominent universities throughout the world.

In field situations, the Ethnology department provides workshops in a variety of ethnographic specialties: research techniques, cognitive studies, kinship studies, etc. These are critical for further professional development of field personnel and to encourage research production.

Workshops are also held for the purpose of cultural self-discovery and appreciation among the people with whom we work.


All SIL field personnel are encouraged to publish their findings. We consider this an important contribution to the academic world, and an obligation to the people of the countries in which we work, especially to the people with whom the field worker is associated. There is a great need for recording and preserving the cultural inheritance of people throughout the world. Our desire is to help meet this need.

SIL also produces tools to help field workers in cultural research and data collection. The LinguaLinks Anthropology Bookshelf is an example. It describes how to use the Outline of Cultural Materials to organize field data, and provides an anthropology project template for use with the Shoebox database program.

Some SIL field research is published through SIL International Publications on Cultural Anthropology , SIL's Notes on Anthropology journal, and the Publications in Ethnography (formerly International Museum of Cultures) series. Other research is published in the country of origin, or can be found in professional journals.

Selected articles

Other resources on the Web