Implementing free-listing: possessive classifiers in Oceanic


  • Michael Franjieh University of Surrey
  • Alexandra Grandison University of Surrey
  • Anne-Laure Dotte Université de la Nouvelle-Calédonie
  • Greville G. Corbett University of Surrey


free-listing, Oceanic, possessive classifiers, Participatory Research, rapport


We evaluate the design and implementation of the free-list experiment, which is a relatively easy method for exploring the membership of semantic categories (Weller and Romney 1988). Dif- ferent factors that could affect the replicability and validity of the experiment are explored, and these are balanced with the need to work sensitively with speakers of endangered and minority language communities. By including aspects of a Participatory Research approach (van der Riet and Boettiger 2009), such as building rapport and respecting participants’ knowledge, the experimenter can extend the free-list experiment to include wider discussions around the linguistic categories under study. We include a case study from our research on Oceanic possessive classifiers to show that a free-list exper- iment results in a wealth of data, and offers up opportunities for discussing and valorising different speakers’ understanding of linguistic categories.