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Background Information Sources

Finding background information at the beginning of your research is especially important if you are unfamiliar with the subject area, or not sure from what angle to approach your topic. This will help give you a broad overview of the subject, introduce you to key concepts, help you construct keywords for your research, and lead you to additional resources.
The following is a select list of print and electronic reference resources available to you through Queen's University Library:


The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics (2014) (Online)
Over 3,250 entries. It spans grammar, phonetics, semantics, languages (spoken and written), dialects, and sociolinguistics
Dictionary of Phonetics and Phonology (1996) (Online and Print)
Written for students of linguistics, applied linguistics and speech therapy, this dictionary covers over 2,000 terms in phonetics and phonology. In addition to providing a comprehensive, yet concise, guide to an enormous number of individual terms, it also includes an explanation of the most important theoretical approaches to phonology


Thoroughly revised edition incorporates major developments in language study which have taken place since the mid 1990s. Two main new areas have been added: the rise of electronic communication in all its current forms from email to texting, and the crisis affecting the world's languages, of which half are thought to be seriously endangered.
The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language Sciences (2011) (Print)
One of the most important developments of the last fifty years has been the explosive increase in our knowledge about human language. Speech acquisition, reception,and production are arguably the most complex and distinctive operations of the human mind. This is a comprehensive and up-to-date reference resource for this knowledge.
Encyclopedia of Linguistics (2004) (Online)
Containing over 500 alphabetically arranged entries and an expansive glossary by a team of international scholars, the Encyclopedia of Linguistics explores the varied perspectives, figures, and methodologies that make up the field.
International Encyclopedia of Linguistics (2003) (Online)
Coverage of contemporary linguistics including areas such as historical, comparative, formal, mathematical, functional, philosophical, and sociolinguistics. Special attention is given to interrelations within these branches of the field and to relations of linguistics with other disciplines.

Encyclopedia of Language and Education (2017) (Online)
10 volume Encyclopedia of Language and Education essential to the field of language teaching and learning in the age of globalization. In the selection of topics and contributors, the Encyclopedia reflects the depth of disciplinary knowledge, breadth of interdisciplinary perspective, and diversity of sociogeographic experience in the language and education field.


The Handbook of Phonological Theory (2011) (Online)
Detailed examination of recent developments in phonology, and the implications of these within linguistic theory and related disciplines.

The Oxford Handbook of Universal Grammar (2017) (Online)
This handbook provides a critical guide to the most central proposition in modern linguistics: the notion, generally known as universal grammar, that a universal set of structural principles underlies the grammatical diversity of the world's languages. It will be a vital reference for linguists, philosophers, and cognitive scientists.

The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Analysis (2nd edn) (2015) (Online)
The main objective of the handbook is to provide the reader with a convenient means of comparing and evaluating the main approaches that exist in contemporary linguistics. Each of the chapters is devoted to one particular approach, theory, model, program, or framework of linguistics.

Covers issues such as identity, superdiversity, & citizenship and the role language plays in their definition and practice; analysis of migrant experiences in geographical and historical context; exploration of new research orientations; investigation of the place of language in citizenship, educational policies, employment, economy, and social services.

Additional reference sources

Key Ideas in Linguistics and the Philosophy of Language (2009) (Online)
introductory entries on 80 ideas that have shaped the study of language up to the present day. Each entry includes a brief description of the idea, an account of its development, and its impact on the field of language study. 

The World's Major Languages; 2nd. ed. (2009) (Online)
This volume features over 50 of the world's languages and language families. The featured languages have been chosen based on the number of speakers, their role as official languages and their cultural and historical importance. Each language is looked at in depth, and the chapters provide information on both grammatical features and on salient features of the language's history and cultural role.


Consult bibliographies to find a comprehensive list of sources on a specific topic or a selective list of key works on a topic

Oxford Bibliographies
Peer-reviewed annotated bibliographies which include substantive essays that list recommended books, journal articles, primary sources, and multimedia in various discipline-based subject modules. You can filter down or search linguistics for relevant resources.

Reference Platforms

In addition to searching your topic in specific reference works, you can also search across the following publisher platforms:

Oxford Reference Online
A large, comprehensive resource covering the complete subject spectrum. It contains full-text dictionaries, companions and other reference works published by Oxford University Press. Start with Oxford Reference Online-Linguistics, which has a selection of linguistics dictionaries, companions and other reference works published by Oxford University Press.

Sage Reference Online
A collection of online encyclopedias and reference books covering a variety of subject areas, including history and the social sciences.