Field work, also known as field research, is the collection of new data in a natural setting. In linguistics one uses this term above all to designate the gathering of language materials from members of a speech community, usually in their traditional habitat. Linguistic field work is often complemented by ethnographical field research, i.e. working with and recording the customs, beliefs and the everyday life of a linguistic community. Whereas earlier the results of such field research were of a written nature, for some time now the materials gathered can also be modern media such as photographs, recordings, films, etc.
For centuries now materials gathered in field work have been of the utmost importance for Finno-Ugrian linguistics and have formed the basis for the analysis and study of, above all, the smaller Finno-Ugric languages, i.e. all those but Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian. Early field workers visiting the Mansi and Khanty areas were the Finnish researcher Mathias Alexander Castrén (1813-1853) and the Hungarian Antal Reguly (1819-1858) who both traveled to Siberia and, withstanding the rigors and hardships of their journeys, returned with rich materials from the Ob-Ugrian peoples. The materials gathered by these and later philologists have for the most part been compiled and published, either by themselves or (posthumously) by co-workers, but some of these materials still languish unworked and unpublished.
The workers in the Ob-Babel project are fortunate in that they have access to the fieldwork archives of the Russian philologist, V. N. Chernetsov (1905-1970), who lived and worked with the Mansi people and collected valuable materials from this era. In addition, there are more recent materials of linguistic and ethnographic character collected by our colleagues. In every case information is provided on the field worker/researcher and his/her collections.