A distinction is made between two approaches:
- Dealing with questions of language culture or the culturally specific use of language . For example, research into the relationships between the linguistic behavior of individuals and their socio-cultural context in the community.
- The use of linguistic methods to clarify ethnological issues. An example of this method, which is mainly used in historical ethnology , is the study of the settlement of the American continent through the migration movement over the Bering Strait, which was frozen over in the last Ice Age, by means of an examination of language diversification. This study is based on the assumption that language changes at a constant rate over time. Through the linguistic examination of all known indigenous languages of America and the analysis of their differences, it can be seen when the languages - and thus the individual peoples - separated. The results obtained in this way could be verified relatively precisely with the known dating of archaeological finds.
- Trabant, Jürgen, Humboldt ou le sens du langage, Liège: Madarga, 1992.
- Trabant, Jürgen, Traditions de Humboldt, (German edition 1990), French edition, Paris: Maison des sciences de l'homme, 1999.
- Trabant, Jürgen, Mithridates in Paradise: A Little History of Language Thinking, Munich: Beck, 2003.
- Underhill, James W., Humboldt, Worldview and Language, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009.
- Underhill, James W. Ethnolinguistics and Cultural Concepts: love, truth, hate & war, Cambridge University Press, 2012.