Linguistic methods and theories used within anthropology. Basic structural features of language; human language and animal communication compared; evidence for the innate nature of language. Language and culture: linguistic relativism, ethnography of communication, sociolinguistics. Language and nationalism, language politics in the United States and elsewhere. Offered: jointly with LING 203.
Language plays a vital role in our everyday life, yet many of us take it granted. Not only is linguistic behavior the central focus of many social settings, but it is also on linguistic evidence that we base many of our evaluations of the world around us. Yet attitudes towards language and the ways in which we use language are highly dependent on social and cultural factors. This course provides an introduction to the field of linguistic anthropology: the study of language use in its socio-cultural context from anthropological perspectives. We start the course with a basic understanding of the structure of language and its origins, but focus mostly on the social significance of language by addressing such questions as: To what extent does language shape our thoughts and identities? Can we think without language? Do all children follow the same language acquisition patterns within a society or across cultures? What are the differences between language and dialect? How does language reinforce or challenge social stratification? What is the relationship between language and ethnicity? Do women speak more politely than men? Do men and women miscommunicate? How do we study language use in its socio-cultural context? How do conversations work? Why is Ebonics controversial? Do we need English-Only laws in the United States? Should we do anything about disappearing languages? Is English going to be the world language? The goal of the course is to provide the students with a history of the development of linguistic anthropology, its theoretical and methodological issues, and case studies that illustrate the understandings of language in socio-cultural contexts and how linguists and anthropologists engage real world issues. It aims to address commonly held misconceptions about language as well as important issues such as appreciation of diversity, multiculturalism, language policies, ethics and social justice. Students will have the opportunity to conduct linguistic anthropology research and analysis of their own.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
lectures, films, and discussions.
Class assignments and grading
Two books (available in the University Bookstore on the Ave):
Agar, Michael. 1994. Language Shock: Understanding the Culture of Conversation.
Ottenheimer, Harriet. 2012. The Anthropology of Language: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology.
Required articles and optional readings are available on the course website.
Students will have the opportunity to conduct a linguistic anthropology research project of their own, to be written up in a final paper. Other requirements include presentation and participation in class, and a midterm and final exam.
20% Presentation and facilitation of discussion (20 points) 25% Research paper (25 points) 25% Mid-term exam (25 points) 30% Final exam (30 points)