Judith M.S. Pine
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.
In this survey course, we will explore the complexity of something we all consider quite simple: human language. We each speak and understand, write and read, without giving the process a great deal of thought. Even now, you are extracting meaning from marks I have put on paper in a way that probably feels quite "natural". But is language a part of our nature, or is it something we human beings invented? And does language serve as a useful tool with which we shape the world, or might it be that our language shapes us? How can we study language objectively, when we must use it even to discuss it? These are the basic questions with which we will survey the work of linguists and linguistic anthropologists.
In the course of the quarter, we will encounter a variety of ways of looking at language as an object of study. The class will begin with an exploration of the physical nature of language, both in terms of biological basis and in terms of structure. Topics include language acquisition, the evolution of language, comparison of human language and other animal communication, and some methods used in the study of language, including the ideas behind Universal Grammar. The second segment will introduce the social aspects of language and some methods for studying these aspects, with topics including linguistic relativity, the ethnography of communication and other forms of discourse analysis. Topics in the third segment focus on the political nature of language, and include work on language and power, sociolinguistic aspects of gender and ethnicity, and the instructor’s own work in minority language literacy.
Students will have the opportunity to study some aspect of language more closely as part of your course project. Students will come away from this course with a clearer understanding of the ways in which language may be examined, and the conclusions which some researchers have drawn from this examination.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Life-long use of human language is the core element of preparation for this course.
Class assignments and grading