This course is designed to be a gateway course in linguistic anthropology geared toward freshmen and sophomores. Language permeates our lives, identities and relationships, yet most of us take it for granted. This course introduces students to some of the foundational concepts, methods, and issues addressed in linguistic anthropology. Starting with the basic premise that language, thought and culture are inextricably intertwined in practice, we take a fundamentally comparative and global perspective on the study of language. We will consider language not as a simple means of communication, but as a medium through which values, subjectivities, and sociopolitical relationships are created and transformed. We ask: how do differences in language affect how we think and act? How do people do things with language, and how does this vary across cultures, times and places? How does linguistic communication interact with nonverbal or embodied forms of communication? What ideologies of language shape our understandings of difference and hierarchy? In exploring answers to these questions, we will draw on media resources, natural language examples, and recent ethnographic analyses from around the world to consider the ways in which language is implicated in power struggles within specific domains of social relationships (race, class, gender, sexuality) and institutions (education, policing, law, immigration, electoral politics).

Learning Outcomes

After taking this course, you should be able to:

  • Grasp and describe the basic premises of contemporary linguistic anthropology.
  • Understand the nature, history and stakes of anthropological debates about the relationships among "language," "culture," and "power".
  • Apply linguistic anthropological theories and methods to their own writing and media projects.
  • Be able to analyze basic linguistic and paralinguistic features of verbal interactions.
  • Understand basic methodologies and ethics for ethnographic research in language politics.
  • Be able to plan and implement a collaborative ethnographic project.

Distribution Requirements:
This course can be used to fulfill one of your Group II "History and Social Science" distribution requirements. It accomplishes the following learning outcomes for the group:

  • Evaluate data and/or sources
  • Analyze institutions, formations, languages, structures, or processes, whether social, political, religious, economic, cultural, intellectual or other
  • Think in sophisticated ways about causation, social and/or historical change, human cognition, or the relationship between individuals and society, or engage with social, political, religious or economic theory in other areas.