Language is a fundamental property of being human. Linguistics, the study of human language, is one of the four branches of anthropology. Linguistic anthropology explores the dynamic interrelationships among language, culture, and society, how human beings make sense of the world, and participate in social life through creative speech acts and linguistic play. Courses familiarize students with a range of theoretical and analytic approaches, including general linguistics, sociolinguistics, theories of languages, communication, semiotics, and literary studies.
The plan code for Linguistic Anthropology Immersion is LNGANTH-IM.
Language has a crucial role in our lives as a functional system of human communication. Language is central to our cultures and societies. This course provides an introduction to the field of linguistics. It considers both how language is described and analyzed by linguists and how evidence from language can shed light on a variety of social, cultural, and cognitive phenomena. The course provides an orientation both to human language and the field of linguistics. It introduces the languages of the world, how languages have been described, the diversity in language structure, the issue of language endangerment and death, and the efforts to document and preserve the world’s languages, among other topics. Lecture 3 (Fall Or Spring).
The Ethnographic Imagination
This course explores the politics and poetics of writing about society and culture. Writing is a form of power, in that our representations of people influence the way that others think about and act toward them. The way that social researchers write is therefore shot through with ethical implications and weighty decisions. Critical issues include whether people are objectified, cast as wholly Other, culture-bound or creative, out of the past or coeval, racialized or of a common humanity, problematic or multifaceted, passive or agentive, mystified or perceptive, and mechanical or extraordinary.
Writing about society and culture is also poetic. We can convey something of people's life experiences, thoughts, agency, and the constraints within which they lead their lives. How well we do so depends upon our ethical reflexivity and attention to the poetics of language. In this course, we will consider these ethical questions, read experimental texts, and discuss how writing style implicitly conveys social theory. (Prerequisites: Successful completion of one course in Anthropology (ANTH), Sociology (SOCI) or International and Global Studies (INGS) is required.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
Language and Culture: Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology
Language is a core element of culture, both as a repository of meaning, and also because it is the primary means through which humans carry out social relationships, share ideas, and contest received understandings. Linguistic anthropology investigates this interplay between language and culture. Topics will vary by semester, and may include metaphor and narrative; language acquisition in relationship to childhood socialization; language, thought, and worldview; language and identity; multilingualism; the social contexts of language change; literacy; and the politics of language use and language ideologies. Lecture 3 (Fall Or Spring).
American Indian Languages
With a focus on the indigenous languages of the Americas, we explore language contact among peoples, study various writing systems, and the sociolinguistic and cultural contexts in which these languages are spoken. Students learn how indigenous languages have been studied and classified. In addition to providing an overview of the languages' structural and typological attributes, we will also discover their histories as well as present-day challenges. Lecture 3 (Fall Or Spring).
Comparative and Historical Linguistics
All languages change through time, but how do they change? Where do these changes come from? In exploring traditional and contemporary approaches to historical linguistics, the study of language change, we compare different languages, different dialects of the same language, or different historical stages of a particular language, and investigate the history of languages and also language groups (or families). We investigate hypotheses about the grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation of languages long dead, and we explore how languages can give us insights to understanding human prehistory. Lecture 3 (Fall Or Spring).
People Before Cities
More than half the global population today lives in densely populated urban areas, which are further surrounded by complex networks of smaller communities. Yet, the earliest cities appeared less than 6,000 years ago, a small fraction of time since our species’ first appearance. The characteristics that define us as human were forged in radically different social universes from those of today. We lived our lives among not much more than 20-30 other people at any one time, hunting and gathering our food, and occasionally moving from place to place. This lifestyle was so successful and adaptable it endured pressures from more complex societies well into the 20th century. Understanding what life was like in such these small-scale societies is important because the material and social world in which they lived is the foundation for societies where food production, social hierarchy, and occupational specialization are the norm. This course will examine both the ethnographic and archaeological record of hunter/foragers from around the globe in an attempt to understand how it proved to be such a versatile and resilient way of life and how its successes, in fact, laid the foundation for social inequality, complexity, and food production. Lecture 3 (Fall Or Spring).
Sociology of Numbers
Much of the knowledge of our social worlds has been digitized. This course explores how social technologies shape our relationships, personal lives, and sense of self. The metric manufacture of diversity has produced new forms of population management and inequality. Our biographic histories as citizens, consumers, workers/professionals, parents, lovers, and social media users are collected as data-bites and assessed in metric terms, thereby forging new sets of identities. The transformation of people into numerical entities is an act of statistical objectification. This process frames the creation of social and racial typologies, and is well demonstrated by the US census. Students will investigate the formation of racial, ethnic, and gender identities in the context of the accelerated desire to digitize humanity. Lecture 3 (Annual).
Topics in Anthropology*
This topics course focuses on specific themes or issues in anthropology, chosen by the instructor, vetted by the department chair, announced in the course subtitle on SIS, and developed in the syllabus. The topics of this course will vary, but the course number will remain the same. Students may not repeat the same topic. Seminar 3 (Fall, Spring).
Intercultural communication provides an examination of the role of culture in face-to-face interaction. Students may find a basic background in communication, anthropology, or psychology useful. Lecture 3 (Fall Or Spring).
Philosophy of Language
This course examines how philosophers and others have understood the nature of language. It explores the classical philosophical contexts in metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics and rhetoric in which concerns about the nature of language arose. In addition, the course focuses on recent debates, within both contemporary analytic and continental traditions of philosophy. Some likely areas of inquiry will be: theories of reference, description and naming; theories of meaning, metaphor and narrative; functionalist, pragmatist and naturalist accounts; structuralist, post-structuralist, and hermeneutic accounts, among others. The prominence of one or the other of these debates and approaches will vary. (Prerequisites: Completion of one course in philosophy is required.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
Sociology of Numbers
Much of the knowledge of our social worlds has been digitized. This course explores how social technologies shape our relationships, personal lives, and sense of self. The metric manufacture of diversity has produced new forms of population management and inequality. Our biographic histories as citizens, consumers, workers/professionals, parents, lovers, and social media users are collected as data-bites and assessed in metric terms, thereby forging new sets of identities. The transformation of people into numerical entities is an act of statistical objectification. This process frames the creation of social and racial typologies, and is well demonstrated by the US census. Students will investigate the formation of racial, ethnic, and gender identities in the context of the accelerated desire to digitize humanity. Lecture 3 (Fall Or Spring).
*Course may be used when topic is relevant to linguistic anthropology.