Anthropology 204:Core Seminar in Linguistic Anthropology

Fall 2003

Time: Wednesday 11AM-1:50PM| Place: Haines 310
Instructor: Prof. Alessandro Duranti
Office: Haines 349 | Office hours: TBA
Office phone: 310.825.5833 | E-mail:

[Updated Oct. 22, 2003; NB (for students in the course): check this every week for possible additions and changes; readings are calibrated to the pace of the class]

This course is an introduction to contemporary linguistic anthropology as an autonomous discipline, with its own research agenda and methods, which include the study of language as a cultural resource and speaking as a cultural practice. The leading theme throughout the course will be the notion of "unit of analysis," through which we will explore different theories and methods for the study of language as a powerful semiotic resource for individual social actors and communities. Students will be exposed to grammatical analysis, text-based units of discourse (e.g. genre), action units (e.g. speech act, activity), and interactional units (e.g. turn, speech event, participation & participant framework).

[There are other topics and approaches that are central to contemporary linguistic anthropology – e.g. language socialization, language ideology, conversation analysis, functional linguistics, language typology – and yet they might be entirely left out or minimally discussed in this seminar due to time limitations and the fact that they are the subject of other courses and seminars offered at UCLA by faculty in anthropology and other departments].

Each meeting (after the first) will be divided in three parts: (i) a collective discussion of the assignment; (ii) a collective reading/discussion of material prepared by the instructor; and (iii) a lecture which will anticipate the themes of the forthcoming readings.

Students will be expected to contribute to class discussion through (i) weekly assignments based on questions provided by the instructor, (ii) in-class discussion; (iii) in-class interpretation of texts. In addition, each student will be required to write a review article of two of the books listed in (C) below (2000 words).

Students will be encouraged to use their own linguistic and ethnographic material for their assignments when appropriate, i.e. if such material can be properly integrated with the leading questions of the course. Students will be expected to have done the readings for each week before coming to class.

Assignments due via e-mail by Monday at 1pm (to

A. Required Texts:

  1. A. Duranti (1997) Linguistic Anthropology. Cambridge University Press.(LA)
  2. A. Duranti (2001) Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader. Blackwell. (Reader)
  3. N. Rapport and J. Overing (2000) Social and Cultural Anthropology: The Key Concepts. Routledge. (SC Anthro)
  4. Additional readings provided throughout the course and marked as "Packet" (they will be left in the Anthropology Reading Room, Haines 352). (Some of the additional readings are not specified because they will be chosen on the basis of what was covered in class and the students’ pace in assimilating the material already presented)
  5. Hand-outs provided by instructor.

B. Suggested Texts:

  1. A. Duranti (2001) (Ed.) Key Terms in Language and Culture. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  2. Silverstein, Michael and Greg Urban (Eds.) (1996). Natural Histories of Discourse. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

C. Choose two of the following monographs for "Book assignment":

  1. Ahearn, Laura M. (2001). Invitations to Love: Literacy, Love Letters, and Social Change in Nepal. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
  2. Besnier, Niko (1995). Literacy, Emotion, and Authority: Reading and Writing on a Polynesian Atoll. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  3. Brown, Penelope and Stephen C. Levinson (1987). Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  4. Capps, Lisa and Elinor Ochs (1995). Constructing Panic: The Discourse of Agoraphobia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  5. Duranti, Alessandro (1994) From Grammar to Politics: Linguistic Anthropology in a Western Samoan Village. Berkley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  6. Errington, J. Joseph (1998). Shifting Languages: Interaction and Identity in Javanese Indonesia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  7. Feld, Steven (1990). Sound and sentiment: birds, weeping, poetics, and song in Kaluli expression. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  8. Goodwin, Marjorie Harness (1990). He-Said-She-Said: Talk as Social Organization among Black Children. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
  9. Graham, Laura R. (1995). Performing Dreams: Discourses of Immortality Among the Xavante of Central Brazil. Austin: University of Texas Press.
  10. Hill, Jane H. and Kenneth C. Hill (1986). Speaking Mexicano: Dynamics of a Syncretic Language in Central Mexico. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
  11. Keating, Elizabeth (1998). Power Sharing: Language, Rank, Gender and Social Space in Pohnpei, Micronesia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  12. Kroskrity, Paul V. (1993). Language, History, and Identity: Ethnolinguistic Studies of the Arizona Tewa. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
  13. Kuipers, Joel C. (1998). Language, Identity, and Marginality in Indonesia: The Changing Nature of Ritual Speech on the Island of Sumba. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  14. Lucy, John A. (1992). Grammatical Categories and Cognition: A Case Study of the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  15. Lucy, John A. (1992). Language Diversity and Thought: A Reformulation of the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  16. Mannheim, Bruce (1991). The Language of the Inka since the European Invasion. Austin: University of Texas Press.
  17. Hanks, William F. (1990). Referential Practice: Language and Lived Space Among the Maya. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  18. Rampton, Ben (1995). Crossing: Language and Ethnicity among Adolescents. London: Longman.
  19. Morgan, Marcyliena (2002). Language, Discourse and Power in African American Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  20. Rymes, Betsy (2001). Conversational Borderlands: Language and Identity in an Alternative Urban High School. New York: Teachers College Press.
  21. Sapir, Edward (1994). The Psychology of Culture: A Course of Lectures. Reconstructed and Edited by Judith T. Irvine. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  22. Zentella, Ana Celia (1997). Growing Up Bilingual: Puerto Rican Children in New York. Oxford: Blackwell.

Week I: Introduction to the course.

a) Discussion of requirements, assignments, readings.
b) Lecture: Language as an object of inquiry. What’s interesting about language for anthropologists?

Readings for next week:
i) A. Duranti, LA, Ch. 1, "The scope of linguistic anthropology," pp. 1-22.
ii) A. Duranti, Reader, "Linguistic anthropology: History, ideas, and issues, pp. 1-38.
iii) F. Boas, 1887. The Study of Geography. Repr. in Boas 1940: 639-47. (Packet)
iv) F. Boas, 1911. "Introduction," in Handbook of American Indian Languages, vol. BAE-B 40, Part I. Ed. F. Boas. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution and Bureau of American Ethnology. (Packet)
v) M. Mithun, 2004. The Value of Linguistic Diversity: Viewing Other Worlds through North American Indian Languages. (Packet) in A. Duranti (Ed.) A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology, Blackwell, pp. 121-40. (Packet)
[See also hand-out # 1 for more references] Assignment #1

Week II: Language as Culture

a) Discussion of homework, readings.
b) Lecture: More on conceptualizations of language and the tools for its study. Toward Structuralism.

Readings for next week:
i) Duranti, LA: chapter 6: "Meaning in linguistic forms"pp. 162-174
ii) Anderson, S. (1985) Phonology in the 20th century: Theories of Rules and Theories of Representation. Chicago U Press. pp. 198-216) (On Boas).(Packet)
iii) E. Sapir (1927) The Unconscious Patterning of Behavior in Society. (Packet)
iv) E. Sapir (1994) The Psychology of Culture, Ch. 12: Symbolism. (Packet)
v) Chomsky (1965) Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. pp. 3-37, 63-75, 106-111, 128-47. (Packet)
vi) Hymes, "On Communicative Competence," in A. Duranti, Reader, Ch. 2.
Assignment #2

Week III: Language as Culture

a) Discussion of homework, readings.
b) Lecture: Theories of culture and theories of language.

Readings for next week:
i) Duranti, LA: chapter 2: "Theories of culture"pp. 162-174
ii) Rapport & Overing, SC Anthro, pp. 1-28 (on Agent and Agency, Auto-Anthropology, and Culture); pp. 32-40 (on Classification); pp. 51-79 (on Cognition , Consciousness); pp. 206-211 (on Interpretation).
Assignment #3

Week IV: Theories of culture informed by linguistics and theories of language informed by theories of culture.

a) Discussion of homework, readings.
b) Lecture: Ethnography, Inscription and Transcription.

i) Duranti, LA: chapter 4, "Ethnography," and chapter 5 "Transcription"
ii) Ochs, E. (1979). Transcription as Theory. Developmental Pragmatics. E. Ochs and B. B. Schieffelin, eds. New York, Academic Press: 43-72. (Packet)
iii) Silverstein, "The Limits of Awareness," in A. Duranti. Reader, Ch. 16.
(iv) (Suggested) Rapport & Osling, SC Anthro, "Dialogics and Analogics," "Discourse," "Ecriture Feminine," "Ethnomethodology" (pp. 115-135), "Narrative" (pp. 283-290), "Thick Description" (pp.349-52), "Visualism" (pp.386-91), "Writing" (pp. 404-408).

Assignment #4

Week V: Transcription as a Cultural Activity

a) Discussion of homework, readings.
b) Lecture: The encoding of participant roles in grammar.

i) Duranti, LA: chapter 6, "Meaning in linguistic forms" (finish reading the chapter).
ii) Van Valin, R. (2001) An Introduction to Syntax. Cambridge University Press. Chapters 1 and 2 (pp. 1-85)

Week VI: Grammar and Participation

a) Discussion of homework, readings.
b) Lecture: Speech Acts and other units of action

i) Duranti, Ch. 7, "Speaking as Social Action" and Ch. 8 "Conversational Exchanges"
ii) Duranti, "Universal and culture-specific properties of greetings", in Duranti, Reader, Ch. 9.
iii) Bailey, "Communication of Respect in Interethnic Service Encounters," in Duranti, Reader, Ch. 5.
iv) (Suggested) Rapport & Overing, SC Anthro, "Agent and Agency, "Alterity" and "Auto-Anthropology" (pp. 1-28), and "Culture" (pp. 92-102), "Classification" (pp. 32-40), "Cognition" and "Consciousness" (pp. 51-79), "Interpretation" (pp.206-211).

Week VII: Speech Acts, Activities, and Events

a) Discussion of homework, readings.
b)Lecture: Performing Language: Aesthetics and Social Action

i) Bauman, "Verbal art as performance", in Duranti, Reader, Ch. 7.
ii) Mitchell-Kernan, "Signifying and Marking: Two Afro-American Speech Acts," in Duranti, Reader, Ch. 6.
iii) Irvine, "Formality and informality in communicative events," in Duranti, Reader, Ch. 8.
iii) Rapport & Osling, SC Anthro, "Liminality" (pp. 229-36).

Week VIII: The Performing of Language and Culture

a) Discussion of homework, readings.
b)Lecture: The Power in Language

i) Duranti, LA, Ch. 9, "Participation," pp. 280-339.
ii) Ochs & Taylor, "The "Father Knows Best" Dynamic in Dinnertime Narratives," in Duranti, Reader, Ch. 19.
iii) Gal, S. 2001. "Language, Gender, and Power: An Anthropological Review," in Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader. Edited by A. Duranti, pp. 420-30. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
iv) Hill, J. H. 2001. "Language, Race, and White Public Space," in Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader. Edited by A. Duranti, pp. 450-64. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
v) Rapport and Overing, SC Anthro, "Human Rights" (pp.162-72), "Stereotypes" (pp. 343-9), "Transaction" (pp. 360-3), "Violence" (380-6).

Week IX: Language and Power

a) Discussion of assignments and readings.
b) Lecture: Past, present and future challenges in the study of language as culture.

i) Duranti, LA, Chapter 10, "Conclusions"
ii) A. Duranti, "Language as Culture in U.S. Anthropology: Three Paradigms." Current Anthropology 44 (3):323-47. (Packet)

b) Lecture: Past, present and future challenges in the study of language as culture.

Week X: Paradigms & Final Discussion

a) Discussion of assignments and readings.

Useful collections of articles:

  1. Mandelbaum, D. G. (Ed.). (1949). Selected Writings of Edward Sapir in Language, Culture, and Personality . Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  2. Carroll, J. B. (Ed.). (1956). Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf . Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press.
  3. Gumperz, J. J. and D. Hymes (1972). Directions in Sociolinguistics: The Ethnography of Communication. New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  4. Bauman, R. and J. Sherzer, Eds. (1989). Explorations in the Ethnography of Speaking, 2nd Edition. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  5. Duranti, A., & Goodwin, C. (Eds.). (1992). Rethinking Context: Language as an Interactive Phenomenon . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Useful introductions to linguistic topics for linguistic anthropologists:

  1. Finegan, E. (1994). Language: Its Structure and Use, 2nd edition. New York, Harcourt. (A sociolinguistically oriented introduction to linguistic theory and terminology).
  2. Hanks, W. F. 1996. Language and Communicative Practices. Boulder, CO: Westview. (An introduction to linguistic anthropology with particular emphasis on European scholarship and Hanks’ own research on Maya).
  3. Muysken, P. 2000. Bilingual Speech: A Typology of Code-Mixing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  4. Newman, P., and M. S. Ratliff. 2001. Linguistic fieldwork. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press. (An interesting collection of essays on fieldwork written by linguists and for linguists).
  5. Van Valin, R. J. 2001. An Introduction to Syntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (A good introduction to current theories of syntax, in a cross-linguistic, typological perspective).

Introductions to Chomsky's generative paradigm:

  1. Baker, M. C. 2001. The Atoms of Language. New York: Basic Books. [Trade book]
  2. Chomsky, N. 1986. Knowledge of Language: Its Nature, Origin and Use. New York: Praeger.
  3. Pinker, S. 1994. The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. New York: William Morrow and Company.