Practicing Linguistic Anthropology


Assignment # 1: Inscription (version 1.3)

[Oct. 22, 2003]


Premise. This assignment is meant to provide you with an opportunity to experience the role of inscription in making a record of culturally organized social activities that can be used for analysis. 


Computer requirements. It is best to do this assignment on a computer that has an Ethernet or a DSL connection to the Web. If everything works right, you should be able to watch and hear the video clips and read the existing transcripts. If you are not, it means that either your computer does not have the right software (e.g. RealPlayer, which you can download free from the Web: there is a link to RealPlayer at the bottom of the -Greetings web page, see below) or the speed of your connection to the UCLA server is not adequate.


Headphones. If you are using the web in a public space (e.g. Powell Library, or any UCLA Lab), make sure to bring headphones in order to hear the sound properly without disturbing the people next to you.



PART I. Preparation.  Reviewing existing transcripts or getting a feel for the game.

STEP 1. Go to the -audio-visual resources link in the Anthropology 33: Culture and Communication web site (or directly to: You will find a list of links on the left side of the page (Greetings, Verbal Art, Samoan Kava Ceremony, Aboriginal Paintings, etc.)

STEP 2. Click on Greetings.  You will see a page with three pictures in a circle next to corresponding links to 3 Encounters.

STEP 3: Click on Encounter # 1: Hillary Clinton meets the Capps (or go directly to: [note that there is a _ between greet and capps). You will go to a page where you will see (on top) an introductory paragraph with some ethnographic background, and (in the middle of the page) a transcript (with numbers 1, 2, and 3 next to it) and a video clip (which should start playing as soon as you get into this page). You can use the control buttons under the clip to stop, rewind, and play it again.

STEP 4. You should navigate through this page by pressing on the three numbers on the left one at a time. You will be taken to other pages that illustrate different types of inscriptions (e.g. only audio instead of video and audio; transcript of talk vs. transcript of talk and gestures).

STEP 5. Think about how each of the different forms of inscriptions allow you to see and hear different aspects of the interaction.

(You are not required to write anything after having done this, but it is a very important exercise to prepare for the other parts of the assignment).



STEP 1. Go (back) to audio-visual resources link in the Anthropology 33: Culture and Communication web site (or directly to:

STEP 2. Click on Samoan kava ceremony . You will get to Samoan Kava Ceremony Kava 1, the first of a set of four video clips with transcripts.

STEP 3. Carefully watch and listen to each of the four video clips without paying attention to the transcript on the left side of the screen. Be sure to take some notes on what you notice in the clips (this is a surrogate (partiticpant-)observation type of exercise.


WRITE up 150-200 words on any patterns that you discern among the four clips. (By patterns we mean any recurrent actions, behaviors that show that participants are following some conventions or cultural script).


STEP 4. Now review each video clip while also examining the transcript. 


WRITE up to 150-200 words about any other patterns that you were able to discern by combining these two forms of inscriptions (i.e. text and video clip).



STEP 1. Go back to the Greetings web page:

STEP 2. Click on -Encounter # 3: Trick-or-Treat. You will be taken to a page that has two pictures inside of circles next to links.

STEP 3. Click on Trick or Treat Clip One. You will see a page with a scrolling text on the left and a video clip on the right. View it carefully as many times as you wish.

STEP 4. Go back to previous page (Trick or Treat) and this time click on Trick or Treat Clip Two. You will be taken to a page with a video clip but no transcript.

Step 5. Watch the clip carefully.


WRITE 150-200 words on patterns that you see in common between the two clips.


Step 6. Watch Clip Two again and using a word processing program on the computer, create a transcript of what you see and hear in the clip.

While preparing your transcript, if you need a set of conventions to transcribe talk, go to


WRITE 150-200 words on any effect that your transcription of the clip had on your ability to see or hear other patterns (similarities or differences) between the two clips.


Submit all of your written work to your instructor.