Anthropology M241 and Linguistics M246C:Topics in Linguistic Anthropology

Agency and Intentionality in Language

Fall 2006

Time: Wednesday 9-11:50AM Place: Haines 314
Instructor: Prof. Alessandro Duranti
Office: Haines 349 | Office hours: Thursday 2-4pm
Office phone: 310.825.5833 | E-mail:

[Updated November 26, 2006]

NB (for students in the course): check this site every week for possible additions and changes; readings and assignments are calibrated to the pace of the class.

The seminar explores the role that language as a human faculty and languages as socio-historical instantiations of such a faculty have in constituting agency (for the speakers and others). It will also be important to clarify in this respect the role that intentionality plays in the establishment and the assessment of agency. Theories of agency, intentionality, and intersubjectivity will be examined in terms of their ability to explain the power of language in constructing experience, social relations, and institutional contexts. Students will be expected to have at least a strong background in one of the fields from which the readings are chosen. Auditors will be expected to do the readings like everyone else and contribute to the discussion.

Prerequisites: Anthropology 204 or Anthropology 242 or instructor's consent.

A Note on the readings. (a) Coverage. The literature on both agency and intentionality is enormous -- see for ex. the review article on agency by Laura Ahearn in the Annual Review of Anthropology (2001). This means that the list of readings presented here (which will be updated as the seminar proceeds) is necessarily limited and idiosyncratic. I hope that the discussion will allow us to honor a few more authors but at the same time, I am wary of trying to cover too much material. (b) Level. I tried to do my best and find readings that are manageable even for those who are not familiar with philosophical discourse and I will try to provide an intellectual link for the students, but there is no question that several of the authors I chose are 'difficult.' The fact that we are reading English translations of some of the selected authors is no help. I do believe, however, that the more you struggle through these texts the more what these authors say will start to sound familiar to you -- assuming that you eventually find your own reasons for reading these authors. My suggestion is to suspend the worry of 'I am not getting it' and just keep going as long as your brain/soul allows you to do it - then make sure to take a break. I also think that it helps to read the original texts (or their translations) before getting some help from various interpreters (e.g. to be found in "A Companion to ..."). In my experience, only after or while I am struggling with the original texts I am able to benefit from someone else's interpretation of those texts.

Organization: Each meeting will be divided into two parts. In the first part, the readings will be discussed together with portions of the students' written assignments. In the second part, the instructor will introduce themes and issues that anticipate what students will find in the readings for the next week. All participants are potential discussants of earlier and current topics. Grading and assignments. The grade for the class is based on class participation and weekly written assignments.

Assignments. All assignments are due via e-mail by Monday (2 days before the next class) at 1pm to Assignments should be conceptualized as short response papers ("short" means that, although each paper should be organized and readable, you are not writing a "whole" paper as if you were going to submit it to a journal for publication - you can think of it as a sketch of a paper or one or more sections of a paper). The "response" aspect should make the paper as an extended "turn" in an on-going conversation with the instructor, with the rest of the students, and the readings. Your paper should provide an intellectual bridge between what you see as the direction and goals of the seminar at any particular moment and your own direction and goals around the same moment. Your response papers can take the form that you find the most appropriate to your style and interests. For example, you can choose to expand on a topic touched upon in the last lecture/discussion. You can also decide to argue with a particular point or author. Whatever you do, be engaged with the themes and issues of the seminar. Ideally, through your response papers you will find a way of making sense of the seminar and connect it to something that you are interested in (even if you didn't know that you were interested in it before starting the seminar). Ultimately, your weekly response papers should build up toward a final response paper that looks more like a real, whole paper, but doesn't need to be (10 weeks is a short time to really finish a paper, but you can outline an idea and go in depth in some areas, hopefully with some examples taken from your own work).
In writing their assignments, students should take into consideration that their assignment/paper might be copied and distributed (or forwarded) to the entire class or portions of it might be used for discussion (If this is not acceptable to you in general or in specific cases, make it explicit when you submit your assignment).

A. Required Texts:

    1. J.L. Austin (1975) How To Do Things With Words, Second Edition, ed. by J.O. Urmson and Marina Sbis_. Harvard University Press.

    2. Edmund Husserl ([1963] 1970) Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology. (Especially, 'Fifth Meditation', pp. 89-151). Nijhoff Publishers.

    3. Edith Stein ([1917]1989) On the Problem of Empathy. Washington D.C.: ICS Publications.

    4. Martin Heidegger (1971) Poetry, Language, Thought . Transl. by Albert Hofstadter. Harper & Row. (This English paperback includes the essays 'The origin of the work of art,' 'Building dwelling thinking,' and 'Language')

    5. Emmanuel Levinas ([1982] 1985) Ethics and Infinity Duquesne University Press.

    Handouts: Weekly handouts will be provided by the instructor.

Readings that are not entire books will be marked as "Packet" and will be made available for the students in the seminar (copies will be left in the Anthropology Reading Room, Haines 352).

B. Suggested (additional) texts:

    Hurbert L. Dreyfus (Ed.) (1982). Husserl, Intentionality, and Cognitive Science. MIT Press.

    Rosen, Lawrence ed. 1995. Other Intentions: Cultural Context and the Attribution of Inner States . Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press.

    Duranti, Alessandro (1997) Linguistic Anthropology. Cambridge University Press.

    James M. Edie (1987) Edmund Husserl's Phenomenology: A Critical Commentary. Bloomington: Indiana U Press.

    Maurice Natanson (1973). Edmund Husserl: Philosopher of Infinite Tasks. Northwestern University Press.

    Paul Ricoeur (1967) Husserl: An Analysis of His Phenomenology. Northwestern University Press.

    Pierre Bourdieu (1991) Language and Symbolic Power. Polity Press.

    Week I (October 4): Introduction to the Seminar: Issues, Goals, and Perspectives

    a) Discussion of requirements, assignments, readings.

    b) Lecture: The notion of "force" in Austin and its implications for a theory of language as social practice. Establishment of basic research questions.

    Readings for next week:
    i) Austin, How To Do Things With Words.
    ii) Ruth Finnegan (1969) How to do things with words: Performative utterances among the Limba of Sierra Leone. Man 4:537-52. (Packet)
    iii) Duranti, LA: chapter 7: Speaking as Social Action, pp.214-244.

    Week II (October 11): Intentions, Conventions, and Context in Austin's Theory

    a) Discussion of homework, readings.
    b) Lecture: Doing Things with Words from an Anthropological Point of View.

    Readings for next week:
    i) Bronislaw Malinowski (1935) An Ethnographic Theory of Language and Some Practical Corollaries, in Coral Gardens and Their Magic, Vol. 2, Part IV, pp. 3-74.
    ii) Michael Silverstein (1977) Cultural Prerequisites to Grammatical Analysis. In Muriel Saville-Troike (Ed.) Linguistics and Anthropology: Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics Georgetown U Press, pp. 139-51. (Packet)
    iii) Clifford Geertz (1983) '"From the Native's Point of View": On the Nature of Anthropological Understanding', in Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology, pp. 55-70. Basic Books. (packet)
    iv) M. Rosaldo (1982) The Things We Do With Words: Ilongot Speech Acta and Speech Act Theory in Philosophy. Language in Society 11: 203-237. (Packet)
    v) Melford E. Spiro (1993) Is the Western Conception of the Self "Peculiar" within the Context of the World Cultures? Ethos 21(2): 107-153.
    (Also suggested: Marcel Mauss ([1938]1985) A Category of the Human Mind: The notion of Person; the Notion of Self. In M. Carrithers, Steven Collins, Steven Lukes (Eds) The Category of Person: Anthropology, Philosophy, History. Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-25. (Original title 'La notion de personne, celle de "moi"', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute) 68:263-81 (1938).

    Other references on the issue of intentionality for those students who are interested in pursuing this particular issue, include:

    Donald Davidson (1980) Essays on Actions and Events. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
    Hurbert L. Dreyfus (Ed.) (1982). Husserl, Intentionality, and Cognitive Science. MIT Press.
    John R. Searle (1983) Intentionality. An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind. Cambridge University Press.
    Elinor Ochs (1982) Talking to Children in Western Samoa. Language in Society 11:77-104)
    Elinor Ochs (1984) Clarification and Culture. In Deborah Shiffrin (Ed) Georgetown University Round Table in Languages and Linguistics. Georgetown University Press, Washington DC, pp. 325-41.
    A. Duranti (1988) Intentions, Language and Social Action in a Samoan Context. Journal of Pragmatics 12:13-33. [Earlier version previously published as CHIP Report, The University of California, San Diego, 1984]
    A. Duranti (1993) Intentionality and Truth: An Ethnographic Critique. Cultural Anthropology 8:214-45.
    A. Duranti (2001) Intentionality. In A. Duranti (Ed.) Key Terms in Language and Culture. Malden, MA: Blackwell, pp. 129-131.
    A. Duranti (2006) The Social Ontology of Intentions. Discourse Studies 8:31-40.
    Daniel C. Dennet (1987) The Intentional Stance. MIT Press.
    John Heritage (1990/91) 'Intention, Meaning and Strategy: Observation on Constraints on Interaction Analysis.' Research on Language and Social Interaction 24:311-32.
    Marcyliena Morgan (1991) Indirectness and Interpretation in African American Women's Discourse. Pragmatics 4:421-51.
    Laurence Goldman (1993) The Culture of Coincidence: Accident and Absolute Liability in Huli. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
    Justin Richland (2005) 'The Multiple Calculi of Meaning', Discourse & Society 17:65-97,

    Week III (October 18): Anthropologists' View of Person, Action, and Language

    a) Discussion of homework, readings.
    b) Lecture: Introduction to Husserl's discussion of Intentionality, Consciousness, 'The Natural Attitude', and the epokh_.

    i) Franz Brentano ([1874]1973). Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint. London: Routledge. From "Book Two: Mental Phenomena in General", Ch. 1 'The distinction between mental and physical phenomena,' pp. 77-100. (Packet)
    ii) E. Husserl ([1900/1913]1970) Logical Investigations Humanities Press, Investigation I. Expression and Meaning, chapters 1-4, pp. 269-333 (Vol. 1 of English translation, but Vol. 2 of original publication); and (in Vol. 2) Investigation V: On Intentional Experiences and their 'Contents', chapters 1 and 2, pp. 533-96. (Packet)
    iii) E. Husserl ([1913]1962)Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology (Vol. 1). New York, Collier. Part Two: The Fundamental Phenomenological Outlook, Ch. 3 'The Thesis of the Natural Standpoint and Its Suspension,' pp. 91-100; Ch. 4 'Consciousness and Natural Reality,' pp.101-124 only; Ch. 5, Section 51 'The Import of Transcendental Preliminary Reflexions, pp. 141-2 only; Ch. 9 "Noesis and Noema," pp. 235-259. (Packet)

    Week IV (October 25): The Phenomenological Perspective on Meaning Making Acts

    a) Discussion of homework, readings.
    b) Lecture: Intentionality, Meaning, and the Surrounding World (Umwelt).

    i) E. Husserl Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy, Second Book. Dordrecht: Kluver, pp. 170-180 (Ch. 4 'The Constitution of Psychic Reality in Empathy'), pp. 207-210; 239-40.
    ii) Edith Stein (1991) The Problem of Empathy. Chapters 1 and 2 (at least).
    iii) Edmund Husserl (1989) Formal and Transcendental Logic, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, pp. 237-241 (Packet)
    iv) Martin Heidegger ([1927]1962)Being and Time Section 26. The Dasein-with of Others and Everyday Being-with, pp. 153-168.
    v) Alfred Schutz (1971) 'Making Music Together: A Study in Social Relationship. (Packet)

    Week V (November 1): Being-in-the-world with Others

    a) Discussion of homework, readings.
    b)Lecture by guest speaker: Jason Throop (UCLA): On Empathy in Anthropological Fieldwork

    i) Wilhelm Dilthey (1977) The Understanding of Other Persons and Their Expressions of Life. In Descriptive Psychology and Historical Understanding.The Hague: Nijhoff, pp. 123-145.
    ii) Theodor Lipps (1940) Empathy, Inner Imitation, and Sense-Feelings. In Melvin M. Rader (Ed.), A Modern Book of Esthetics: An Anthology. New York: Holt, pp. 287-304 (It includes and "Introductory Note" by the Editor).
    iii) Unni Wikan (1992) Beyond the Words: The Power of Resonance. American Ethnologist 19 (3): 460-82.
    iv) Edith Stein (1991) The Problem of Empathy. (Rest of the book)
    iv) Jason C. Throop (2003) 'Articulating Experience.' Anthropological Theory 2:219-41.

    Week VI (November 8): Self, Other, and Experience

    a) Discussion of homework, readings.
    b) Lecture: Temporality, Modes of Being, and Ethics: Making sense of Human Encounters

    i) Edmund Husserl (1991) On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time (1893-1917) Translated by John Barnett Brough. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 3-43; and 237-244. (Packet)
    ii) Martin Heidegger ([1927] 1962) Being and Time Harper and Row. Section 5. 'The Ontological Analytic of Dasein etc. (on temporality), pp. 38-40, Section 15. 'The Being of the Entities Encountered in the Environment,' pp. 95-102; Section 17 'Reference and Signs,' pp. 107-114; Sections 22-24 on Space and Spatiality, pp. 135-148; Part IV, Temporality and Everydayness, pp. 383-423; Section 81 on "the Ordinary Conception of Time", pp. 472-480.
    iii) Walter Biemel (1977) Husserl's Encyclopaedia Britannica Article and Heidegger's Remarks Thereof. In F. Elliston and P. McCormick (Eds) Husserl: Expositions and Appraisals . Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, pp. 286-303. (Packet)
    iv) Levinas, Ethics and Infinity.

    Week VII (November 15): NO CLASS - Meetings of the American Anthropological Association in Fresno, California

    i) Gallese, Vittorio (2006) 'Intentional Attunement: A Neurological Perspective on Social Cognition. (Packet)
    ii) Marco Iacoboni et al. (2005) 'Grasping the Intentions of Others with One's Own Mirror Neuron System'. PLoS Biology 3(3):529-535. (Packet)

    Week VIII (November 22): The Ethics of the Encounter with the Other

    a) Discussion of homework, readings.
    b)Lecture by guest speaker: Justin Richland (UCI): The Power in Language: Whorf and Others

    i) B.L. Whorf (1956) Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Whorf . MIT Press, pp. TBA
    ii) Heidegger (1971) 'The Origin of the Work of Art,' pp. 17-81, 'The Thing,' pp. 165-186, and 'Language,' pp. 189-210. In M. Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought .
    iii) Sheehan, Thomas (1988) 'Heidegger and the Nazis' The New York Review of Books 35:38-47. (Packet)

    Week IX (November 29): Rethinking the Force of Language in Everyday Life and in Theorizing about Language and Existence

    a) Discussion of assignments and readings.
    b) Lecture: The Role of Language in Constituting Agency

    i) Laura Ahearn (2001) 'Language and Agency'. Annual Review of Anthropology 30:109-37. (Packet)
    ii) Sherry Ortner (In press) Power and Projects: Reflections on Agency. In Anthropology and Social Theory: Culture, Power, and the Acting Subject . Duke University Press. (Packet)
    iii) Elinor Ochs (1996) Linguistic Resources for Socializing Humanity. In J.J. Gumperz and S.C. Levinson (Eds.) Rethinking Linguistic Relativity. Cambridge University Press, pp. 407-37.
    iv) Charles Goodwin (2000) Action and Embodiment withing Situated Human Interaction. Journal of Pragmatics 32:1489-1522. (Packet)
    v) Robert D. Jr Van Valin and David P. Wilkins (1996) The Case for 'Effector': Case Roles, Agents, and Agentivity Revisited. In M. Shibatani and S.Thompson (eds.) Grammatical Constructions: Their Form and Meaning, pp. 289-322. Oxford: Clarendon Press. (Packet)
    vi)Duranti (2004) 'Agency in Language', in A. Duranti (Ed.) A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology, Malden, MA: Blackwell, pp. 451-73. (Packet)
    [Also for those who are not familiar with Giddens' work:
    Anthony Giddens (1983) Central Problems in Social Theory. Action, Structure and Contradiction in Social Analysis/. Berkeley: Univ of California Press, pp. 8-95.]

    Other articles on agency and intentionality from the point of view of how grammars encode such information , include:

    Fillmore, C. J. 1968. "The Case for Case," in Universals of Linguistic Theory Edited by E. Bach and E.T.Harms, pp. 1-88. New York: Holt.
    Fillmore, C. J. 1977. "The Case for Case Reopened," in Syntax and Semantics, Vol. 8: Grammatical Relations . Edited by P. Cole and J. M. Sadock, pp. 59-81. New York: Academic Press.
    Jackendoff, R. 1972. Semantic Interpretation in Generative Grammar . Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press.
    Jackendoff, R. 1990. Semantic Structures . Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press.
    Comrie, B. 1978. "Ergativity," in Syntactic Typology . Edited by W. P. Lehmann. Austin: University of Texas Press.
    Hopper, P. J., and S. A. Thompson. 1980. Transitivity in Grammar and Discourse. Language 56:251-299.
    Chierchia, G. 1989. "Structured Meanings, Thematic Roles and Control," in Properties, Types, and Meaning, Vol. II: Semantic Issues . Edited by G. Chierchia, B. H. Partee, and R. Turner, pp. 131-66. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
    Silverstein, M. 1976a. "Hierarchy of Features of Ergativity," in Grammatical Categories in Australian Language . Edited by R. M. W. Dixon, pp. 112-171. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.
    A. Duranti (1990). Politics and Grammar: Agency in Samoan Political Discourse. American Ethnologist 17:646-666.
    A. Duranti (1994) From Grammar to Politics: Linguistic Anthropology in a Western Samoan Village. University of California Press.
    Dixon, R. M. W. (1994). Ergativity . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    Dowty, D. R. 1991. Thematic Proto-roles and Argument Selection. Language 67:547-619.
    S_nchez, A. R. 1997. Reflexiones en torno a la agencia y la afecci_n en Espa_ol. Anuario de Estudios Filol_gicos :365-87.
    [And many more ...]

    Week X (December 6): Constituting Agency in Language, Culture, and Interaction

    A) Discussion of assignments and readings.
    b) Reconstructing the relationship between intentionality and agency.
    Assignment #10 (last) due by Monday December 11 at 5pm