Anthropology M249a; Applied Linguistics M270a: Fall 2004 Ethnographic Methods for Discourse Analysis, Part I Anthropology M249p; Applied Linguistics M270p: Fall 2004

  Anthropology M249a & M249p/Applied Linguistics M270a/M270p;

Fall 2004

Anthro M249a/AL M270a: Time: Tuesday 11-1:50 (lecture and discussion)
Place: Haines 310
Anthro M249p/AL M270p: Time: Wednesday 6-9pm (Lab) Place: Haines 320

Students MUST be enrolled in both courses.

Alessandro Duranti Office: Haines 349
Office hours: Tuesday 3-5
Office phone: 310.825.5833
home page: Professor Alessandro Duranti

(Updated November 30, 2004)

This graduate course is designed to introduce students to the methods currently used within linguistic anthropology and related fields dedicated to the study of face-to-face human interaction. The focus of the course will be the integration of ethnography with other techniques for the documentation of communication and its role in the establishment and management of social encounters. Lectures and discussion will be equally divided between theoretical issues (e.g. what constitutes a method? What is the relationship between methods and theories?) and empirical testing of different techniques including the use of new technologies. Students are encouraged to take seriously (i) the crucial role of historical-natural languages and other semiotic resources in the production of culture and the participation in society and (ii) the properties of the tools used for documenting human interaction (e.g. drawing images, writing text, taking photos, audio recording, video recording). The course has a second part that is sometimes offered (M249b/M270b). Alternatively, courses are offered in Anthropology and Applied Linguistics which can function as a continuation of the themes and skills introduced in this course. Letter grade only. No auditors.


Students need to establish a working relationship with a community in Los Angeles where they can carry out fieldwork. Ideally, such a relationship with the community should be established before the quarter begins. If this is not possible, students have until and no later than the third week to gain approval for carrying out research in a particular community. Students will also need to focus on one particular ACTIVITY that takes place AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK (assignments are designed with the assumption that such an activity exists and is accessible for observation and video taping).

This course is designed for students who are in the second or third year of graduate school and are interested in detailed analysis of everyday activities. Only qualitative methods will be discussed.

Class presentations: Because of time constraints, not everyone will be able to present each assignment, but we will rotate who presents each week.


  1. P. Newman and M. Ratliff (eds.) (2001) Linguistic Fieldwork. Cambridge University Press.
  2. A. Duranti (1997) Linguistic Anthropology. Cambridge University Press.
  3. More Readings will be assigned or provided by instructor during the course.

Week 1: Oct. 5.

  • Studying People: Introduction to some basic issues involved in carrying out research that involves the observation of and participation in human activities.

  • Invited Speakers:Judith Brookshire and Wendy Brunt, from the UCLA Office for the Protection of Human Subjects.

    (Prof. Duranti will be away during this first week at a Wenner-Gren Conference on the "Roots of Human Sociality").

  • Assignment 1: Do the online human subjects certification, and download and draft a consent form for your research community in Los Angeles. Prepare a one-page hand-out with questions, doubts, issues that you may have regarding your application.
  • Readings: Material provided by Stephen Peckman.
  • Start reading Newman and Ratliff (see week 2).

Week 2: Oct. 12: Human subjects

  • Part A: Discussion of consent forms.

  • Part B: The meaning of "fieldwork." for linguists.(lecture/discussion).
  • Assignment 2: (a) Read at least 6 chapters in Newman and Ratliff (eds.) and prepare a hand-out in which you summarize (1) the meaning of "fieldwork" for different authors; and (2) the implications of the methods described for the kind of research you are interested in.
  • Readings: Newman and Ratliff (eds).

Week 3: Oct. 19: Participant Observation

  • (a) Discussion of linguistic fieldwork; (b) participant observation.

  • Assignment 3:(1) Go to the community in which you want to work and hang out for half a day with some of the people you want to study (If the people you are studying are a community for only an hour or two, say, because they live in separate places during the rest of the day/week, then you need to hang out with one or two of them for the rest of the time. The point is that just doing one or two hours won't do for this assignment. The more variety you have in terms of situations the better it is. (2) Try to take notes if you can (and if it is appropriate); (3) Then go home and write up your notes and/or your memories of what you just observed. (4) Then read the material for this week on participant observation and ethnographic fieldwork and write one or two paragraphs comparing your experience with what you found discussed in the literature. (You will then say "I wish I had read these chapters BEFORE doing the assignment", but actually the assignment is MEANT to be the way it is written here, with you first trying it out and then reading about what the pro's say). (5) Send me your fieldnotes in a file called YOURNAME-FIELD and another File with your reflections as defined above called YOURNAME-REFLE.

  • Readings: H. R. Bernard: "Ch. 13 Participant Observation"; A. Duranti: "Ch.2. "Theories of Culture" and Ch. 4 "Ethnographic Methods"

Oct. 20, 6pm. Introduction to Digital Lab. (With Nathaniel Kendall-Taylor). Tasks: Digitize photos, use Photoshop to prepare photos for presentation; Insert Photos in PowerPoint presentation. (Students will work in pairs)

Week 4: Oct. 26: (a) Participant Observation; (b) Documentation Through Images.

  • (a) Discuss Assignment 3;

  • Assignment 4: (A) Use a still camera to take photos of your site. The goal is to provide a comprehensive visual documentation of the locales, activities, and participants. Although you might not be able to cover everything, you should have a sense of what SHOULD be covered while documenting what is accessible to you this week. (B) Create a PowerPoint presentation with the best photos about (1) spaces; (2) activities and (3) people; (C) put your PowerPoint presentation (with all the relevant files!) on a CD, write on it your name and the date and bring it to class (for this assignment you will have access to the Digital Lab, but make sure to sign up with Digital Lab Assistant ahead of time).

  • Readings: No Readings this week except for manuals and on-line help for the computer programs you will be using.

Week 5: Nov. 2. More Visual Documentation

  • (a) Presentation of visual documentation prepared by students; (b) Introduction to maps.

  • Assignment 5: (1) Go back to your fieldsite and work on two 2 maps: one of the whole place (you will have to decide what constitutes the place) and the other of the locale where one of the activities you plan to study takes place. Make sure to include position of participants in the activity at different times. (2) Prepare both a hand-out and a PowerPoint presentation in which you show the two maps (3) be prepared to discuss the criteria you used to draw the maps.

  • Readings: Search through anthropological literature and other relevant fields and select the best two examples of maps you can find, make copies and put them in a hand-out. (as always, if you don't have a way of making photocopies, leave the originals in my mailbox by Monday at noon).

Week 6: Nov. 9: Introduction to Videotaping.

  • Presentation of maps.

  • Introduction to video taping: Establishing shots, creating a sense of a place and community; following participants around .

  • Assignment 6: PART I. Go back to your community and carry out the assignment as described in the hand-out on Camera movements. Digitize an example of each type of shot (e.g. pan, tracking shot) and put all of them on a CD to bring to class.

  • PART 2. After reading the article by Karl Heider on what he calls the Rashomon Effect in ethnography, create a 2 page hand-out that has text and images to give an example of what COULD look like a Rashomon Effect in your site. That is, you should use images taken from photos, maps, and video grabs to present two VERY DIFFERENT (or as different as possible) perspectives on your place/activity/participants.

  • Readings: Karl Hider: "The Rashomon Effect: When Ethnographers Disagree." ; American Anthropologist, 90:73-81.

Week 7: Nov. 16: The meaning of ethnography and its relationship to activity and event analysis.

  • (a) Some basic questions regarding an ethnographic approach to discourse analysis;(b) In-class discussion of activities; (c) Student presentation of assignment on the Rashomon Effect.

  • Assignment 7: Go back to your site and videotape one activity you are interested in documenting and studying. Make sure to be there and start recording BEFORE the activity starts and end AFTER the activity seems to be officially over; (b) go home and write up your fieldnotes in a computer file; (c) review your tape and select a 30 seconds sequence in which you can show that an ACTIVITY or sub-activity IS STARTING; (d) digitize it and create a QuickTime movie NO LONGER THAN 30 SECONDS to be used in a PowerPoint presentation where you demonstrate that (1) you have identified particular features of the interaction that can be used as evidence of a beginning of an activity taking place; and (2) there is a relationship between such features and something else that the same participants are are involved in (in the same place or in a different place, different time).

  • Burn your Ppoint presentation on a CD and bring it to class.

  • Readings:

  • Duranti: "Sociocultural Dimensions of Discourse." (available from the publications page in this web site)

  • Erving Goffman: " Keys and Keyings." Chapter 3 of Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience.
  • Erving Goffman: " The Interactional Order.", 1982 Presidential Address, American Sociological Association, published in American Sociological Review, 48:1-17.

Week 8: Nov. 23: The structure of activities and participation. Examples from the US and Samoa.

  • Lecture and discussion on the structure of activities, especially those that seem to constitute beginnings of more complex activities.

  • More discussion of assignments.

  • Assignment 7: (a) Go back to your segments showing the beginning of the activity; (b) transcribe it using two different formats (introduced in lecture); (c) Write up a one-page hand-out on what each of the two formats you chose affords in terms of analysis, i.e. what each format reveals or hides/ignores.

  • Readings: Ochs, E. Transcription as Theory (packet); Duranti, Linguistic Anthropology, Ch.5 Transcription and Ch. 9 Participation.

Week 9: Nov. 30 Refining the concept of beginning through an in-class exercise.

  • Presentation of transcripts of beginnings.

  • Interviewing. Discussion of different types of interviews.

  • Assignment 9: You need to propose a MODEL of BEGINNINGS OF ACTIVITIES. This should NOT be conceived as writing a paper. It should be a task focused on ideas, generalizations, and supporting evidence ONLY at this point. Think in terms of short paragraphs or one-liners. You need to start from whatever generalizations you can draw about beginnings on the basis of (a) your own data, (b) data collected and presented in class by other students either orally or in their hand-outs; (c) the demonstration and discussion we had in class today based on playing the same song three times, each time with a different beginning. Then provide within the space of ONE page:
  • A. A definition of "beginning of an activity" (BoA)(p>
  • (li>B. A set of features that characterize your BoA.

  • C. A set of features of BoA that might be universal (this should be done in the form of hypotheses).

  • D. A set of reasons for the importance of looking at BoA's for a theory of context.

  • On a separate page (or multiple pages) include examples to support A-D. Number all the examples starting with number (1). Each example should contain at least ONE framegrab illustrating features that are relevant to your analysis/model.

  • Put your name and date on each page of the hand-out.

  • You are allowed to work with others on this task, e.g. two people could combine A-B in one page. Examples should be drawn from both projects.

  • Bring enough copies (i.e. 15) of your hand-out to class.

  • Readings: TBA.

Week 10: Dec. 7: Discussion of Models proposed by students.