ANTHRCUL 458 - Topics in Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology
Section: 002 Language and Colonialism
Term: WN 2010
Subject: Anthropology, Cultural (ANTHRCUL)
Department: LSA Anthropology
Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Junior and above.
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:

Language has always been the companion of empire

—   Nebrija, the 16th century Spanish grammarian

It was in the language that the slave was perhaps most successfully imprisoned by his master, and it was in his (mis-)use of it that he perhaps most effectively rebelled

—   Edward Kamau Brathwaite, 1971

The course concerns the linguistic aspects and impact of colonialism. A corrosive and penetrating intrusion of Western interests, practices, and understandings, colonialism has transformed various aspects of life of the colonized populations, including language and communication. Drawing on a range of case studies, the course explores the ways colonial encounters have led to the emergence of new languages, refashioned the existent local languages (i.e., through lexicography and grammar-writing), and transformed communicative patterns and language relations. We will closely examine studies from diverse settings including New World, Pacific, and Africa so as to consider the specific influence of various colonial scenarios and contexts on linguistic change, politics of discourse, and the literary artistic expression. By interrogating diverse colonial scenarios, we will seek to underscore the complexity of colonial transformations whose outcomes, it is argued, have been shaped by the locally specific influences of social, political, ideological and linguistic factors.

The course is conceived as a graduate/undergraduate seminar for an interdisciplinary audience. Please read the syllabus closely as the requirements and assignments for graduate and for undergraduate students differ in volume and focus. Although some class units involve elements of formal linguistic analysis, no background in linguistics or linguistic anthropology is requisite.

The topics include a discussion of colonialism; formal system of language, linguistic change and the development of new language varieties; language in the colonial equations of power, language choice in colonial administration – its motivation and consequences; communicative transformations, shifting genres, socio-functional shifts of the vernaculars; post-colonial writer’s dilemma.

Course requirements:

  • Take-home midterm essay (undergraduate students: case synthesis, approx. 10 pages @ 25%
  • Take-home final essay (undergraduate students: comparative case analysis, approx. 15 pages @ 35%
  • Class participation and weekly journal entries @ 40%

Please note: you can rewrite the midterm essay and improve your grade, if desired

ANTHRCUL 458 - Topics in Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
Tu 10:00AM - 1:00PM
002 (SEM)
MW 11:30AM - 1:00PM
003 (SEM)
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM
004 (SEM)
MW 1:00PM - 2:30PM
Note: (Meets with Anthrcul 558.003, Ling 492.005 & Ling 792.005)
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