This course introduces linguistic anthropology, the study of language in comparative social and cultural context. Some of the questions we address include:
- What is "language," and why do anthropologists study it?
- How and to what extent does speaking a particular language construct a culturally specific model of the social and natural world, a sense of 'reality'?
- How do our linguistic perceptions influence the ways we recognize social differences, such as those based on ethnicity, race, class, and gender?
- How do linguistic practices and perceptions of language reinforce social divisions and relationships of unequal power?
In pursuing these questions, we cover a range of topics related to understanding how linguistic practices contribute to the social construction of racial and ethnic identity, as well as discrimination based on these perceived differences. We consider, for instance, how judgments about "grammatical" and "ungrammatical" or "educated" and "uneducated" speech are ultimately grounded in social rather than linguistic factors. Throughout the course we use examples and case studies from the United States and throughout the world.
There are no prerequisites.
Requirements include a midterm, a final, and a series of short assignments.