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Anthony Di Fiore, Chair SAC 4.102, Mailcode C3200 78712 • 512-471-4206

Fall 2006

ANT 393 • Speech Play and Verbal Art

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
30770 W
1:00 PM-4:00 PM
EPS 1.128

Course Description

This class deals with speech play and verbal art from linguistic and anthropological points of view. This typically includes such speech types as puns, jokes, play languages, proverbs, riddles, verbal dueling, narrative, myth, song, poetry, and ritual and theatrical performance; and employs such formal features as parallelism, rhyme, alliteration, meter, prosodic distortion, and versification, and such literary tropes as iconicity, imagery, metaphor, metonymy, and quotation. The point is that these elements and structures of 'typical' speech play are broadly characteristic of all speech, including even conversation and expository prose; and that their study in heightened, artistic contexts provides the proper framework for any linguistic or anthropological approach to both form and content in naturally-occurring speech activity.

For linguistics, such a framework raises the crucial issue of the limits of grammatical knowledge and competence, as against a more general competence for poetics and discourse. That is, have our grammatical theories attempted to account for elements more properly belonging to poetics, such as parallelism in gapping and respectively constructions; meter/versification in the postlexical prosodic hierarchy; or imagistic tropes in reduplicative and echo forms? And can we do better by accounting for these phenomena alongside related poetic phenomena? For anthropology and the study of speech activity as social behavior, this approach offers a framework within which to organize the formal structures discovered in empirical investigations, running a gamut from the unconscious poetic organization found in natural conversation (e.g., turn-taking systems) to the highly conscious poetic organization of a Shakespearian sonnet, or of a disguised speech game. The class will have an analytic, empirical orientation. Apart from discussions of weekly readings, classes will concentrate on the analysis of oral, videotaped, and written materials provided at first by the instructors but later by students, from their own research. Issues of transcription, written representation, and translation will be addressed. The approach will be cross-cultural and ethnographic in orientation.


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