Culture and Communication



Fall 2013       Brian Stross    ANT 307  (31260),   LIN 312  (41283)


MWF  1-2  SAC 4.118


Office Hours  MWF  11-Noon  & by appointment  in  SAC 4.124 


Web Page:


This section is an honors course

FINAL EXAM  - Saturday, December 14, 9:00-12:00 noon, MEZ 1.120

Emergency Evacuation & Lockdown Procedures


Goals - The goals of this course are to introduce students to the study of human communication as it influences and is influenced by other aspects of culture, and to develop skills (through fieldwork, data collection, analysis and writing) in presenting your ideas on the roles of communication systems in human interaction. We hope to deliver a better understanding of the multiple ways in which language, culture, and society interact.  To those ends there are three short projects to be completed during the semester.


Description  -   This course is a lower division introduction to topics in human communication from a linguistic anthropological perspective.  Languages, like other communication systems, are adapted to new and different environments in which they are spoken, creating and maintaining social realities, reproducing cultural traditions, and conveying messages in a complex interplay of new and old information, sometimes necessary and sometimes frivolous, packaging meaning in various ways that generally conform to standards that can be articulated,  As speech is an important mode of human communication, we start by outlining basic concepts allowing for the description of linguistic form  In the end we will focus more on language use than on language structure, examining various expressive speech genres, metaphors that we live by, the power of language, gender preferences in communication, language learning, proverbs, jokes, and multilingualism, among other topics.


Requirements / Exams, Paper, Attendance

The course grade will be based on three written projects of 6-9 pages double spaced  (total 50%), a midterm exam (25%) and e final exam (25%).  The final is comprehensive.  Plus and minus grades will be used for the final grades.

No penalty for one unexcused absence, but further such absences can lower one’s course grade by two and a half percentage points for each instance.  Exams include information from lectures, readings, and films.





Required  1)  Tracy Novinger  2001.   Intercultural Communication:  A

Practical Guide. ISBN:  0-292-75571-6


Required  2)  Deborah Tannen  1986.  That's Not What I Meant.

                        ISBN:  0-345-34090-6     (Tannen TNWIM)



       Recommended reading :    

Leila Monaghan & Jane Goodman  (eds) A Cultural Approach to

            Interpersonal Communication:  Essential Readings. 

            10: 1-4051-2594-2 (pb)

E.T. Hall   The Silent Language.    ISBN: 0-385-05549-8

E.T. Hall   Beyond Culture..     ISBN:  0-385-12474-0

                        Keith Basso.  1979.  Portraits of the Whiteman. ISBN: 0-521-29593-9

                        Deborah Tannen   1990.  You Just Don't Understand.    ISBN: 0-345-37205-0

Deborah Tannen  1994.  Talking from 9 to 5.    ISBN: 0-380-71783-2

                        Deborah Tannen  1998.  The Argument Culture    

                        El Guindi, Fadwa  2004.  Visual Anthropology:  Essential Method and Theory

                        Nancy Bonvillain.  2000 Language, Culture, and Communication.    

ISBN: 0-13-097953-8

                                Joel Sherzer  2002.   Speech Play and Verbal Art.

                        John McWhorter 2001.  The Power of Babel.  

                                Robert L. Young.  1999. Understanding Misunderstandings.  

ISBN:  0-292-79606-4

                        Phil Agre     Information Studies (home page)


Rationale for the Course Organization


WEEKS    Film info may be revised   


1. 8/28, 8/30

    Introduction -  Culture, Language, Communication, Meaning  (notes )

            Topics:  What are culture, communication, language, ( semiotics and the theory of

signs), ( sociolinguistics ), ethnography of speaking, discourse, reality and its

social construction, seeing the other,  the speech act and its functions,

                        Themes this semester: politics and propaganda; 

information and disinformation;   (wikipedia)

                                                speech play, verbal art and memory (learning, education); 

technology and communication;

                        Homework:  Read  -   seeing the other (click on this URL)

Optional Further Background:  The Silent Language (Hall), 

Beyond Culture   (Hall),  Portraits of the Whiteman  (Basso);

Ted talk: Amy Cuddy

Film on Friday  8/30  A World of Differences   (Audio-Visual library video  30 min.),


2. 9/4, 6

   Message Form -  Sounds, Words, Sentences

            Topics: What are (phonemes, morphemes, lexemes, sentences; meaning),

                        Homework:   Read Tannen TNWIM  Ch. 1;   do Hebrew exercise ; 

revisit the phoneme; 

                                    study this notes link for the midterm exam.    

                        Writing exercise, first assignment  due 9/20

            Film on Friday  9/6    A World of Gestures  (Audio-Visual library video  28 min.), Do You Speak American: Up North


3. 9/9, 11, 13

    Message Form II  - More Sounds, Words, Sentence

Topics:   Manual language, nonverbal communication.  Documentary film.*  Instant messaging.

                        Homework:  read Tannen TNWIM Ch. 2,   read online essay on

documentary film         

Start thinking about your first second assignment, deciding on one of the alternatives,

(second assignment due on 10/4,   final revisions due on 12/5)  Writing Help

                Film on Friday    9/13   Do You Speak American: Up North


4. 9/16, 18, 20

   Language and Cultural Meaning  -  The Expression of Meaning

            Topics: linguistic determinism/Sapir-Whorf, Moonhawk on Sapir-Whorf,

            lexical and semantic components, classification, recoding,

            markedness/implicational universals, fuzzy sets, focal meanings and

prototypes, cultural presuppositions, language as a theory of reality,

metaphor and metonym,

Turn in first assignment - due 9-20

                        Homework: read Novinger Ch. 1,  Tannen TNWIM Ch. 3, click White Whine

             Film on Friday  9/20     Do You Speak American:  Down South  


5.  9/23, 25, 27

    Contextual Components:  Ethnography of Communication

            Topics:   Evolution of language (autonomous, non-autonomous;

                                rhetorical style;  involvement vs non-involvement)

Power and solidarity, performance, respect,

Austin and Searle on speech acts,

            gossip (see week 11)

                        Homework: read Novinger Ch. 2,  Tannen TNWIM  Ch. 4,  Klein (PtheP)

                 Film on Friday  9/27  Do You Speak American: Out West


6. 9/30, 10/2, 10/4

    Communicative Interactions      

            Topics: interactional synchrony

            conversational structure, conversational postulates,

                        (directives and responses), routines (greetings, apologies), politeness, 

            social networks,* networking,* verbal art*

Homework: read Novinger Ch. 3,  Tannen TNWIM Ch. 5

                Film on Friday  10/4   American Tongues (56 min) 

                        Hints on how to write goodly.        


7. 10/7, 9, 11

   Societal Segmentation and Linguistic Variation: Language and Class

            Topics: social stratification (caste, class),   African American Vernacular English

in the US,  the structure of  AAVE, settings and contexts, “ebonics”.

                        Homework: read Novinger Ch. 4,  Tannen TNWIM  Ch. 6 , and 

Black English (click on AAVE link above, & see E-mail).

            Film on Friday 10/11:  The Human Animal – Language of the Body (Desmond Morris)  

                        Turn in Second Assignment on 10/11   

Start thinking about your third assignment, deciding on one of the alternatives,

Third assignment due on 11/8,     (revisions due on 12/5)


8. 10/14, 10/16, 10/18

   Societal Segmentation and Linguistic Variation:  Language and Ethnicity/Race

            Topics: Black English in the US, the structure of AAVE.  Native Americans,

            Yana people;  participants

            Midterm Exam on Friday   covers through the 7th week of classes)  (sample midterm exam)



9. 10/21, 10/23, 10/25

   Language and Gender:      Societal Segmentation:  Language and Gender

            Topics:  English and English Speakers:   Pronunciation, intonation, grammatical

                        Variation, vocabulary, conversational style, gender bias.

                        Cross-Cultural:  power, complexity of form, linguistic marking of gender,

                        Gender-exclusive vs gender preferential patterns, linguistic and stylistic preferences,

                        Images of gender in linguistic form.

                        Homework: read Novinger Ch. 5, 6 TNWIM Tannen Ch. 7, 8

            Film on Friday Gender Issues  



10. 10/28, 10/30 ,  11/1

    Language Learning

            Topics: language acquisition, LAD,  rule vs. rote, sequences in

                        sounds, grammar, vocabulary, speech socialization (instructional strategies).

            feral children (1, 2), 

                        Homework: read Novinger Ch. 7,  Tannen TNWIM Ch. 9 ,  

(Are there "bad" words)

            Film on Friday 11/1 : Teaching Sign Language to the Chimpanzee Washoe (dept. video 48 min)


11. 11/4, 6, 8

    Acquisition of Communicative Competence

Topics: Learning communicative styles (functional categories,

                        politeness, expressing feelings, disputing), learning status and

                        role, learning the rules of conversation (turn taking, affirmations,

                        narration), speech play & verbal art, gossip (see week 5),

                        Homework: read Novinger Ch. 8,  Tannen TNWIM Ch. 10 ,

 learning from advertising.

Film on Friday 11/8   First Contact   (dept. video 54 min.) 


12. 11/11, 13, 15

    Multilingual Nations

            Topics:  linguistic diversity, language standardization, language  minorities,

                        code switching, attitudes towards other languages and speakers,

                        bilingual education, indigenous/native languages, Creole languages.     

                        Homework: read Novinger Ch. 9,   tba

                                Turn in Third Assignment on 11/15   

           FILM on Friday 11/15:  I'm British, but... (dept. video, 30 min.)  


13.  11/18, 20, 22

    Bilingual Communities

            Topics:  language change (contact, innovation), language use in

                        bilingual speech communities, bilingual conversational strategies,

                        language revitalization, language shift,  interethnic miscommunication.

                        Homework:  .  Rewrite your lecture notes.   

Think about an encounter you've had recently in an Educational,           

Media, Legal, or Medical institutional framework and come prepared

to discuss it in class.   Watch video at this URL or this one

FILM on Friday  11/22:  To Make the Balance  (Audio-Visual library, 33 min)


14.   11/25, 11/27  (Thanksgiving holiday on Friday)

     Language and Institutional Encounters

            Topics:  language labels and status, institutional contexts.   Literacy

                        (education, health, law, the media, the military).

                        Homework:   Analyze the discourse in this link:  George Galloway & Congress

                                                & come to class prepared to discuss one element of this speech act, or discuss the

                                                power of  TV media illustrated by Wallace’s emmy winning interview. Or see

                                                this pizza order and come prepared to discuss its context.


15.   12/2, 4, 6

      Communication and the Senses

            Topics:  use of furniture and arrangement,  space and distance, time, silence.  

                        Review of semester.                 

                        Homework:    prepare for final exam



Final Exam will be held at scheduled time (Final is Saturday, December 14, 9:00-12:00 noon Location TBA). 

(sample final exam)

This course will have one Midterm Exam and one Final Exam.  Each will count for 25% of your

course grade.  In addition there will be 3 written homework assignments, together counting 50%

of your grade (10% + 20% + 20%).     The exams will cover lectures and homework assignments

from the textbooks.   Attendance and participation are expected, of course, and can affect your

course grade as well.  




The following books will be useful to those who would like to pursue

some of the course topics in more depth.



                S.  Beebe and J. Masterson.   Communicating in Small Groups.   (7th ed. 2003)

J. Blumler, J. McLeod, and K. Rosengren (eds)  1992.  Comparatively Speaking 

P 91 C563  1992 pcl stacks   

Donal Carbaugh  1990.  Cultural Communication And Intercultural Contact

P 91 C85 1990 pcl stacks   

            Kristine Fitch   Speaking Relationally.  HM 132 F576 1998  pcl stacks   

            Cynthia Gallois and Victor Callan. 1997.  Communication And Culture:  A Guide for Practice.  Wiley. 

Ulf Hannerz    Transnational Connections.   CB 428 H365 1996 pcl stacks   

Steven Johnson     Interface Culture.  T 58.5 J64 1997 pcl stacks   

            M. Lustig and J. Koester.  Intercultural Competence:  Interpersonal Communication

                        Across Cultures  (4th ed. 2003).

L. Malandro and L. Barker  1983.  Nonverbal Communication. 

            S.U. Philips, S. Steele & C. Tanz.  1987.  Language, Gender & Sex in Comparative Perspective. 

L. Samovar, R. Porter and L. Stefani   1998.  Communication Between Cultures,

3rd Edition.  Wadsworth  0-534-52218-1   P 94.6 S26 1998 pcl stacks  

Stella Ting-Toomey    Communicating Across Cultures.   GN 345.6 T56 1999

pcl stacks  

            Anna Wierzbicka.  1997.  Understanding Cultures Through Their Key Words.  

            Julia T Wood.   2004.   Communication Theories in Action:  An Introduction.  




That's Not What I Meant   (AV library video  VIDCASS 9706 )


The Iron Chef     


Unforgivable Blackness  The Rise & Fall of Jack Johnson  

Joe Leahy's Neighbors (dept. video  90 min.) 

(update on Joe Leahy) (long review of First Contact, Joe Leahy's Neighbors, and Black Harvest

in Visual Anthropology Review Vol 10, no. 2 [1994])






WEBSITES  (for the curious)



VARIOUS Modes of Communication, how to:


Teach someone something technical    


Approach Graduate School


Tips for Graduate Students


Design effective e-mail action alerts


Find your voice


Be a leader in your field


Host a speaker


The following information comes from official UT policies

Please, read carefully


Academic Integrity

Each student in this course is expected to abide by the University Code of Academic Integrity. No plagiarized work will be accepted. Sources consulted from books, journals, or web pages should be acknowledged. Any work submitted by a student in this course for academic credit will be the student's own work. Papers bought online or otherwise plagiarized will receive a zero.

You are encouraged to study together and to discuss concepts covered in lecture and sessions. However, this permissible cooperation should never involve one student having possession of a copy of all or part of work done by someone else, in the form of an e mail, an e-mail attachment file, a diskette, or a hard copy. 


Should copying occur, both the student who copied work from another student and the student who gave material to be copied will both automatically receive a zero for the assignment. Penalty for violation of this Code can also be extended to include failure of the course and University disciplinary action. [During examinations, you must do your own work. Talking or discussion, comparing notes, and copying from others are not permitted during examinations. Any such behavior will result in failure of the exam, and may lead to failure of the course and University disciplinary action.]


Accommodations for students with disabilities

In compliance with the UT Austin policy and equal access laws, I am available to discuss appropriate academic accommodations that may be required for student with disabilities. Requests for academic accommodations are to be made during the first three weeks of the semester, except for unusual circumstances, so arrangements can be made. Students who require special accommodations need to get a letter that documents the disability from the Services for Students with Disabilities area of the Office of the Dean of Students (471-6259- voice or 471-4641 – TTY for users who are deaf or hard of hearing).  This letter should be presented to the instructor in each course at the beginning of the semester and accommodations needed should be discussed at that time.  Five business days before an exam the student should remind the instructor of any testing accommodations that will be needed. See Web site below for more information:


University Electronic Mail Notification Policy

(Use of E-mail for Official Correspondence to Students)

All students should become familiar with the University's official e-mail student notification policy.  It is the student's responsibility to keep the University informed as to changes in e-mail address.  It is recommended that e-mail be checked daily, but at a minimum, twice per week. The complete text of this policy and instructions for updating your e-mail address are available at

In this course e-mail will be used to communicate with students. You are responsible for checking your e-mail regularly for class announcements. 


The University of Texas Honor Code

The core values of The University of Texas at Austin are learning, discovery, freedom, leadership, individual opportunity, and responsibility. Each member of the University is expected to uphold these values through integrity, honesty, trust, fairness, and respect toward peers and community.


Religious Holidays

It is the policy of The University of Texas at Austin that you must notify each of your instructors at least fourteen days prior to the classes scheduled on dates you will be absent to observe a religious holy day. If you miss an examination, work assignment, or other project due to the observance of a religious holyday you will be given an opportunity to complete the work missed within a reasonable time after the absence. 

The instructor reserves the right to amend this syllabus