Culture and Communication
INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF CULTURE THROUGH COMMUNICATION AND THE THEORY OF SIGNS
MWF 1-2 SAC 4.118
Office Hours MWF 11-Noon & by appointment in SAC 4.124
Web Page: http://www.utexas.edu/courses/stross/ant307_files/ant307.htm
This section is an honors course
FINAL EXAM - Saturday, December 14, 9:00-12:00 noon, MEZ 1.120
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.
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.
Joel Sherzer 2002. Speech Play and Verbal Art.
John McWhorter 2001. The Power of Babel.
Robert L. Young. 1999. Understanding Misunderstandings.
Phil Agre Information Studies (home page)
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
Themes this semester: politics and propaganda;
information and disinformation; (wikipedia)
speech play, verbal art and memory (learning, education);
technology and communication;
Optional Further Background: The Silent Language (Hall),
Beyond Culture (Hall), Portraits of the Whiteman (Basso);
Film on Friday 8/30 A World of Differences (Audio-Visual library video 30 min.),
2. 9/4, 6
Message Form - Sounds, Words, Sentences
Homework: Read Tannen TNWIM Ch. 1; do Hebrew exercise ;
revisit the phoneme;
study this notes link for the midterm exam.
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
(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
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
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)
Film on Friday 9/27 Do You Speak American: Out West
6. 9/30, 10/2, 10/4
Topics: interactional synchrony
conversational structure, conversational postulates,
(directives and responses), routines (greetings, apologies), politeness,
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”.
Film on Friday 10/11: The Human Animal – Language of the Body (Desmond Morris)
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.
Film on Friday Gender Issues
10. 10/28, 10/30 , 11/1
sounds, grammar, vocabulary, speech socialization (instructional strategies).
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),
Film on Friday 11/8 First Contact (dept. video 54 min.)
12. 11/11, 13, 15
Topics: linguistic diversity, language standardization, language minorities,
code switching, attitudes towards other languages and speakers,
bilingual education, indigenous/native languages, Creole languages.
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
Topics: language change (contact, innovation), language use in
bilingual speech communities, bilingual conversational strategies,
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
FILM on Friday 11/22: To Make the Balance (Audio-Visual library, 33 min)
14. 11/25, 11/27 (Thanksgiving holiday on Friday)
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).
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
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 )
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 )
VARIOUS Modes of Communication, how to:
Please, read carefully
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.]
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: http://deanofstudents.utexas.edu/ssd/providing.php
(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 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.
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