Fall 2013


Introduction to the Study of Language in Culture and Society


ANT 325m  (31430),     LIN 373 (41370),    SOC 352m (46255)


MWF 10-11  in CLA 0.112


Instructor:   Brian Stross



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


Web Page:   http://www.utexas.edu/courses/stross/ant325m_files/ant325m.htm


FINAL EXAM   Wednesday, December 11, 2:00-5:00 pm,  CLA 0.102


CLA 0.102






Goals - The goals of this course are to introduce students to the study of language use from a sociocultural perspective and to develop skills (through fieldwork and data analysis) in analyzing the role that language plays in the structure and interpretation of human interaction. Students will collect language data from a "speech community" in a setting of their choice, and will use this data: 1) collectively as a basis for examining and questioning concepts discussed in lectures and readings, such as ethnicity, identity, power, and gender as they are constructed through language, and 2) individually as a basis from which to generate an analytical paper, which shows an understanding of the major ideas covered in the course but which is specific to student interests.


Description  -   This course is an upper division introduction to topics in linguistic anthropology.  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 as much on language use as on language structure, and in the process we will examine 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. We will examine these forms, processes, and contexts in an effort to deliver the tools necessary for describing and understanding the multiple ways in which language, culture, and society interact.


Requirements / Exams, Paper, Attendance

The course grade will be based on two midterm exams (25% each), a 10 page analytical paper based on fieldwork due on the last class day (25%), and one 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.


Texts:      Required:   Susan Blum (ed.) 2009 2nd ed.    Making sense of Language.  Oxford   ·  ISBN: 9780199840922


The Analytical Paper



WEEKS    Film info may be revised during the semester   


WEEK 1. 8/28, 30

    Introduction Culture, Language, Communication, Meaning 

            Topics:  culture, communication, language, ( semiotics and the theory of signs),

(sociolinguistics), ethnography of speaking, discourse, reality and its social construction,

the speech act and its functions,                       

HomeworkRead  Blum 1-4,  seeing the other (click on this URL) (watch this

Video on Malinowski here, and come to class prepared to say what

impressed you most)

Optional Further Background:  The Silent Language (Hall), 

Portraits of the Whiteman  (Basso)

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


WEEK 2. 9/4, 6

   Message FormSounds, Words, Sentences

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


                        Homework:   read Blum 5, 12, 13, 17  

revisit the phoneme;

                                    study this notes link for the midterm exam.    

            Film on Friday    Secrets of Body Language  (100 minutes  ˝ shown)


WEEK 3. 9/9, 11, 13

    Message Form II  -   More Sounds, Words, Sentences

Topics:   Manual language, (nonverbal communicationDocumentary film.*

IM-ing.  Twitter.  Walling (facebook)

                        Homework: ,   Read Blum 6-8;  read online essay on documentary film         

                Film on Friday   Do You Speak American: Up North


WEEK 4. 9/16, 18, 20

   Language and Cultural Meaning  -  The Expression of Meaning

            Topics: linguistic Moonhawk on Sapir-Whorf,  Deutscher on S-W

            lexical and semantic components, classification,

markedness/implicational universals, fuzzy sets and focal meanings,

cultural presuppositions (D. Jensen), language as a theory of reality (S. Pinker)

            metaphor and metonym,

                        Homework: read Hotchkiss, Children & Conduct (PDF on Blackboard),

                                                Frake, How to Ask for a Drink (PDF on Blackboard')

                                    Blum 44.

             Film on Friday    Do You Speak American:  Down South


WEEK 59/23, 25, 27

    Contextual Components:  Ethnography of Speaking

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

                         rhetorical style;  (involvement vs non-involvement)  bad words

Participants: Power and solidarity, performance, respect,

Homework:  Read Blum 41-43, 45;  Youssouf et al, Greetings in the

Desert (pdf on Blackboard)

            First Midterm Exam -  Friday Sept 27   (covers weeks 1-4)


WEEK 6    9/30, 10/2, 4

    Communicative Interactions

            Topics:  interactional synchrony; conversational structure, conversational postulates,

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

                        social networks,* networking,*  verbal art*

                        Homework: read Blum 29-31.

                        Start thinking about the topic of your 10 page analytical paper, due the last day

                        of class

            Film on Friday 10/4  Do You Speak American: Out West


WEEK 7   10/7, 9, 11

    Societal Segmentation and Linguistic Variation:  Language and Class

            Topics: social stratification (class, caste); phonology, morphology, syntax.

            What is an accent?

                        Homework:  read 32-34, and Labov  (pdf on Blackboard).

            Film on Friday -  American Tongues  (dept. video, 56min)


WEEK 8   10/14, 16, 18

    Societal Segmentation:   Language and Ethnicity

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

            Yana People -  participants

                        Homework:  read Blum 35-40

            Film on Friday    Language of the Body (D Morris  48 min)


Now is a good time to start work on 10 page analytical paper (due on last day of class)


WEEK 9   10/21, 23, 25

    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 Blum 9    

            Film on Friday    Gender Issues


WEEK 10    10/28, 30, 11/1

    Language Learning and Language Change

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

            Grammar, vocabulary, speech socialization, change.  (instructional strategies)

            (feral children 1, 2)

                        Homework:  read Blum  10-11, Watch Learning from Advertising

                        What can be learned from this? and/or watch  Smile or Die (Barbara Eherenreich)

                                and/or this on the Iphone5  

            Second Midterm Exam on Thursday Nov. 1   (exam covers weeks 5-9)   


WEEK 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

            and verbal art, gossip (see week 5).

                        Homework:   read Blum 19-22

            Film on Friday    Teaching Sign Language to the Chimpanzee Washoe  (48 min)


WEEK 12    11/11, 13, 15

    Societal Multilingualism

            Topics:  linguistic diversity, language standardization, language minorities, attitudes

            Towards other languages and speakers, bilingual education, indigenous/

            Native  languages, Creole languages.  (Ignorance Speaks Up)

                        Homework:  read Blum 23, 24

            Film on Friday :  First Contact  (dept. video 54 min)


WEEK 13    11/18, 20, 22

    Individual Multilingualism

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

            speech communities, bilingual conversational strategies, code switching,

            (language revitalization), (language shift), (intercommunity miscommunication).

                        Homework:  read Blum 12-15;   think about an encounter you’ve had recently

                        in an educational, media, legal, or medical institutional setting, and come

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

                        watch Flu Shots

            Film on Friday :   I’m British, but…  (dept. video, 30 min.)


WEEK 14   11/25, 27 (no class on 29 - Thanksgiving holiday)

    Language and Institutional Encounters

            Topics:  language labels and status, institutional contexts.   (Literacy),

            (Salasaca: magical writing, literacy and power), (education, health, law, military)

                        Homework:  Blum 46-48;  Watch the video at this link [“Spin”] and come

                        to class ]repared to discuss the language ideology that it reveals. Watch the video

                        at this link (or ordering pizza) and come prepared to discuss it in class.

                        watch this Osama disposal short, be prepared to discuss it in class, and/or

                        BP deals with spill.


WEEK 15   12/2, 4, 6

     Language and Institutional Encounters II

            Topics:  language ideology and institutions -  the media ;  Media 2;  Media3;

                        Homework (suggestion only):   Rewrite your lecture notes as an aid

                        To study for the final exam.

            Make sure you have the 10 page analytical paper ready to turn in on last class day (i.e. 12/6/2013)


                  Final Exam will be held at the scheduled time  (Wednesday, December 11, 2:00-5:00 pm)




The exams will cover lectures, reading assignments, and films.   Participation is appreciated, attendance is expected, and both can affect the course grade.





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

some of the course topics in more depth.



Laura Ahearn   2012  Living Language  

Alessandro Duranti  1997   Linguistic Anthropology

Alessandro Duranti   2009   Linguistic Anthropology:  A Reader  (Second Edition)

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

Deborah Tannen  1986.  That's Not What I Meant  ISBN:  0-345-34090-6 

Deborah Tannen  1998.  The Argument Culture    

Nancy Bonvillain.  Language, Culture, and Communication.    

Joel Sherzer  2002.   Speech Play and Verbal Art.  

Zdenek Salzmann.  2007  Language, Culture, and Society.

Robin Lakoff  1990.   Talking Power:  The politics of Language

Robin Lakoff  2000  The Language War

Robert L. Young.  1999. Understanding Misunderstandings.  

Phil Agre     Information Studies (home page)           

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





That's Not What I Meant   (AV library video  VIDCASS 9706 )   a taped lecture of Tannen


The Human Animal – Language of the Body (Desmond Morris)  


The Adventure of English   (Melvyn Bragg)      a tv series, has a few bright moments


The Tailenders   






WEBSITES  (for the curious)



VARIOUS Modes of Communication, how to:


Teach someone something technical    


Approach Graduate School


Make contacts and network


Organize a conference


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:   http://deanofstudents.utexas.edu/ssd/providing.php


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