ANT 392N   (30715)    LIN 396 (41645)    




Brian Stross


Class - Wednesday 4-7pm  EPS 1.128   


Office Hours  - WF 1-3    EPS 2.204


Instead of Blackboard, this course will utilize this webpage, along with e-mail, for syllabus, notices, and student support


This course is a graduate introduction to core concepts and methodologies that go with the

anthropological study of language, and to a sampling of books and articles that have helped

develop the field.  It provides an overview of some key areas of current linguistic anthropological

research and a consideration of some important topics of past research.  Topics covered include:

Language Structure and Function; Language and World View; Ethnosemantics;

Speech Socialization; Speech Play and Verbal Art; Language and Social Structure;

Ethnography of Speaking; Discourse and Semiotics; Language Change and Reconstruction;

Variation in Language and Speech; Nonverbal Communication  (including Writing Systems,

Sign Language, Body Language); 


No prior training in linguistics is assumed, presupposed, or required. 



  1) Class preparation and appropriate class participation (including reading articles, chapters,

and/or books; and being class facilitator for one or more class assignment discussions, depending

on the size of the class)


  2) Three short papers based on projects assigned during the semester, due dates are on the syllabus,

(up to 10 pages each).  One of them may be presented in the format of a research proposal rather

than as an ethnographic description and analysis.  Some general suggestions for a research grant proposal

can be found here.




N. Bonvillain     Language, Culture and Communication

[any edition – used copy can be gotten for reasonable price at Amazon,,

or Half Price books]     (required)

B. Blount (ed.)  Language, Culture, and Society [2nd Edition] (required)

K. Basso Portraits of "The Whiteman  (required)    [short book.   Read in library,

or buy used for under $4.00]



R. Bauman and J. Sherzer, Explorations in the Ethnography of

Speaking  (optional) 

Robin Tolmach Lakoff,  Talking Power: The Politics of Language.  (optional)

P.P. Giglioli, Language and Social Context (optional)


Assigned readings not in texts can be found in the PCL library, may be in digital form, and most are on reserve.






            TOPICS    Language, ethnography of speaking, sociolinguistics, discourse analysis,

semiotics, cognition, performance, verbal art, relativity and universals, variation

and change, acquisition of communicative competence, multilingualism,

language origins,  language as mirror,   etc.  seeing the other


HOMEWORK (due for week 2):  1) read [and take notes for class discussion in week 2];  

Bonvillain - Ch. 1,2 .   Blount – Ch. 3  Sapir's "Language":  Miner’s Body Ritual  &

Bright on writing vs speech (internet sites).



TOPICS   a) speech act components  b) consonants and vowels  (the IPA)  c) phoneme 1,

phoneme 2, phoneme definition and phonemecisation problems  d) Chontal segmentation

problem (may be distributed in week 3 instead). 

            Film:  The Human Animal – Language of the Body


HOMEWORK  (due week 3)

            3)  read (for discussion in week #3): Blount -  Boas "Introduction...",

Hymes, "the ethnography of speaking" (in Blount); 


((Extra reading for those so inclined:   Shaul&Furbee -  Introduction, Chapter 1,

Chapter 2.   Hymes - Part I.     Haugen and Bloomfield – Moulton, Keenan.  

Hockett "The origin of speech"  (in Scientific American offprints).

Lounsbury "1OO years...".    Stross, "The nature of language"; 

Finegan&Besnier - Ch 1&2.    Farb – pp.1-8O.  Trudgill, 13-33. 

G. Urban, "Rhetoric of a war chief";  Sapir  "Psychological Reality of the Phoneme"

(in Mandelbaum ed. Selected Writings of Edward Sapir 46-51).

            Giglioli – Fishman, Hymes, Gumperz.))




            a) phonemicisation problems II  b) morpheme problems 

            c) morphophonemics inc. English plural.  d) Tzeltal numbers   

e.  proverbs, refranes & dichos ;  

Film:  Do You Speak American:  Up North


            Homework (due week 4)  1) read and prepare to discuss markedness,

2) “Sapir-Whorf” problem  (to be distributed in week 3);

3) Read (for discussion in week 4): Bonvillain Ch. 3. 

Blount -  Whorf "The relation of habitual thought and behavior to language".

Hoijer "The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis" ;  Sapir "The unconscious patterning...".

Lucy "Whorf's view…"


            ((Extra reading for those so inclined:   Hymes  - Part II,  Ferguson "Language

            problems of variation and repertoire".    Finegan&Besnier Ch. 3&4.   Farb, 289-328.

Wang "The Chinese language" (in Scientific American offprints).

            Giglioli -  Goffman, Searle (pp. 61-66, 136-154)  ))




       class discussion:  a) Sapir-Whorf hypothesis   b) color terms   c) markedness 

            d) deixis         Film:   Do You Speak American:  Down South

            Homework (to do for meeting of week 5):       1) Kinship problem (Burmese)

2) Bonvillain Ch. 4 .

3) Blount - Frake "The ethnographic study...";  Silverstein "Shifters..."     


Special project # 1   (due Week 4)   [repetition requests / pronominal metaphor / backchannel cues  ]


            ((Extra reading for those so inclined:   Shaul&Furbee – Chapters 3 and 4.

Giglioli – Schegloff.       Hymes, Part III.  Sapir, Language, chs. 3-5. 

Berlin and Kay 1969, Basic Color Terms.    Berlin and Berlin 1975.

            "Aguaruna color categories" American Ethnologist 2:61-87; Kay, Berlin

            and Merrifield "Biocultural implications..."  in Blount;

            Witkowski and Brown "An explanation of color nomenclature universals."

            AA 79:5O-57.  Lucy and Shweder (1979) "Whorf and his critics:...color

memory" AA 181:581-6O7.;  Witkowski and Brown "Whorf and universals

of color nomenclature" JAR 38(1982):411-42O.  Greenberg, Language Universals. 

            G.W. Grace 1988.  The Linguistic Construction of Reality.)) 

            G.A. Miller "the magical number seven, plus or minus two".

            Farb, 191-213;  Carroll (ed) Whorf  LTR "Science and linguistics"

            (2O7-219).  Leach "Anthropological aspects of language: animal

            categories and verbal abuse"; F&B  Ch 5, 6. ))



            class discussion: a) washing terms  b) eating terms  c) kinship terms d) pronouns

(Hanunoo, TZE)  and componential analysis, e) plant taxonomies   f) food  

            Film:  Do You Speak American:  Out West

Homework (due week 6, 7):  1) read: Blount  Chs.  5, 6, 12

                Bonvillain  - Chs. 5          


            ((Extra reading for those so inclined:   Hymes, Part IV.  Farb, 214-23O;

Brown and Levinson in Goody 56-295.  Lounsbury "the structural analysis of

kinship semantics"; Tyler pp. 28-59, 78-9O, 93-l36, l93-211, 255-3lO. 

            Hymes "On personal pronouns:  'fourth' person and phonesthematic

            aspects" in Studies in Linguistics; In Honor Of George L. Trager,

            (M.E. Smith, ed, pp. 1OO-121).   Stross "Speaking of speaking".

            Finegan&Besnier  Ch. 7,8 ;  Leech, "Colour and kinship".

                Casson, The semantics of kin term usage..".    Shaul&Furbee – Chapters 7 and 8

Berlin "Categories of eating in Tzeltal and Navajo"  IJAL 33:1-6.))




            class discussion: a) ground rules for functioning communication

            systems  b) Grice's Maxims  c) Goffmanology & presentation of self 


Homework:   Bonvillain  Chs. 7, 8, 9  ;   Blount  Chs.  21, 23   

            Film:  American Tongues



                a) gender differentiated speech   b) politeness  1  2

            c) baby talk  g)  language acquisition studies  d) indirection  e) misdirection  f) persuasion   

(e.g.  viral marketing – (Rumours , Chain letters with warnings , "Leaked" information ,

Gossip , Urban myths , Secondhand versions of official reports)


            Homework (due week 8):  read:    Bonvillain – Ch.  10

Blount – 16 (Turner "Words, utterance..." ); 24 (Briggs and Bauman  "Genre...")

            K. Basso Portraits of "The Whiteman 

((Extra reading for those so inclined:   Abrahams "A performance centered approach

 to gossip".   Goffman  Presentation of Self….   

E. Sapir  "Male and female forms of  speech in Yana" (SWES, 2O6-212).  
G. Urban "Ceremonial dialogues in South America."  AA 88:371-385.  
S. Feld and B. Schieffelin "Hard words: a functional basis for Kaluli discourse". 

            Giglioli –  4, 5, 7, 8, 9.    Hymes, Part V.    Farb, 41-63.   

M.F. Brown "The role of words in   Aguaruna hunting magic" American Ethnologist

11:545-558.   R. Brown A First Language.    R. Brown "Development of the first language

in the human species" (in Haugen and Bloomfield).    Haas, "Mens and

womens speech in Koasati".  S. Feld  Sound and Sentiment; F&B Ch. 15. ))



Week 8  SPEECH PLAY AND VERBAL ART        [10/26]       RYAN

            class discussion: a) graffiti/latrinalia  b) riddles  c)  proverbs  (Chamula, other);

            d) speech games  (e.g. pig latin);  e) cosmology and history in myth and legend.

            f) humor in language   g)  gossip    h)  propaganda 1    i.)  lies and disinformation 

j) word play


            Homework read (due weeks 9,10):   1) Bonvillain 6, 11

            2)  J. Hill's article on Mock Spanish   (supplied by prof)

            3)  W. Labov's article on "Academic Ignorance"  (supplied by prof)


            Special project # 2   (due Week 8 [graffiti]

            ((Extra reading for those so inclined:   Farb, 83-156; .Gossen "To speak with a

heated heart".    Kirschenblatt-Gimblett  Speech Play.     

Cowan "Mazateco whistle speech".  Shaul&Furbee  -  9, 10 .    

Basso "Wise words of  the Western Apache"; J. Sherzer "Talking backwards in Cuna..." 

SWJA 197O:343-453.     J. Sherzer "Strategies in text and context." JAF  92:145-163. 

Stross "The language of Zuyua".   Dundes "Here I sit".   Hymes, Part VI. 

            Irvine "Formality and informality in communicative events" AA 81:773-79O.

J. MacDowell Children's Riddling;  F&B 10.     W. Mieder, The Politics of Proverbs. ))





                Class discussion:  a) names b) multilingualism c) social dialects, aave/bev

            d) social structure, variation and change. e) an international language, esperanto

            f) networks    g)  language in media  (So you want to join HTT /HTS)


Homework:  1)  Blount -  15 (Ervin-Tripp "Sociolinguistics." );

14 (Gumperz "Linguistic and Social interaction in two communities" ); 

17 (Hill "The grammar of Consciousness…")





            Homework (due week 11): 

2) read:  Bonvillain Ch. 12, 13

            3)  Blount -  19 (Hunn's  "Ethnoecology…" )

            4)  Internet - M. Duke's article Writing Mazateco


            ((Extra reading for those so inclined:   Giglioli  10, 11, 12, 13, (Part 4).

            Sorenson "Multilingualism in the Northwest Amazon"  AA 69(1967):67O-82.   

Albert "Culture patterning of speech behavior in Burundi"

            (in Gumperz and Hymes, Directions In Sociolinguistics).

Sherzer  Kuna Ways Of Speaking.     ; Hymes, Part VII.

Farb, 157-187.  Trudgill, chs. 2,3,4,7.  Hymes, "Speech and language...";

Salmond "Rituals of encounter".   T. Gregor "exposure and seclusion..."  Ethnology.

            T. Gregor  Mehinacu; F&B 12, 13 . ))




     class discussion: a) comparative method  b) reconstruction problems 

            c) teaching indigenous languages


            Homework (due week 12):  1) comparative reconstruction problem 

2) read:  Blount -  10 (Berlin's  "Speculations…")  20 (Kay et al's Biocultural implications…" ).

3) Bonvillain Ch. 12; 


((Extra reading for those so inclined:   Hockett "F".    Labov "On the mechanism of linguistic

change".  Kay "Language evolution and speech style"  (in Sanches and Blount).

Kay "Synchronic variability and diachronic change in basic color terms".

Dozier "Two examples of linguistic acculturation".    Sherzer "A problem in Cuna

            phonology".      Hymes, Part VIII.    Farb, 331-367.       Giglioli – 14, 15 (part. 5).

Thieme "The Indo-European language" (in Scientific American reprints).

            C. Brown "Growth and development of folk botanical life-forms in the

            Mayan language family".       Stross "Reconstructed humor in a Tzeltal ritual formula".

Finegan&Besnier Ch. 14; Thieme "The comparative method for reconstruction in linguistics" 

(in Hymes' reader); ))



Week 12  LANGUAGE IN SPACE AND TIME     [11/23]       EUNICE

     class discussion a) internal reconstruction  b) glottochronology  c) paleography

            d) linguistic diffusion  e) language shift,  f)  revitalization, more shift


Homework (due Week 13)  -  read:   Bonvillain pp. 35-46.

Schmandt-Besserat "The earliest precursor of writing" (in Scientific American reprints);

            Oliver Sacks  "The president's speech".   

                Special Project # 3 (due Week 12)  [occupational jargon / names ] 


            Extra reading for those so inclined:   Hymes, part IX.  Watkins (in Haugen and

            Bloomfield).   Greenberg, chs. 3, 6.    Finegan&Besnier  Ch. 9. 

E. Sapir "Time perspective in aboriginal American culture" SWES pp. 389-462.

            Gossen "Temporal and spatial equivalents in Chamula ritual symbolism".

E. Sapir "Internal evidence suggestive of the northern origin of the Navaho" 

SWES, pp. 213-224.  M. Swadesh, The Origin And Diversification of Language.

M. Swadesh "What is glottochronology", "linguistics as an instrument of

            prehistory", "Diffusional cumulation and archaic residue as historical explanations". 



Week 13  NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION      [11/30]          NICK

            class discussion: a) writing systems  b) gesture and posture

            c) developments in semiotics.  d)  pointing, gesture, spaces, and mental maps


((Extra reading for those so inclined:  E.T. Hall, The Silent Language,

E.T. Hall, The Hidden Dimension;  &/or  Mark L. Knapp, Nonverbal Human

Communication.   &/or Desmond Morris, Manwatching;    I. Gelb  A Study

of Writing.    Giglioli – 4 Basso. C. Cherry, On Human Communication.    

Benthall and Polhemus (eds.),  The Body as a Medium of Expression; F&B

Ch. 11.     Dundes  "Seeing is believing".    Farb, 231-247.  Phillips in Cazden,

John, and Hymes (Functions of Speech in the Classroom).    Marcus

"Zapotec writing" (in Scientific American reprints);))





Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America


World Oral Literature Project


Discourse Analysis  -   overview and discussions of various approaches to the topic by Stef Slembrouck (Belgium)


Etymology        word origins – discussion, words, etc.


Zompist    Mark Rosenfelder’s Metaverse    has several sections on language & languages - includes numbers in 4000 languages    (evolution of cognition and language)              (“Language as a Mirror of the World” – Robin Allott)




Research Proposal Links





Searle   “The authorities arrested the women because they advocated revolution.”


Useful supplementary Texts and Readers: 

            A. Duranti  1997.  Linguistic Anthropology.   ISBN 0 521 44993 6

            D. Shaul and L. Furbee,  1998.  Language and Culture.

                        ISBN 0-88133-970-9         

            E. Finegan and N. Besnier  1989. Language: Its Structure and Use.

                        0-15-549175-X   (F&B)

            V. Fromkin & R. Rodman, R. (1993). An Introduction to Language. (5th ed.)  


            Z. Salzmann, Language, Culture, and Society (ZS)

            J. Doe  1988.  Speak Into The Mirror.   (JD)

            W. Hanks 1996. Language and Communicative Practices  (WH)

            P. Farb  Word Play

            J. Sherzer, Kuna Ways of Speaking.   (JS)

            J. Sherzer  Speech Play and Verbal Art.

            D.H. Hymes,  Language in Culture and Society

            P. Trudgill,  Sociolinguistics (an elementary textbook) 

            W. O'Grady, M. Dobrovolsky, M. Aronoff, Contemporary Linguistics.

            G. Lakoff, Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things

            G. Lakoff & M. Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh

            R. Lakoff, The Language War



"Structuralism seeks to understand how societies preserve their identities over time (Maranda 1972:330)

paraphrase:  structuralism seeks to understand how languages preserve their identities over time.   Consider this

notion and see if it makes sense to you.



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






Books on Reserve




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