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“A language is a dialect with an army.” This (originally Yiddish) aphorism points to ways in which language, often imagined to be a neutral or apolitical medium of communication, proves in practice to be a social domain fully implicated in the operations of power. How do we create community – and social exclusion – by the way that we talk? What role does speech play in the accumulation of cultural capital? How are racism and colonialism sustained or subverted by language practices, and how can speech transform the world? This introduction to linguistic anthropology draws together classic works of linguistic and semiotic theory with studies of the politics of actual speech grounded in rich and particular cultural and historical contexts, from witchcraft accusations in rural France to the partition of Hindi and Urdu in colonial South Asia. Students will gain familiarity with key concepts (speech acts, performatives, code-switching, language ideology), themes and debates in the social scientific study of language. Assignments include regular postings of 1-page critical response papers and an ethnographic project analyzing a series of speech events in our local community.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
Regular postings of critical response papers and an ethnographic final project.
Students in all fields of study are most welcome. If overenrolled, priority will be given to Anthropology or Sociology majors or final-year students.