Language & Culture

Course Description:

Language is arguably one of the most important resources humans possess to carry out social life. In fact, the complicated system of language that we will study cross-culturally is both universally and uniquely human. While language enables us to create and define our worlds, ideas about and attitudes towards language, language use varies widely among people and often depends upon socio-cultural settings and situations. This course provides students with a cultural and a linguistic awareness of language as understood in the field of linguistic anthropology. Linguistic anthropology is the study of the relationship between language and culture. Students will receive a broad view of the field by reading ethnographic and sociolinguistic case studies. Topics will include linguistic versus communicative competence, language structure, use and function, communicative interaction and politeness, the negotiation of meaning and language change and variation. We will also study the ways in which language has been connected to issues of gender, identity, ethnicity, race, nationalism and bilingualism.

Course Goals:

This course will enhance your knowledge of language and its relationship to culture. It is designed to give students who are interested in language and culture an opportunity to study oral forms of expression in a systematic way. Students of culture should become familiar with linguistic methods and sociolinguistic theory to be able to conduct linguistic analyses on their data, as language is not only a means of communication, but also a vehicle of social and cultural identity formation. Students will learn how to observe language in use, analyze how it is used and document it.