College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Department of Anthropology

ANT 103, Culture and Communication

Spring 2005, 10:20-11:10 MWF

3 credit hours


Instructor: James M. Wilce, Ph.D.

Office hours: MWF 11:20-12:00; Weds. 1-2; or by appointment.

Office location: Anthropology (Bldg. 98D, Room 101E)

Phone: 523-2729


Graduate assistant: Kaylene Day (; office hours Tuesday, 1-3 p.m., SBS 113.

Course Web-CT: ANT 103 has a Web-CT of its own, which you are required to visit weekly. It will have updates on the schedule of events for that week, and any changes to the syllabus will be posted there, and announced in class. You are responsible to keep up.

Course prerequisites: None

Course description: Offers a comparative global perspective on communicative forms, especially languages, as systems of social signs. At least half of the case studies are from non-western societies.


Expanded course description: This course offers a global perspective on the diverse forms of communication used by humankind, starting with a perspective on the evolution of communication from animal sign-systems to human language, moving to a comparative global perspective on languages and their role in performance and verbal art. Case studies include Bangladesh, India, Mexico, Finland, France, and several ethnic communities in the Americas. Methods of presentation include lectures, readings, and videos.

         The course introduces the concept of ³sign systems² and describes their role—especially the role of language—in society and culture, It draws out links between spoken languages, sign languages, and writing systems on the one hand and sign systems beyond language on the other.

         Challenge level: You will find this course difficult because it requires you to synthesize reading materials on your own and come to class prepared to answer questions about readings before lecture has touched on them. Lectures will not ³do your reading for you,² but will instead presume you have done the readings; lectures build on those readings rather than rehearsing them. (In the professorıs opinion, this is the sort of intellectual independence all good college courses should teach-by-requiring.) The good news? You will not be expected to understand all aspects of the articles on-line (not true of the textbooks) before in-class discussion. As you gain experience with original peer-reviewed research articles in this course, you will understand them more and more.





Student Learning Expectations/Outcomes for This Course

1) Describe the role of songs in the struggles of untouchable Tamil women to resist injustice.

2) Describe the different role of ³laments² in contemporary Bangladesh and Finland.

3) Demonstrate an understanding of languages as means for signaling social identities.

4) Trace the evolution of language from animal sign systems, noting the areas of continuity and discontinuity.

5) Describe the role of stories in shaping experience.

6) Demonstrate an understanding of how communities socialize children to and through the use of language.

7) Describe some criteria people in Malaysia and Bangladesh use to judge a performance of verbal art.



Required textbook and other materials:

Agar, Michael.  1994.  Language Shock.  New York:  William Morrow.  (LS)

Cobley, Paul and Litza Jansz.  1997.  Introducing Semiotics.  New York: Totem Books.

Schaller, Susan.  1991.  A Man Without Words.  Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.  (MW)

Required readings on Clineıs web reserve pages.  (Go to Clineıs Course Reserves——type in ANT 103, then browse our courseıs Electronic Reserves. These readings will be the hardest in the course. Read them before coming to the lecture that covers them. You will become more and more skilled at reading these articles as the semester moves on.

Recommended (optional) texts:

Basso, Keith.  1990.  Western Apache Language and Culture (Tucson: University of Arizona Press).  (WALC)

Salzmann, Zdenek.  1998.  Language, Culture, & Society: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology.  Boulder: Westview.

Course updates on the ANT 103 Web-CT If you need help using Web-CT, staff at the Learning Assistance Centers and Cline Library can help. The URL is


Suggestions for students seeking background reading

For those who would like to read more in order to strengthen their background in linguistics  and linguistic anthropology or compare the approach taken in our readings with that taken by other authors, the following sources are recommended:

1) Bonvillain, Nancy.  1997.  (Second Edition).  Language, Culture, and Communication: The Meaning of Messages.  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

2) Macaulay, Ronald.  1993.  The social art.  New York: Oxford University Press.

3) Pinker, Steven.  1993.  The language instinct.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

These materials will be helpful, but are not meant as a substitute for interaction with the instructor during office hours, which is strongly encouraged!


Course Outline




Assigned Rdg.

Other Assignments

Videos & Recomm. Rdgs





LS13-30; IS 3-7; and read the syllabus!


³In the Land of the Deaf²




What is Language; What are Communicative (or Semiotic) Systems?



IS 18-37

Choose research paper topic

³World of Gestures²




What is Language?



IS 8-17; 38-55

Desjarlais (Webreserve)


³The Human Language Evolving²




Language and Mind




³Iisaw²; Rec.rdg.: Akmajian (webreserv)




Language Socialization


LS 61-72


³Preschool in 3 Cultures²




Different Languages, Different Thoughts?




"Mind: Lg."




Situations/ Cultures


Basso WALC ch. 5 (webreserve)

1st Extra Credit Paper due





Speech Acts and Improvisation



Rec. rdg:

Sawyer (web)




Conversational Structures

Goodwin (Webreserve)













Linguistic and Social Differentiation



³Black on White²




Social Semiotics


Extra credit film papers due





The Self, Communication, and Culture: Love and Connection in Two Non-Western Cultures

Trawick; Webreserve


Recom-mended reading: Trix, --




Verbal Art as Performance

Basso ³Joking;² webreserve

Research paper draft to Lib Arts Bldg Writing tutor

Recom-mended reading: Laderman 1987, and Samuels 1999; web




Sociolinguistic Play and Creativity; Globalization and Semiotic Change

Basso, WALC, ch. 6 (Cline res.); NYT article about Ahearn; Feld in press


papers due





Week of Review







Final Exam





Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes:


Methods of Assessment


Participation and quizzes:

For a maximum participation score (including quizzes), attend regularly, be on time, and be a responsible participant in discussion. For the shy, coming in with questions during my office hours counts toward participation!  If you find you must always be late or leave early, you should drop the class.  There will be at least ten regularly scheduled quizzes on the readings. Quizzes will require you to have done the readings before lectures on them; questions will include completion items (blanks for, e.g., the names of authors associated with theories).  No makeups will be allowed, but the lowest three quiz grades— including, not additional to, any missed— will be dropped from your total and the participation grade calculated on the basis of the quizzes counted.



There will be one midterm and a cumulative, comprehensive final. The final will contain objective and essay questions.  (Quizzes are counted under ³participation.²).  Exam questions will require in-depth understanding of concepts.


Written assignments: 

1) Research Paper: Complete instructions on this will be posted on the courseıs  Web-CT early in the semester. The final paper will be ten pages long, covering one of five topics. (Students who wish to perform at no higher than a 80% on the project may write an excellent integrative review of three original research articles on the topic, plus an argument supporting one perspective on the topic.) Students wanting a higher grade must apply insights from these articles to an original research project involving recording naturally occurring speech (e.g. among roommates, or some family you know with a small child), or analyzing previously taped speech (e.g. in a publicly available video).


2) Two extra credit assignments are available on a purely optional basis.  Due dates are noted on the schedule.

a) The first is to write a one page summary-only of each of the videos shown in class.  (up to 10 syllabus points of credit possible for writing reviews of all the videos).

b) Write a paper synthesizing all of the required online articles. Your papers should be organized thus: Come up with a list of topics that two or more of the articles address, and write one paragraph on each of those topics, comparing and contrasting how each author addresses the topic. Thus each paragraph should be about one topic but several authors. No paragraph should be about one author only.

Timeline for Assessment

Quizzes (throughout the semester)

Midterm Exam (week of 2/28)

Final paper due (week of 4/25)

Final exam (5/9)


Grading System
With extra credit points included, it will be possible to achieve 270 points in all.

A= 225 points, or 90% of the highest total in the class, whichever is to your benefit.

B= 200 points, or 80%   ³             ³                 ³                          ³

C= 175 points, or 70%  ³             ³                 ³                          ³

D= 150 points, or 60%  ³             ³                 ³                          ³

F= less than 150 points, or below 60% of the highest grade in the class


Although the points will eventually translate into letter grades on a curve, no letter grades will be written on any assignments (e.g. quizzes).  Students will be responsible to calculate their standing throughout the semester according to any announcements during lectures.


         The total points will be assigned as follows:


Research Paper


Exams (150 total)






Participation (includes quizzes & attendance)





Course Policiies:

Common Courtesy: Come to class on time, remain until lecture is formally over (i.e., donıt start packing up before I finish the lecture), donıt leave the class room during class, donıt talk among yourselves during lectures, donıt put your feet up, and you are not allowed to use or monitor walkman-type devices, cell phones, tape recorders, or pagers in the classroom. In other words, donıt use the classroom etiquette or behavior you may have seen in the movie Clueless as a model for your behavior in my classroom.

Specific Course policies:

1) There will be no re-tests or make-up tests or quizzes.

2) Attendance is required and will be part of the grade.  Students are responsible for everything said during class, and part of the grade will reflect regular positive participation in class.  Note: Lectures will supplement the readings.  In no case will the lecture duplicate the readings.

3) Cheating will not be tolerated. Students suspected of cheating may be confronted during or after any exam.  Such exams will receive an ³F.²

4) Plagiarism has no place in a university.  It is not hard for an instructor to detect which words are a studentıs and which have been copied, even if the source is not our textbook.  Points will be taken off for copying material written by others without citing the source properly.  If you mention ³natural selection in favor of high intelligence² in a paper, you must cite the author, the date of publication, and the page number of the quotation like this—(Ochs and Schieffelin 1990: 17).  Even if you paraphrase, you should give credit in precisely the same way if your idea comes directly from a given page of writing, and simply leave off the page number if your statement is indebted to anotherıs writing in a more general way.  In the case of WWW materials, cite only the author if unpublished, and the name of the newspaper as well as the author if the piece is a published article or editorial.

5) All students should make an appointment with The Writing Workshop in the Liberal Arts building  to go over a rough draft of their final papers and submit the first draft with the tutorıs signature stapled to the final draft.


The instructor reserves the right to make and announce changes to the syllabus and schedule. Attend class and consult the Web-CT weekly for announcements of such changes.