College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, NAU
Anthropology 614: The Ethnography of Communication
“Signs of Power, and the Power of Signs”
Anthropology Seminar Room (106), Emerald #4, Swing Space
Wed. 5:30-8 p.m.

Note: This syllabus is subject to revision, and revisions will be posted on the course’s Vista page.
Instructor: James M. Wilce, Ph.D.
Office hours: M 4:30-5:30 (Anth Computer Lab, SBS West) T 11-12 (Computer Lab), W 1-2 (my office in Anth Building, room 101E), and by appointment (Really, ask me for an appointment outside of the appointed times if they don’t work for you—meeting with you is important.)
Office location: Bldg. 98D, Room 101E
Phone and email: 523-2729;
Course prerequisites: Graduate standing or permission of instructor.
Course description: Presents theoretical models of “comparative speaking,” treating communicative events as systems of social activity analyzed in relation to cultural contexts.
Extended description: This course is an overview of linguistic anthropology, the branch of anthropology that links the analysis of linguistic/semiotic form to the interpretation of sociocultural phenomena. The course title reflects a) a particularly fruitful period in the history of linguistic anthropology when “the ethnography of communication” was in vogue, but more importantly (b) linguistic anthropology’s grounding in a method (ethnography) that is not only central to all of anthropology but also increasingly used by scholars in other disciplines. Finally, the emphasis on “communication” (rather than narrower terms like “language”) indexes the course’s orientation to semiotics, the study of signs—not only linguistic signs but all signs.
            Note: the methods you will learn from the readings will be overwhelmingly qualitative, and often hard to separate from the theory presented in the same reading.
Policies: The standard NAU policies for inclusion in syllabi are posted, like this syllabus, on Vista. However, here is a new and urgent policy declaration from the administration:
Swine flu: “While class attendance is required per the above stated policy, please be cautious about attending class if you are feeling ill.  Please inform me by phone or email if you are feeling unwell; if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, you should not attend class; please take precautions not to infect others, and seek medical attention if your symptoms worsen.”
Student learning expectations/outcomes: You will end this course with a working knowledge of theory and method in linguistic anthropology, semiotic anthropology, and the ethnography of communication, the questions raised therein, and their relevance to your research agendas. You will be expected to complete the readings before coming to class and participate in the seminar discussion, and to lead the discussion on at least one reading per week. (See the guidelines on the last page of the syllabus.) Research experiences and in-class demonstrations of methods will expose you to the methodology of linguistic anthropology. In addition to its content-goals, you will learn—by writing a series of short papers—a method of critical/synthetic reading and writing.
1) Offer persuasive arguments for the social-scientific relevance of linguistic anthropology and its contributions to anthropological theory.
2) Represent with rich detail language— its levels of structure— and other semiotic systems on which linguistic anthropologists focus, clearly defining signs and language
3) Describe how and why signs have power, and what are signs of power
4) Provide examples of linguistic varieties as means for signaling social identities (e.g. gender, ethnicity, class, race), demonstrating understanding of indexes as probabilistic links that are at the same time already ideological
5) Design an appropriate test of a hypothesis about the relative power/effect/impact of some bit of speech based on its semiotic features and sociocultural context
6) Clearly describe how communities around the world socialize children to and through the use of language
7) Analyze a real-world example of (political or “religious”) ritual text— i.e. text involved in locally-perceived cosmic or transformative— that reveals some reasons for its ritual effectiveness.
8) Describe three or more linguistic-anthropological research methods and their relation to anthropology as a whole
9) List, define, and briefly describe three language ideologies
10) Compare dominant Western language ideologies with those common in another society

The downside and upside of Thursdays: We will miss one week, and not reschedule, for Thanksgiving. The other Thursdays missed—for the SMAs and the AAAs—we will reschedule at our mutual convenience.
Work load over the semester: Note that the load varies a lot over the semester (see table on next page). Read ahead to level it out. No readings are assigned for week 15 when you orally present your final paper drafts, the week before papers are due. The average number of pages assigned per week in the readings is 106. Learn to read for the main argument without worrying quite as much about every detail of the data.

1)         Students will be responsible to present a reading every week or every other week, depending on enrollment. In relation to every reading, you should tell the seminar a) what possible applications to your own work the piece signals, b) what dimension of language the analysis centered on, c) what lesson it teaches in the uncovering of patterns at the nexus of language and society/culture.
2)         Students will write a total of four short synthesizing papers (3+ pages) on the readings over the semester and participate in one group project. See the guidelines for writing the papers on the last page of the syllabus.
3)         A research paper (15-20 pages) whose topic is worked out in advance with the professor will take up an issue developed in the readings, probably close to one of the weekly topics, and consider it in relation to the student’s own research interests. For this final project, students are invited but not required to collect original data (audio or video recordings), or at least make fresh analyses of a previously recorded speech event. Keep IRB requirements in mind. If you think your project might involve presenting identifiable people on video or audiotape, review the IRB website, . Some help in editing and repeated viewing of the video for purposes of transcription may be available at various lab facilities.
            The paper must be written in American Ethnologist or AAA style in macro as well as micro terms (following the AAA style guide This means it must include an abstract, a very brief introduction (about a page), a short literature review (about 2-3 pages; not all the literature assigned in this course but the specific literature on the topic of your paper, literature that may include outside sources), a methods section (1 page), a transcript or series of transcript excerpts in the data section (NOT in an appendix) that also includes a table of Transcription Conventions, an analysis section (the heart of the paper in which you analyze the transcribed data, and Conclusion and References Cited.

Your transcript MUST number lines (never turns, but lines, i.e. literal lines on the page) and the line divisions must be theoretically motivated (e.g. to show the parallelism if that’s what you’re talking about. Follow the model of some reading, and mention it. The most explicit discussion and comparison of various approaches to transcription in your readings is Duranti 1997: chapter 5.

Your final paper should meet standards of good writing, clarity, and logic—as will be stressed throughout the semester in relation to the shorter papers. Number your pages. You must use AAA style, including citation and bibliographic style. See, for example, the assigned readings that appeared in American Ethnologist (e.g. Woolard 1985, Graham 1993).
Course Policies: Plagiarism includes all forms of using others’ words without citation; plagiarism in papers for this course will result in an “F” for the paper.
AttendanceYou are required to attend each class having read the assigned readings and being ready to discuss them; the seminar format requires this. Your grade will reflect your participation and you cannot participate in seminar if you are not present. Remember, the quality of any seminar depends mostly on how well participants prepare prior to coming to class. This involves not only reading the assigned materials but also thinking critically about the issues that they raise. If you anticipate being away, please notify me in advance for the sake of the smooth functioning of the seminar.
Grading system
            Grades will be assigned for participation and writing on a 100 point total:

1) Participation

30 points



Grading Scale:

2) Assignments

30 points



90+ =A

3) Research

40 points



80+ =B





70+ =C






REQUIRED READINGS: (Note: The format of citations to be read is not standard, not AAA style, etc. It is greatly modified to save space. Your final papers need to use AAA style consistently, including in references).
1) Duranti, Alessandro. 1997. Linguistic Anthropology. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press. (LA)
2) Duranti, Alessandro, ed. 2001 Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader. Oxford/Malden, MA: Blackwell. (RDR)
3) Schieffelin, Bambi B.; Woolard, Kathryn A.; Kroskrity, Paul, eds. 1998. Language ideologies : Practice and theory. New York: Oxford University Press. (ID)
4) Ahearn, Laura M. in preparation. Living Language: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers. Selected pdf chapters on Vista.

RECOMMENDED (also available on regular reserve behind desk at Cline)
5) Kroskrity, Paul, ed. 2000. Regimes of Language. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press. (The required chapter will be scanned and available through Vista. Linguistic anthropology students should purchase this, e.g. from Amazon.)
6) Crapanzano, Vincent
            2000    Serving the Word: Literalism in America from the Pulpit to the Bench. New York: The New Press. (SW)
7) Hill, Jane
            2008    The Everyday Language of White Racism in the United States. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.   (ELR)
8) Wilce, James M.. 2009. Language and Emotion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (especially “Language, Emotion, Power, and Politics,” 85-99
9) Hanks, William F. 1996. Language and Communicative Practices. Volume 1. Boulder, CO:        Westview. (LCP)


ARTICLES: Readings on the course’s Vista pages.


Wk. 1, 8/30; Preview and overview of the course; getting to know each other; introduction to dynamism in the third wave of linguistic anthropology, and to semiotics and its relevance for all sciences and humanities
Presentation on semiotics, and “pragmatic” and “metapragmatic” functions

Wk. 2, 9/3 Organizing perspectives I: What is linguistic anthropology? Methods: Discourse-centered ethnography (asking, learning, observing); the nature and experience of participant-observation in the ethnography of communication (3 pp?)
Briggs, Charles. 1984. Learning How to Ask: Native Metacommunicative Competence and the Incompetence of Field Workers. Language in Society 13: 1-28. Vista
Caton, Steven C. 1990. “Peaks of Yemen I Summon”: Poetry as Cultural Practice in a North Yemeni Tribe. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press. Pp. 3-24.
Duranti, Alessandro. 1994. From Grammar to Politics: Linguistic Anthropology in a Western Samoa Village. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press. Pp. 1-3.
Hanks, LCP, ch. 1, Introduction: Meaning and Matters of Context, pp. 1-17
LA ch 1, The Scope of Linguistic Anthropology (1-22)
92 pages

Week 3, 9/10 What are we looking at, or for? Signs, especially linguistic forms or structures, and their sociocultural significance(s)
Methods: structuralist analysis, fine-grained transcription; metapragmatics (especially reported speech) first introduction to poetics and grammatical/semantic parallelism in relation to ritual text/performance)
Web pages:
Wilce, Sociogrammar intro
Wilce, The structuralist insight
LA (Duranti) ch 2— just skim through, noting each model of culture 
LA (Duranti) ch 5, Transcription: From Writing to Digitized Images (pp. 122-161)
LA ch 6, Meaning in Linguistic Forms, (pp. 162--213) 
95 pages

Week 4, 9/17 What are we looking at, or for, Part II
Paper #1 due on weeks 2-4 readings
Wilce webpage on represented speech and thought
Ahearn, Laura M.
      in preparation. Language in Anthropological Perspective. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers. Chapter 1, p. 8 only 
Bucholtz, Mary
      2001    The Whiteness of Nerds: Superstandard English and Racial Markedness. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 11(1):84-100  Just read for the gist of how student groups differ phonologically, lexically, morphologically 
Duranti, Alessandro, and Jennifer F. Reynolds
      2008    Phonological and cultural innovations in the speech of Samoans in Southern California. In Beyond Yellow English: Toward a Linguistic Anthropology of Asian Pacific America. A. Reyes and A. Lo, eds. Pp. 233-252. New York: Oxford University Press. (pp. 238, 239, and 248) (237-238, 248)
Farnell, B. M., and L. R. Graham. 1998. Discourse-Centered Methods. In Handbook of Methods in Cultural Anthropology. Edited by H. R. Bernard, pp. 411-458. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press. Just read 424-433  
Fox, James J.
      1988    Introduction. In To Speak in Pairs: Essays on the Ritual Languages of Eastern Indonesia. J.J. Fox, ed. Pp. 1-28. Cambridge Studies in Oral and LIterature Culture. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 1-6 only (
Jones, Graham M., and Bambi Schieffelin 
      2009    Enquoting Voices, Accomplishing Talk: Uses of Be + Like in Instant Messaging. Language and Communication 29(1):77-113.
Lempert, Michael
      2007    Conspicuously past: Distressed discourse and diagrammatic embedding in a Tibetan represented speech style. Language & Communication 27(3):258-271
64 pages

Wk. 5, 9/24 Power of sign systems in a linguistically diverse world; Poetics, parallelism, performance, and performativity
RDR Introduction (by Duranti) pp. 1-32 (concentrate on section 8.)
LA, ch. 3, Linguistic Diversity (pp. 51-83) 
LA ch. 7, Speaking as Social Action, 214-243.
RDR ch 7, Verbal Art as Performance, pp. 168-169 only.
Silverstein, Michael 2003  Death and Life at Gettysburg. In Talking Politics: The Substance of Style from Abe to “W”. M. Silverstein, ed. Pp. 33-62. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press (distributed by University of Chicago).
122 pages
Fox, James J.
      1974    Rotinese Views of Language, Dialect, and Code. In Explorations in the Ethnography of Speaking. R. Bauman and J. Sherzer, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wilce, James M.
      2008    Scientizing Bangladeshi Psychiatry: Parallelism, Enregisterment, and the Cure for a Magic Complex. Language in Society 37(1):91–114. 

Week 6 10/1 Power of Signs 1: Making people, making (somewhat cooperative) members of a community: The process of language socialization in childhood and beyond
RDR Ochs & Taylor, Pp. 431-449.
Duranti, Alessandro
       2009   The Relevance of Husserl's Theory to Language Socialization. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 19(2):205-226.
Kulick, Don, and Bambi Schieffelin
      2004    Language Socialization. In A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology. A. Duranti, ed. Pp. 349-368. Malden, MA: Blackwell. 
Wortham, Stanton 2005. Socialization beyond the Speech Event. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 15(1):95-112. 
18+ 21+ 19 =58 pages
       Silverstein, Michael. The Limits of Awareness (RDR)
Schieffelin, Bambi 1979    Getting It Together: An Ethnographic Perspective on the Study of the Acquisition of Communicative Competence. In Developmental Pragmatics. E. Ochs and B. Schieffelin, eds. Pp. 73-108. New York: Academic Press.
Week 7 10/8 Signs of Power: Global Circulation of Discourse: The circulation of discourse across time and space Methods: Ethnographies of discourse circulation.
Irvine, Judith, and Susan Gal
      2000    Language Ideology and Linguistic Differentiation. In Regimes of Language: Ideologies, Polities, and Identities. P. Kroskrity, ed. Pp. 35-83. Santa Fe: School of American Research.
Keane, Webb. 1997. From Fetishism to Sincerity: On Agency, the Speaking Subject, and their Historicity in the Context of Religious Conversion. Comparative Studies in Society and History 39(4):674-693.
Lempert, Michael P.
      2006    Disciplinary theatrics: Public reprimand and the textual performance of affect at Sera Monastery, India. Language & Communication 26(1):15-33.
Perrino, Sabina M.
      2007    Intimacy and Global Biomedicine in Senegalese Ethnomedical Encounters. In 106th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Washington, D.C.
95 pages

Wk. 8 10/15 Linguistic ideologies (Method: comparing structures, actions, and consciousness)
Paper #2 due, weeks 5-8
SW (Crapanzano), about 50 pages  Crapanzano
ID, 3-27 Woolard, Introduction 
ID 51-67, Irvine, Ideologies of Honorific Language
ID 149-
about 103 pages

Wk. 9, 10/22; Identifying through, and with, linguistic varieties: Ethnicity, gender, class, race
(Method: Analyzing code-switching, analyzing “textual” poetics of identity construction [Reyes])
ID 87-102. Kulick, Anger, Gender, Language Shift  
ELR, Hill pp. 31-48   
Sidnell, Jack. 1999. Gender and Pronominal Variation in an Indo-Guyanese Creole-Speaking Community. Language in Society 28: 367-399. Vista  
87 pages
Sidnell, Jack
      2000    Primus inter pares:  Storytelling and male peer groups in an Indo-Guyanese rumshop. American Ethnologist 27(1):72-99.  

Wk. 10, 10/29 Language, ritual, space: The “exemplary center”
ID 103-122  Kroskrity, Arizona Tewa Kiva Speech as a Manifestation of a Dominant LI
Errington, J. Joseph. 1988. Ethics Etiquette, and the Exemplary Center. Pp. 22-45. In Structure and Style in Javanese: A Semiotic View of Linguistic Etiquette. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.
Kuipers, Joel C. 1998. Place, Identity, and the Shifting Forms of Cultivated Speech: A Geography of Marginality. In Language, Identity, and Marginality in Indonesia. Pp. 22-41. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
83 pages
Wilce, James M. 2006 Magical Laments and Anthropological Reflections: The Production and Circulation of Anthropological Text as Ritual Activity. Current Anthropology 47(6):891-914.

Wk. 11, 11/5 Interaction: Language, Power, & Medicine (Studying embodied interaction; power vs. collaboration in the doctor’s office; Methods and theories: Ethnomethodology/ conversation analysis)
Heath, Christian
      2006    Body Work: The Collaborative Production of the Clinical Object. In Communication in Medical Care: Interaction Between Primary Care Physicians and Patients. J. Heritage and D.W. Maynard, eds. Pp. 185-213. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  

Hindmarsh, Jon, and Alison Pilnick  
      2002    The Tacit Order of Teamwork: Collaboration and Embodied Conduct in Anesthesia. The Sociological Quarterly 43(2):139-164.
      1987    The ambiguity of symbols in the structure of healing. Social Science and Medicine 24(4):293-301.  
Wilce, James M.
      2009    Medical Discourse. Annual Review of Anthropology 38: 199-215.
77 pages


Week 12 11/12 Applied Issues: Language in Institutional Settings Paper #3 due, weeks 9-12 readings
RDR (343-378) Heath, Shirley Brice. What No Bedtime Story Means.   Allison

Collins, James. 1996. Socialization to Text: Structure and Contradiction in Schooled Literacy. In Natural Histories of Discourse. M. Silverstein and G. Urban, eds. Pp. 203-228. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Roberts, Celia and Srikant Sarangi. 1999.  Hybridity in gatekeeping discourse: Issues of practical relevance for the researcher. In Talk, Work and Institutional Order: Discourse in Medical, Mediation and Management Settings. S. Sarangi and C. Roberts, eds. Pp. 473-503. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.  
25+35+30= 90
Holmes, Janet, Maria Stubbe, and Bernadette Vine. 1999. Constructing professional identity: “Doing power” in policy units. In Talk, Work and Institutional Order: Discourse in Medical, Mediation and Management Settings. S. Sarangi and C. Roberts, eds. Pp. 351-387. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.   

Week 13  11/19 Applied Issues: Globalization, Literacy, and Language Revitalization
ID 256-270, Collins, Tolowa, Our Ideologies and Theirs
Doostdar, Alireza. 2004. "The Vulgar Spirit of Blogging": On Language, Culture, and Power in Persian Weblogestan. American Anthropologist 106(4):651-662.  Becky
Hill, Jane H. 2002. "Expert Rhetorics" in Advocacy for Endangered Languages: Who is Listening, and What Do They Hear? Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 12(2):119-133. Allison
Hinton, Leanne 2001. Language Revitalization: An Overview. In The Green Book: Language Revitalization in Practice. K. Hale and L. Hinton, eds. Pp. 3-18. San Diego: Academic Press. Vista Matt
Nevins, M. Eleanor. 2004. Learning to Listen: Confronting Two Meanings of Language Loss in the Contemporary White Mountain Apache Speech Community. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 14(2):269-288. Andrea
Scribner, S. & Cole, M. 1981b. Unpackaging literacy. In M. F. Whiteman (ed.) Writing , volume 1, pp. 71-87. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Vista Heidi
14+11+14+15+19+16= 89
Dorian, Nancy C. 2002. Commentary: Broadening the Rhetorical and Descriptive Horizons in Endangered-Language Linguistics. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 12(2):134-140.
Duranti, Alessandro and Elinor Ochs. 1986. Literacy instruction in a Samoan village. In B. Schieffelin and P. Gilmore (eds.) The acquisition of literacy: Ethnographic perspectives, 213-32.  Norwood, NJ: ABLEX. Vista
Eisenlohr, Patrick. 2004. Language Revitalization and New Technologies: Cultures of Electronic Mediation and the Refiguring of Communities. Annual Review of Anthropology 33(1):21-45. Vista
Friedman, Jonathan. 2003. Globalizing Languages: Ideologies and Realities of the Contemporary Global System. American Anthropologist 105(4):744-752.
Nettle, Daniel, and Suzanne Romaine 2000. Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World’s Languages. New York: Oxford University Press.
Silverstein, Michael. 1998. Contemporary Transformations of Local Linguistic Communities. Annual Review of Anthropology 27:401-426.


Week 14 No class (Thanksgiving)


Week 15—11/26 Your presentations
Wk. 16 Final papers due


Guidelines for weekly written and oral presentations
Guidelines for the Papers on the Readings

These 4 page critiques will be your way of integrating and responding to the readings assigned for the week on which the papers are due (the papers are prospective, not retrospective). Again, the aim of these papers is to help you integrate and think critically about the readings as a whole. Never!!! write “one paragraph per reading” as an method of organizing the paper. Rather, integrate—form paragraphs according to topics you perceive cutting across the readings. Sometimes it will be appropriate in your papers to cumulatively draw on the various perspectives of authors you read over the course of the semester. You should prepare for this paper (and for the seminar) by writing a one-sentence précis of each author’s argument (so, e.g., four précis sentences for four authors) and then finding themes that crosscut. Your papers should touch on the main contribution of each reading to our understanding of the week’s (or semester’s) theme, not on supporting points (subarguments or data). Find differences between authors and take sides, arguing that one perspective is more logical and/or better supported (with evidence) than another. Again, organize each paragraph of every paper by a theme, not by an author. I am looking for evidence that you have gone beyond parroting to be able to compare and contrast perspectives. Write concisely. Do not quote at all. Obviously you need to accurately represent the gist of each author, and to do so you might need to cite a page # for a specific idea. In fact, whenever you get a particular idea from a particular author, try to nail down the page where that idea is best represented and cite it in anthropological citation style (author’s last name date: page) e.g. (Einstein 1941: 243). Note: Citations should be in American Ethnologist or AAA style. No bibliography is necessary unless you cite sources not assigned in class.

Leading discussions

1. Each class session will consist of a group discussion based on a collection of readings. You are required to attend each class having read the assigned readings and being ready to discuss them. You will find it helpful to take notes on the readings and bring them with you to class.
2. You will be responsible for co-facilitating some of the class discussions. Each required reading will be assigned to at least one student who will be expected to lead the discussion on it. In preparing for the discussions you will facilitate, write a one-sentence précis of the argument, cutting out everything but what the author is trying to persuade us to see.
            With every reading, a) tell possible applications to your own work, b) tell what dimension of language the analysis centered on, c) tell how what lesson it teaches in the uncovering of patterns at the nexus of language and society/culture.
            Keep in mind that we are discussing several readings relating to a theme; so look for common or contrasting threads that run through each week’s readings, common questions that those readings address as a unit. Formulate 2-3 questions on “your” reading that help us see the contrasting approaches of the authors to a similar phenomenon. Never ask questions whose answers must be looked up on a particular page. Instead, let your questions point us to the major points or memorable arguments the author makes.