Linguistic Anthropology

The study of language has been part of anthropology since the discipline started in the 1ate 1870s. This site is a place for linguistic anthropologists to post their work and discuss important events and trends in the field.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Getting started in anthropology

A few weeks ago I noticed that a lot of people who read Linguistic Anthropology are referred here by search engines. Often the search terms are something like "anthropology - getting started". I suspect that the search engines are directing these readers to How Flame Wars Get Started, and guess that this is probably not what they are looking for (though I hope they enjoy it).

I have been thinking about asking contributors to write something on the topic of getting started in linguistic anthropology, but haven't yet done so. In the meantime I note that Rex at Savage Minds has advice on getting into graduate school. This may be closer to what those internet searchers are looking for. Both the post and the comments offer good general advice for applying to graduate school - not quite the same thing as becoming an anthropologist, but an important step.

Let this serve both as a pointer to the advice at Savage Minds and as an invitation for linguistic anthropologists to share their own advice. Comments are open.

7 Comments:

Blogger Perez said...

Perhaps a good way to 'get started' would be with some reading? Could commenters suggest some essential texts along the lines of 'Linguistic Anthropology for Dummies'? Piers

8:56 PM  
Blogger Chad Nilep said...

Excellent suggestion. I'll recommend a couple:

Ben Blount's Language, Culture, and Society (1995, Waveland Press) provides a selection of major contributions to American linguistic anthropology from the 1910s-1990s. The pieces are mostly journal articles or book chapters by academic anthropologists, so there may be some sense of jumping in at the deep end.

I love Keith Basso's Wisdom Sits in Places (1996, U. New Mexico Press). Although it doesn't include much 'how-to', it's a nice example of what ethnography can bring to linguistics and vice versa. (It's also not too expensive, and great fun to read.)

I've yet to find an ideal 'intro to ling-anth' text book that can balance accessibility with depth. Alessandro Duranti's Linguistic Anthropology (1997, Cambridge U. Press) opts for greater engagement with important issues in the field but is pretty challenging for novices. I've used Nancy Bonvillain's Language, Culture, and Communication (2003, Pearson), which starts with more basic introduction, in undergraduate courses.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Perez said...

Thanks Chad, this is really a tremendous help.
Can anyone comment on:

Salzmann, Zdeněk. 1993. Language, culture, and society: an introduction to linguistic anthropology. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

6:08 PM  
Blogger pkaustin said...

Bill Foley's Anthropological Linguistics is also a good place to start.

1:59 PM  
Blogger Ronald Kephart said...

Like Chad, I have yet to find a textbook that captures the linguistic anthropology that I learned as a grad student. I do like Foley's book, which is ironic because he's a linguist working anthropologically, rather than an anthropologist working linguistically. Foley's book is pitched a little high for the students I have (all undergrads), though. Lately, I have been moving toward using myself as the textbook and then also having a workbook to draw problems from (I like the Frommer and Finegan workbook myself).

Having said all this, I think the truly best way to "get into" linguistics is to go out into the world and have experiences that linguistics can explain. When I went to Grenada as a Peace Corps Volunteer Spanish teacher, I knew nothing about linguistics or anthropology, but when I returned and entered grad school I found that something I had noticed in Peace Corps was explained or clarified in almost every class period. So it wasn't just a theoretical exercise for me. Maybe I'll write more detail on this in a separate post.

5:04 PM  
Blogger Carl said...

I have been thinking a lot about how culture effects language and also how language use can impact culture. Is this linguistic anthropology?

12:42 PM  
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