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.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Blog has moved to

Hi, this blog is basically defunct these days.  We have all moved over to the official website of the Society for Linguistic Anthropology at  If you are interested in being part of the larger conversation on language and culture, just drop a note in the "Feedback" box at the bottom left of the page.

all best,

Leila Monaghan
Co-Editor, Language & Culture Blog, Anthropology News
Ex-Digital Content Editor SLA Blog

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

'Top' not-for-profit linguistic anthropology journals

There has been a recent flurry of discussion of for-profit versus non-profit publishing in anthropology, occasioned by a 29 August piece in The Guardian by George Monbiot. Blog postings at and Savage Minds (e.g. here, here, and here), among other places, are providing people in the field a chance to discuss issues related to publishing including open-access versus paid access, accessibility, visibility, and for-profit versus non-profit publishers.

On his blog, Jason Jackson Baird provides (along with comment on some of these issues) a listing of the top anthropology journals published by non-commercial entities, including those published university presses, or by university departments or professional societies that do not partner with for-profit publishers. For purposes of the list, "top journals" means journals with high impact factor, as determined by Thomson Reuters' Journal Citation Reports.

As Jackson Baird points out, there are problems associated with using impact factor as rating of good-ness, "but it provides a fixed list not-of-my-own-making and it does represent a population of journals that more and more anthropologists feel pressed to engage with."

Jackson Baird also points out that, due to the way impact factor is calculated, journals in biological anthropology tend to be rated higher than those in social and cultural anthropology. He therefore provides a smaller list of journals for social or cultural anthropologists.

Similarly, there are not many linguistic anthropology journals in Jackson Baird's larger list. This is partially attributable to the way that impact factor is calculated, and partially to the fact that Journal Citation Reports considers anthropology and linguistics as separate fields.

For linguistic anthropologists who are interested in publishing with non-commercial publishers but who also wish to make their work as visible as possible, I have constructed the following list of not-for-profit linguistic anthropology journals. To do this, I consulted Journal Citation Reports and compiled a list of 215 journals in anthropology or linguistics. After sorting these by impact factor, I removed journals by commercial publishers, including those produced by professional societies but distributed by commercial publishers. I include journals described by JCR as "anthropology" that published at least one article on language or linguistics, or articles described as "linguistics" that published at least one article on social or cultural aspects of language use, acquisition, or structure in 2010*. In addition to all of the caveats that must apply to any list of this nature, note that these categories are quite subjective and that since I coded this data by hand, it may well include errors.

Current Anthropology
Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research
Language in Society
Annual Review of Anthropology
American Antiquity*
Linguistic Inquiry
Journal of Child Language
Applied Linguistics
Human Biology

*Since I did not have access to American Antiquity for 2010, I checked tables of contents from 2009.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

SLA Blog

New blog posts relating to linguistic anthropology are available at SLA Blog, the official blog of the Society for Linguistic Anthropology.

Also check out the official homepage of Society for Linguistic Anthropology.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

American Anthropological Association 2009 Annual Meeting

The American Anthropological Association will hold its annual meeting December 2nd through the 6th at the Philadelphia Mariott Downtown hotel in Philadelphia, PA. The theme for the 2009 meeting is "The End/s of Anthropology".

Below is my annual partial list of panels and meetings of interest to linguistic anthropologists, including those sponsored by the Society for Linguistic Anthropology.

There will also be a memorial gathering in honor of Dell Hymes on Saturday from 7:30-9:30pm in Grand Ballroom III of the Courtyard Marriott hotel.

For the full schedule of the annual meeting, see the online program.

Day & TimeTitleParticipants
WED 12:00-1:45 ANALYZING ORAL NARRATIVE Maggie Ronkin, Maris Thompson, Minerva Oropeza, Carolyn Oldham, Lisa Newon
WED 12:00-3:45 DISCOURSE CROSSING: LANGUAGE IN THE MAKING OF TRANSNATIONAL MIGRATION Valentina Pagliai, Alejandro Paz, Michele Koven, Hilary Dick, Anna De Fina, Norma Mendoza-Denton, Jung-Eun Janie Lee, Sonia Das, Marco Jacquemet, Sabina Perrino, Amy Shuman, Stef Slembrouck, Monica Heller
WED 12:00-1:45LANGUAGE AND EMBODIED PERFORMANCE Sonya Fix, Joon-Beom Chu, Eric Heller, Aimee Hosemann, Anna Trester, Masako Kato, Sohini Ray
WED 2:00-3:45(POST)COLONIAL LANGUAGE IDEOLOGIES IN THE AMERICAS: PRODUCTION, RECEPTION, DECENTERINGJohn Chuchiak, David Tavárez, Alan Durston, Kittiya Lee, Margaret Bender, William Hanks
WED 4:00-5:45GLOBAL ELEMENTS OF LANGUAGE CHANGE Barbara Lemaster, Rezenet Moges, Richard Senghas, Erin Wilkinson, Rachel Emerine, Judith Pine, Carol Erting
WED 4:00-7:45LISTENING TO DISCOURSE AND WAYS OF TELLING STORIES: PAPERS IN HONOUR OF VIRGINIA HYMESDaniel Lefkowitz, Susan Philips, Eve Danziger, Suzanne Scollon, Lise Dobrin, Liliana Perkowski, Judith Berman, Alexander King, Catharine Mason, Robert Moore, Jan Blommaert, Virginia Hymes
WED 6:00-7:45COUNTERING SURVEILLANCE: INTERACTION, LEGITIMATION, AND RESISTANCEBarbara Meek, Inmaculada Garcia Sanchez, Sherina Feliciano-Santos, Christina Davis, Jennifer Reynolds, Marjorie Faulstich, Susan Philips
WED 8:00pm-9:45QUEER LANGUAGES, QUEER NARRATIVESChrista Craven, Marlen Harrison, David Murray, Michelle Marzullo, Nora Madison, L. Zachary Dubois, Susan Woolley, Elizabeth Busbee
WED 8:00pm-9:45TONGUE TIED TERRITORIES AND THE END(S) OF NATIONHOOD: LANGUAGE PURISM AND LANGUAGE POLITICS IN STATELESS NATIONSJoshua Berson, Kathryn Graber, Karl Swinehart, Serafin Coronel-Molina, Krystal Smalls, Shaylih Muehlmann, Suzanne Wertheim
THUR 8:00am-11:45FOODWAYS AND DISCOURSE: TALKING ABOUT FOOD, INTERACTING THROUGH FOODChristine Jourdan, Kathleen Riley, Jocelyn Ahlers, Carolina Izquierdo, Amy Paugh, Marcia Farr, Maria Leon-Garcia, Kevin Tuite, Robert Jarvenpa, Umberto Ansaldo, Anne Meneley
THUR 8:00am-9:45THE END(S) OF LANGUAGE: LANGUAGE AND EDUCATIONAL POLICYSilvia Nogueron, Katherine Mortimer, Katherine Schultz, Rainer Hamel, Elizabeth Phelps, Kimberly Anderson, Larisa Warhol
THUR 1:45-3:30AUTHORITY AND AUTHENTICITY IN DISCOURSE: LINGUISTIC AND OTHER MEDIATIC DIMENSIONSFrancis Cody, Patrick Eisenlohr, Miyako Inoue, Flagg Miller, Amanda Weidman, Dominic Boyer, Paul Manning
THUR 1:45-3:30SLA POSTER SESSIONBen McMahan, Dana Osborne, Peter Taber
THUR 1:45-3:30THE PARODY OF POLITICS AND THE POLITICS OF PARODYCala Zubair, Shlomy Kattan, Lauren Mason Carris, Philip Comeau, Ruth King, Jennifer Sclafani, Jermay Jamsu, Robert Podesva, Angela Reyes
THUR 4:00-5:45REFLEXIVITY, REGISTER, AND THE ENDS OF ETHNOGRAPHIC ANALYSISKristen Adler, Olga Glinskii, David Dinwoodie, Zane Goebel, Kara Becker, Char Peery, Asif Agha
THUR 4:00-5:45SEMIOTIC APPROACHES TO MASS MEDIATED RACIAL AND RACIST DISCOURSESRiley Snorton, Nicholas Limerick, Rebecca Pardo, Susan McDonic, Bonnie Urciuoli, Stanton Wortham, Basak Can
FRI 8:00am-11:45 LINGUISTIC CITIZENSHIP: IDEOLOGIES OF LANGUAGE PRACTICE AND THE END/S OF THE NATION Jess Weinberg, Heidi Orcutt-Gachiri, Camelia Suleiman, Rudolf Gaudio, Samuel Shapiro, Chelsea Booth, Barbara Meek, Jacqueline Messing, Brendan O'connor, Char Ullman, Anne Whiteside, Chad Nilep, Patricia Buck, Neriko Doerr
FRI 8:00am-11:45SMALL LANGUAGES IN A BIG WORLDJan Blommaert, Christopher Stroud, Cecile Vigouroux, Kasper Juffermans, Massimiliano Spotti, Salikoko Mufwene, Robert Moore, Lawrence Kaplan, Hiroko Ikuta, Lenore Grenoble, Sari Pietikainen, Alexandra Jaffe
FRI 8:00am-11:45THE SENSES IN LANGUAGE AND CULTUREAsifa Majid, Stephen Levinson, N Enfield, Niclas Burenhult, Gunter Senft, Clair Hill, Hilario De Sousa, Lawrence Hirschfeld, Connie De Vos, Shakila Shayan, Ozge Ozturk, Mark Sicoli, Sylvia Tufvesson, Mark Dingemanse, Olivier Le Guen, Penelope Brown, William Hanks
FRI 8:00am-9:45ETHNOGRAPHY AND LANGUAGE POLICY – NEW MEANS, NEW ENDS, NEW TIMESTeresa McCarty, Sheilah Nicholas, Suresh Canagarajah, Rodney Hopson, Perry Gilmore, James Collins, Alexandra Jaffe, Marilyn Martin-Jones, Mary Carol Combs, Norma Gonzalez, Vaidehi Ramanathan, David Johnson, Nancy Hornberger
FRI 1:45-3:30RACE AND ... : ARTICULATING LINGUISTIC INTERSECTIONS OF MULTIPLE SOCIAL AXESElaine Chun, H. Samy Alim, Adrienne Lo, Mary Bucholtz, Angela Reyes
FRI 1:45-3:30THE ENDS OF PROSODY: WAYS OF SPEAKING AS IDEOLOGICAL MEANS AND ENDSMark Sicoli, Suzanne Menair, Nicholas Harkness, Andrea Kortenhoven, Matthew Wolfgram, Robin Queen
FRI 6:15-8:30SLA BUSINESS MEETING AND CASH BARSociety for Linguistic Anthropology
SAT 8:00am-9:45INTERGENERATIONAL LANGUAGE NEGOTIATIONSWai Fong Chiang, Lyn Fogle, Jaegu Kim, Marc Maddox, Daniel Suslak, Mariann Skahan, Heidi Hamilton
SAT 8:00am-11:45LANGUAGE IDEOLOGY AND WRITING SYSTEMSPatricia Lange, Diane Riskedahl, Jennifer Dickinson, Susan Frekko, Mark Allen Peterson, Laura Miller, Laura Brown, J Kathe Managan, Judith Pine, Thea Strand, Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway, Joel Kuipers
SAT 10:15-12:00BEYOND MACRO AND MICRO IN THE LINGUISTIC ANTHROPOLOGY OF EDUCATIONStanton Wortham, Betsy Rymes, Michael Lempert, Doris Warriner, Elena Skapoulli, Mary Bucholtz, Jung-Eun Janie Lee, James Collins
SAT 10:15-12:00THE ENDS OF AMAZONIAN LANGUAGE AND CULTURE?Maximilian Viatori, Lev Michael, Tania Granadillo, Christopher Ball, Michael Cepek, Luke Fleming, Laura Graham
SAT 4:00-5:45MEDIA INTERTEXTUALITIES: SEMIOTIC MEDIATION ACROSS TIME AND SPACE Jenna Kim, Adrienne Lo, Joseph Park, Alexander Wahl, Mie Hiramoto, Toshiaki Furukawa, Michelle Lazar, Asif Agha
SAT 4:00-5:45THE ENDS OF ENREGISTERMENT: SHIFTING INDEXES OF IDENTITY AND PLACEJames Wilce, James Wilce, Hyejin Nah, Maeve Eberhardt, Kathryn Remlinger, Kathryn Woolard
SUN 8:00am-9:45 GLOBALIZATION, MIGRATION AND LINGUISTIC IDENTITIESAriana Mangual, Steven Black, Nona Moskowitz, Jolanda Lindenberg, Tzu-Kai Liu, James Stanford, Faith Nibbs, Danny Law
SUN 8:00am-9:45LITERACY PROJECTS, PLANNING AND SOCIALIZATIONRonald Kephart, Michael Wroblewski, Esther Schely-Newman, Charis Boutieri, Mary Good, Amir Sharifi, Paja Faudree
SUN 8:00am-9:45 SOCIAL IDENTITIES AT INSTITUTIONAL INTERSECTIONS: CHILDREN, LANGUAGE, AND CULTURAL PATHWAYSIgnasi Clemente, Kathryn Howard, Karen Sirota, Jennifer Reynolds, Paul Garrett
SUN 10:15-12:00DISCOURSE, POLITICS AND STANCEJuan Luis Rodriguez, Jennifer Jackson, Adam Harr, Yuki Tanaka, Katherine Chen, Vineeta Chand
SUN 10:15-12:00LANGUAGE, THE BODY, AND LIVED SPACEInger Mey, Mayumi Bono, Chiho Sunakawa, Marko Monteiro, Elizabeth Keating, N Enfield
SUN 10:15-12:00WORLDS OF LEARNING: ANTHROPOLOGIES OF EDUCATION BEYOND THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE ZONEKathryn Anderson-Levitt, Silvia Carrasco, Yasuko Minoura, Francesca Gobbo, Christoph Wulf, Patrick Boumard, Ana Maria R. Gomes, Sally Anderson, Margaret Gibson
SUN 10:15-12:00WHAT’S AN INSTITUTION GOOD FOR? (DISCURSIVELY, PRACTICALLY, ETHNOGRAPHICALLY) Lori Donath, Janina Fenigsen, Chaise Ladousa, Rachel Throop, Vanessa Will, Adi Hastings

As always, please feel free to suggest other events via the comments section.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

The Invention of Saying-things-that-don't-strictly-accord-with-empirical-fact

(Sorry for the long delay between posts. I'm writing up my dissertation research, which I will defend in a couple of weeks.)

I recently enjoyed seeing the film The Invention of Lying. The film's premise is that in an world where all human speech must accord strictly with empirical fact (or as the film's tag line puts it, "a world where everyone can only tell the truth"), Ricky Gervais inexplicably develops the ability to say things that are not true - to lie.

At first he uses this ability to commit fraud by telling his bank that he has deposited money which he hasn't and telling a casino that he has made bets that he hasn't. He then goes on to invent other genres of other-than-true speech, including romantic exaggeration, fiction, and religion.

It occurs to me that the invention of 'lying', as this film implicitly defines it, may be the invention of being human.

Aristotle suggests that human beings are characterized by their ability and tendency to form cities and other political societies (they are zoon politikon). This ability, in turn, is a product of our ability for logos, meaning both rational thought and speech or other discourse. Aristotle contrasts logos with the communication of other social animals such as bees.

One of the things that makes human language different from other forms of communication is the ability to communicate about things that are not currently present, including things we expect or hope will happen in the future, things that have happened in the past, and things that are contrary to fact. In a way, it is this ability to (to paraphrase Gervais's character in The Invention of Lying) 'say things that aren't' that makes humans human.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Another political non-lie

I've been hearing an awful lot about health care reform in the US this summer - even from British outlets. It's all a bit disconcerting, especially the riotous town hall meetings and the arguments that seem unmoored from the facts. has a nice piece debunking seven falsehoods related to this debate, two from proponents of reform and five from opponents.

I'm interested, though, in a claim that is linguistically interesting because it is not actually a falsehood, though it is not unambiguously true, either. That is, the claim that the United States has the best health care system in the world. I've heard this claim made several times in the past few weeks; I've also heard it decried as a lie. But the claim is not really a lie in the sense of a deliberate recitation of an untruth with the intent to deceive. I think that most people who repeat the claim sincerely believe it, and most who call it a lie sincerely believe that it is untrue. The problem may be that there is no shared definition of either best or health care system.

On one hand, some of the most cutting edge medical care has been developed at US hospitals. The first successful heart-lung transplant was performed at Stanford University Medical Center; the first mechanical heart implantation was carried out at Texas Heart Institute. In terms of individual medical treatments, the United States has been on the cutting edge. In 1979 Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, famously insisted that his gallbladder disease be treated in the United States. While that may be old news, the elite still seem to come to the US for treatment: according to Marketplace radio, wealthy foreign patients spend billions of dollars at US hospitals each year.

On the other hand, 28,000 infants die in the United States each year; that's a higher infant mortality rate than Hong Kong, New Zealand, Cuba, or most of Europe. According to the 2008 CIA Fact Book, overall life expectancy in the US is about 78.1 years. That's higher than in many poorer countries in Latin America or Africa, but lower than the EU, Japan, Korea, Canada, or Israel. The US ranks about 30th in overall life expectancy among United Nations member states.

So, if best health care system means "most cutting-edge in terms of treatments available," then the US may be near the top. If it means "best society-wide outcomes," however, the US is not at the top and may actually be below average.

[UPDATE: Writing in the Washington Post on August 23, T.R. Reid calls the claim that "America has 'the finest health care' in the world" a myth, and states flatly, "We don't." He goes on to point out that society-wide outcomes are better in most "advanced" countries.

In the next paragraph, though, he suggests that the US has "the best-educated doctors and nurses, the most advanced hospitals, [and] world-class research".

You would think that I should have something clever to say about that. Hm.]

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Who speaks Shoshone, and when?

A comment on last Sunday's Weekend Edition radio program inspired me to think about two questions. A participant in the Shoshone/Goshute Youth Language Apprenticeship Program (SYLAP) commented:

Someone will step in. You can even bring in a white man to [run a business]. But there isn't going to be a white man who can speak your language.

I wrote about the first of my two questions on Sunday. (What is a "white man"?) Today I'd like to think more about questions of identity and language, particularly in terms of language preservation and revitalization.

Let me preface this by saying that I applaud SYLAP and programs like it. Native American languages are disappearing at an alarming rate. Even those that are not already disappearing because they are not being acquired by young children are shrinking year after year. I in no way mean to downplay the value of the work being done by apprenticeship programs or other projects that help get more young people interested in learning and using Native American languages.

Furthermore, I applaud the young woman who made the comment I quoted above. I am happy and excited to see intelligent young people seeking out ways to serve their communities and the world around them. And every smart and dedicated person coming into a linguistics program is a cause for celebration in my book.

Still, I would like to unpack the notion that "there isn't going to be a white man who can speak your language." I'm going to suggest that such ideas might do as much harm as good to the cause of language preservation. And a good portion of the blame for such thinking may be due to linguistic anthropology, though other fields and practices share in the culpability.

From its earliest days, linguistic anthropology explored the links between the cultural practices of various groups of people and the forms of language that they use. Let me note the differences between early twentieth century views of language and culture in anthropology and those of nineteenth century philosophers such as Herder and von Humboldt. Where the philosophers saw language and culture as essentially and indissolubly linked, the anthropologists suggested merely that, "In the main they [language and culture] have grown up together, constantly influencing each other" (Whorf 1941). In terms of their effect on contemporary thought, this may be a distinction without a difference. The idea that each language reflects a unique worldview, which in turn effects culture, is probably associated more with the linguists Sapir and Whorf than with any other individuals.

A problem for languages like Shoshone, Mohawk, or Lakota - not to mention Corsican, Ainu, Paiwan or literally thousand of others around the world - is that they are not associated with a nation-state. Shoshone is a nationality, but most Shoshone people are citizens of the United States. The idea that it is "natural" for all Americans to speak English (often only English), as well as efforts by the US government during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to suppress indigenous languages, have pushed the language to endangered status. It is estimated that perhaps no more than 3,000 people in the entire world speak Shoshone today.

In this marginalized state, many endangered languages continue to exist in specialized "culture" realms. I know very little about contemporary Shoshone cultural practices (Don't let my confident writing style fool you), but in ethnic and linguistic minority communities I do know, people often talk about "our culture" as something distinct from everyday life. In these cases "our language" is too often thought of as something separate from our lives.

Language is an important part of the culture of any community. It is not mistaken or wrong to think of the language practices shared within the group as a special, or in some sense even a sacred part of culture and community life. But by treating language as distinct from other aspects of daily life, don't we promote the idea that it is a specialized activity to be pursued by those with the leisure and the inclination to do so?

I don't have a solution. I don't know how we can come to think of communication in many languages, vitally including Native American languages, as an everyday part of life. But I can't help but think that if somehow we could get all Americans to think of multilingualism as an ordinary part of life, and of Shoshone as an everyday language in Shoshone communities, then preserving the language might be a little easier. And we might even find it unremarkable if a white man who moved in, say to run a business, would learn Shoshone, too.

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