Wednesdays and Fridays 11:30 am – 12:45 pm, Newton 203
Instructor Jennifer R. Guzmán, PhD
Office hours Bailey 108, Tuesday 2:15-3:45, Wednesday 1:00-2:30, and by appointment.
Feel free to visit office hours to discuss any questions you have about course
content, assignments, or your academic progress.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to email questions that can be answered
briefly. If you have a complex question or situation, please visit me during
office hours. I read e-mail Monday-Friday. Allow 1-2 days for a response.
When sending email, include ANTH 120 and a topic in the subject line.
Office Phone (585) 245-5174; I infrequently check the voicemail on this phone.
Course description: An introduction to the study of language as a cultural resource and
speaking as a cultural practice, this course is the first in the linguistic anthropology series
at SUNY Geneseo. It familiarizes students with basic concepts for understanding language
as a human capacity that not only provides a vehicle for thought or conveying ideas but
one for creating, sustaining, and changing the social world. Topics include: the role of
language in constituting cultural communities (and vice versa), cross-cultural
communication in contemporary society, linguistic relativity, language acquisition and
socialization, language and gender, language/race/ethnicity, and the power of language.
This course fulfills a basic requirement of the Bachelor of Arts major in anthropology and
the SUNY Geneseo General Education requirement in Social Sciences, as described in the
Undergraduate Bulletin. As such, the course is designed “to deepen students’
understanding and awareness of important aspects of human behavior and social
organization, to increase students’ understanding of the human condition and human
institutions, and to introduce them to the different approaches and methods used by the
various social science disciplines. These goals are pursued through theoretically and
empirically based course work” (50-51).
Learning Objectives: Through participation in this course students will:
• Gain familiarity with basic concepts in linguistic anthropology
• Gain familiarity and practice with oral history interviewing techniques
• Develop reflexive and academic writing skills for reporting findings from social
scientific research in the anthropological tradition
o Ahearn, Laura. 2012. Living Language: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology.
o Basso, Keith. 1996. Wisdom Sits in Places. University of New Mexico Press.
1. Exams: to adequately prepare for exams, ensure you understand assigned readings and
material presented during lecture. Exams will cover material from both sources (and
may not be covered in both places).
a. Two midterm exams (some combination of multiple choice, matching, T/F)
b. Cumulative final exam (format similar to midterms)
2. Project: Students will complete an independent research project broken down into
several tasks. You will turn in two graded assignments for the project.
c. Assignment 1: Write a two-page linguistic autobiography and complement
the essay with 2-3 images.
d. Assignment 2: Design, conduct & record, and write a report of an oral
history interview. You will turn in your interview guide and final report
together for a single grade.
i. Task 1: Design an interview guide.
ii. Task 2: Conduct and record an oral history interview with a family or
community elder; as part of this task you will need to gain informed
consent and take a photo with and/or get 1-2 photos from your
iii. Task 3: Write a 4-6 page report elaborating the findings from your
interview and discussing them in light of course themes. Incorporate
your interviewee photo into the report with descriptive captions.
20% Midterm 1
20% Midterm 2
10% Assignment 1: Linguistic autobiography
25% Assignment 2: Oral history interview guide & final report
25% Cumulative final exam
Grading: Criteria for letter grading in this course follows Geneseo Undergraduate Bulletin
standards, which stipulate:
• A, A- for excellent work
• B+, B, B- for very good work
• C+, C for satisfactory work (Note that work that fulfills assignment requirements
and is turned in on time may fall in this category)
• C- for work demonstrating minimal competence
• D for marginal work
• E (failure) for inadequate work.
• Other possible grades are: P (pass), F (fail), S (satisfactory), U (unsatisfactory), and
W (withdrawn). Consult the Bulletin for details about these latter grades.
Gradebook will generate grades according to the following scheme:
A = 94% + A - = 90 - 93.99 %
B+ = 87 - 89.99 % B = 83 - 86.99 % B - = 80 - 82.99 %
C+ = 77 - 79.99 % C = 73 - 76.99 % C - = 68 - 72.99 %
D = 58 - 67.99 % E = 0 - 57.99 %
Accommodation: If you need classroom accommodations due to a documented or
suspected learning difference, please contact Tabitha Buggie-Hunt at
(email@example.com) at the Office of Disability Services (ODS) then bring me a letter
outlining the accommodations you require. Please do so as soon as possible.
Writing assistance: Academic writing is a skill that, like any other, requires a lot of
practice. Becoming a better writer involves persistence and the help of others. Please avail
yourself of the excellent assistance at the Writing Learning Center on campus. For
information or to make an appointment for a one-on-one meeting see:
Course policies and expectations
This is a challenging course that requires weekly reading, attendance at lecture, and
progressive work on project-related assignments outside of class. It is imperative that
students keep up with the readings and come to class prepared to engage actively with the
themes they cover.
Deadlines: Assignments are due in the appropriate Dropbox (on the course webpage) by
midnight at the end of the day listed in the Course Schedule. Assignments turned in after
this deadline will be docked a half-grade per day of lateness.
Participation: We are incredibly privileged to participate in higher education. Please
respect the opportunity that class sessions offer for learning, analyzing, and discussing
issues that impact our lives as members of civil society. Refrain from participating in social
media and any other activities unrelated to the course during class time. Students who
violate this policy will be asked to leave the lecture hall for the rest of the class session.
Studying tips: Research shows we learn best when we make learning active. Due to the
large size of this course, it is not feasible to conduct small, targeted discussion sections. As
a result, you will need to take a proactive role to ensure you learn the material covered in
lectures and readings. Helpful hints for success: write out and define key terms that we
cover and try to think of examples for each; attend lecture regularly and keep organized
notes; find a study partner or group you can compare notes with; ask questions during
lecture or visit Dr. Guzmán during office hours when you need clarification; keep up with
course readings and assignments.
Week 1 - Introduction & key concepts
Read LL Chapter 1 The Socially Charged Life of Language
Read course syllabus, enter relevant dates into your calendar
Sept 2 Introduction, syllabus, and scope of the course
Thinking about language as social action
Sept 4 What do you need to know in order to ‘know’ a language?
Key concepts: multifunctionality, language ideologies, practice, indexicality
Week 2 – Methodology for studying language and culture
Read LL Chapter 2 The Research Process in Linguistic Anthropology
Sept 9 What can we learn by studying language and culture? How can we go about
finding answers to our questions?
Sept 11 What data are we looking for? How can we collect them? How can we
make sense of them? What ethical issues do we face?
Week 3 – Language learning as a cultural process
Read LL Chapter 3 Language Acquisition and Socialization
Sept 16 Do children learn language the same way everywhere? What is universal
and what varies across cultures?
Sept 18 Learning multiple languages; language socialization over the lifespan
DUE: Linguistic Autobiography
Week 4 – How linguistic structures shape our perception of the world
Read LL Chapter 4 Language, Thought, and Culture
Sept 23 The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
Sept 25 What we know now about how language shapes thought
Week 5 – Competing models for defining linguistic communities
Read LL Ch 5 Communities of Language Users
Sept 30 Linguistic communities, speech communities & communities of practice
Oct 2 MIDTERM I
Week 6 – Ethnography of communication: A case study from the Western Apache
Oct 7 Read Ch 1. Quoting the Ancestors, Wisdom Sits in Places
Oct 9 Read Ch. 2 Stalking with Stories, Wisdom Sits in Places
Week 7 – (Note: Fall break is Mon/Tues this week)
Oct 14 Conclusion to ethnography of communication
Read Ch. 3 Speaking with Names, Wisdom Sits in Places
and Ch. 4 Wisdom Sits in Places, Wisdom Sits in Places
Oct 16 Introduction to oral history interviewing
Read: “Interviewing Guidelines” the UCLA Center for Oral History
Also recommended: The Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interviewing
Week 8 – Linguistic diversity at home and on a global scale (Cultural Harmony Week)
Read LL Chapter 6 Multilingualism and Globalization
Oct 21 How do we characterize multilingualism in a society?
Oct 23 What do people do with language in multilingual societies? Code-switching,
code-mixing, and diglossia
Week 9 – Reading and writing as cultural processes
Read LL Chapter 7 Literacy Practices
Oct 28 From literacy to literacies
Oct 30 Writing that shapes our lives
Suggested completion date: interview guide complete & and interview
date/time/details confirmed with interviewee
Week 10 – Language and Gender
Read LL Chapter 9 Language and Gender
Nov 4 What is gender, and how does it relate to language?
Nov 6 Gendered language, performance and performativity
Week 11 – Language, Race, Ethnicity
Read LL Chapter 10 Language, Race, and Ethnicity
Nov 11 Defining race & ethnicity; features of African American English; the Ebonics
Nov 13 Racist language and racism in language
Nov 18 MIDTERM II
Nov 20 In-class: PBS documentary “Do You Speak American?”
Week 13 – (Suggested week for conducting oral history interview)
Nov 25 National holiday - no class
Nov 27 National holiday - no class
Week 14 – Endangered languages and revitalization efforts
Read LL Chapter 11 Language Death and Revitalization
Dec 2 What is language shift? Why do some languages die while others thrive?
Dec 4 What keeps languages from dying? How do people revive languages that are
obsolete or in decline?
Week 15 – Language and Power
Read LL Chapter 12 Conclusion: Language, Power, and Agency
Dec 9 Power relations and discourse
Dec 11 Symbolic and cultural capital
DUE: Assignment 2 (interview guide & final report)
Cumulative Final Exam: Thursday, December 17, 8:00-11:00 am, Newton 203