March 18, 2010 6 Comments Leila SLA, Uncategorized , , ,

Welcome to the inaugural Society for Linguistic Anthropology Roundup Blogpost that will briefly summarize some of the current interesting linguistic anthropology related materials available on the web.

Three of us, Alex Enkerli (SLA Web Guru), Chad Nilep (a regular blogger on this site), and myself (Leila Monaghan, SLA Digital Content Editor), will share the duties of doing the Roundups. We welcome suggestions about interesting current news links or good websites—feel free to post them in the Feedback Boxes at the bottom right of every page in this blog or make a comment in response to this Roundup. We will also be soliciting suggestions from the Linganth List (see the Resources Link on the bar above to join). Do let us know if you are interested in doing a guest or regular Roundup Blogpost

ROUNDUP for March 19, 2010

Times’ Topics: Language and Languages
A good source for language connected articles, some of them more interesting to linguistic anthropologists than others, is the New York Times’
Times Topics: Language and Languages

Classic articles

Nicholas Wade’s article A Human Language Gene Changes the Sound of Mouse Squeaks on the effects of implanting a human language gene into a mouse’s brain

and Simon Romero’s A Language, Not Quite Spanish, With African Echoes
that documents Palenquero, a language used only in one small village in Colombia that might be the last trace of a Spanish-based lingua franca used by enslaved Africans across Latin America.

More recent articles in the archive

John Tagliabue’s Trumpeting Catalan on the Big Screen
Trumpeting Catalan on the Big Screen covers a recent Barcelona local government law just passed requiring that half the films shown in local theaters to be dubbed in Catalan, which is similar to Spanish but shows more similarities to French and Italian than Castilian Spanish does. Local movie theater operators are objecting because of the cost of dubbing movies and argue that Catalan productions are available in live theater productions.

For more information on Catalan, language variation in Spain, and Spanish dialects see
Spanish Dialects Catalan Dialects

Ammon Shea’s Vocabulary Size
This is was in the NY Times’s On Language column, a regular feature of the NY Times Sunday Magazine.
Vocabulary Size

As Shea discusses in this article, there has long been a push by dictionary writers and educators for people to “increase their vocabulary.” There is also standard testing evidence linking higher socio-economic status with larger vocabularies. While Shea defends simplicity in language, arguing for Winston Churchill’s “blood, toil, tears and sweat” over “vermeil, moiling, delacrimation and sudorification,” he does not question the validity of the standard tests of vocabulary.

M.A.K. Halliday’s concept of “anti-language”, which describes how groups of people with something to hide from authorities will “overlexicalize” the standard vocabulary (multiple and ever changing terms for standard items in the repertoire). This overlexicalization would lead to a large vocabulary that the standardized test takers would never using in their testing materials. This reframes a standard vocabulary test as “a test of how many words a person knows of the words that the test writers know,” not of overall vocabulary. When I was teaching elementary school in Philadelphia, I saw a group of teachers bristle when the research on vocabulary was mentioned—while Philadelphia school children have many issues, lack of vocabulary was not seen as a problem.

Favorite of the Month
My personal favorite article of the month is an Esquire interview by Chris Jones with film critic Roger Ebert. Ebert was left unable to speak after repeated bouts of jaw cancer but maintains an active life writing and blogging. For me as a scholar of disabilities as well as a linguistic anthropologist, it was a fascinating study of the work arounds in a life that was previously and famously verbal.

Linguistic Anthropology in languages other than English
One response I got to a call for links was an e-mail mentioning a site with numerous links to linguistic anthropology in Spanish:
Txupi Blog
(see the right side bar for the links).

One of these is
Lenguaje y Violencia by MJ Hardman.

Feel free to send other international links along, we would be happy to publish them in these Roundups.

Send us more links!

This Roundup is just the beginning—please send us any and all links you may have that you think will be of interest to our linguistic anthro audience. Just post them in our Feedback Box at the bottom of the page or leave a comment for us!