The Verbal Artistry of Julius Malema

LANGUAGE AND CULTURE The Verbal Artistry of Julius Malema From the Anthro News Blog Language and Culture Column. Guest Columnist Steven P. Black Steven P. Black, Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University In November of 2011, political youth leader Julius Malema was suspended from the ruling party of South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC). The ANC, once a primary force of organized resistance to the racist and oppressive governance known as Apartheid, refashioned itself with the guidance of Nelson Mandela into a party for non-racial government. Though the ANC is officially committed to non-racial democracy, not all of the party’s

Educating Tibetans in Tibetan?

A Fork in the Chinese Road: Educating Tibetans in Tibetan? Susan D. Blum December 23, 2011 Earlier this month a Tibetan monk set himself on fire. It was the twelfth incidence of Tibetan self-immolation by a monk or nun since March, according to unverified but plausible reports. These acts of desperation continue a long line of protests in China despite the Chinese government’s unyielding determination to keep Tibetans in line. What is called by protestors “cultural genocide” has many dimensions, not the least of which is language. When people’s religion, subsistence, and very language are attacked as unworthy, there are

Occupying Language

H. Samy Alim writing in the NY Times about “What if We Occupied Language?” When I flew out from the San Francisco airport last October, we crossed above the ports that Occupy Oakland helped shut down, and arrived in Germany to be met by traffic caused by Occupy Berlin protestors. But the movement has not only transformed public space, it has transformed the public discourse as well. Occupy. It is now nearly impossible to hear the word and not think of the Occupy movement. Even as distinguished an expert as the lexicographer and columnist Ben Zimmer admitted as much this

Executive order on Native American Language Revitalization

December 7, 2011 1 Comment Chad Nilep In the news, Language Diversity, Language Loss

The Linguistic Society of America’s Committee on Endangered Languages and their Preservation is carrying out a letter-writing campaign to urge President Obama to sign an executive order. According to the LSA-CELP, “U.S. government agencies would be directed to ensure that their policies, procedures, and functions support community-based language revitalization. It would compel governmental agencies to follow through on the promises of the Native American Languages Act and the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act.”

Language Links #3

This piece does not reflect the official opinion of the Society for Linguistic Anthropology, its officers or its individual members. One of the most important functions of this blog is to inform people of current work being done within linguistic anthropology. As part of this, all linguistic anthropologists are invited to discuss current publications including books and articles. Such discussions will not only be available on this blog site but also on the Linganth list, Twitter and (we hope) other forums as well. As I just published a year in review article of linguistic anthropology in 2010, I thought this

Call for Papers: Computational Models of Narrative

July 4, 2011 No Comments Leila Announcements, Call for Papers, In the news

This post does not reflect the official opinions of the SLA, its officers or individual members. I thought this call for papers was interesting as it directly connects to the discussion we have been having in Language Links on computational models, cheers, Leila International Workshop on Computational Models of Narrative May 20-22, 2012, Istanbul, Turkey ———————————————– Submissions Due: *Friday, February 24, 2012* ———————————————– Workshop Aims ————- Narratives are ubiquitous in human experience. It is clear that, to fully understand and explain human intelligence, beliefs, and behaviors, we will have to understand why narrative is universal and explain the function

Response to Language Links #2

June 30, 2011 No Comments Leila In the news

This post does not reflect the official opinions of the Society for Linguistic Anthropology, the SLA Blog or individual members of the SLA. From: Aaron Bady, Oakland, CA: Do you notice how none of the “don’t read” stuff in that article are actually quotes from Moretti? For example, here’s Moretti:
“[W]hy set quantitative evidence in opposition to “attention to syntax, linguistic register, and grammar”? From the moment I started using external models for literary study—evolutionary theory, over twenty years ago—I realized that their great advantage lies precisely in the fact that they renew and galvanize formal analysis. At times, the

Language Links #2

These comments do not necessarily reflect the official opinions of the Society of Linguistic Anthropology, its officers or individual members. In the June 24, 2011 edition of the New York Times, Kathryn Schulz reviews Franco Moretti’s work on “distant reading,” the analysis of literary texts such as Hamlet or Victorian novels. Reacting to a paper from Moretti and his colleagues at the Stanford Literary Lab, Schulz writes, Reading the paper, though, I mostly vacillated between two reactions: “Huh?” and “Duh!” — sometimes in response to a single sentence. For example, Moretti, quoting a colleague, defines “protagonist” as “the character that

Combatting Linguistic Inaccuracies in the Census

April 22, 2011 1 Comment Diego Arispe-Bazán (SLA Web Assistant) Announcements, In the news, SLA

Last week, after years of urging, the Census Bureau released this statement: In response to concerns expressed by data user groups, the Census Bureau decided to eliminate the term “linguistic isolation” for data products  issued starting in 2011.  We have changed the terminology to one that we  feel is more descriptive and less stigmatizing. The phrase that will  appear in all new products will be “Households in which no one 14 and over speaks English only or speaks a language other than English at home and Speaks English ‘Very Well.’”   Why is this an important victory? Here’s the background.

Language Links #1

This is the first of columns listing links in the news connected to language. These links do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Society for Linguistic Anthropology but are connected to topics that members might be interested in. Reaction pieces and comments welcome. From the New York Times: “Phonetic Clues Hint Language Is Africa-Born” by Nicholas Wade. Fascinating article on where language originally originated. Quentin Atkinson, mathematician from Auckland, New Zealand, hypothesizes number of phonemes in click languages reflects closeness to the origins of language in Africa. “How Language Heals” by Abraham Verghese, book review of One Hundred Names

Marketing language abilities

April 15, 2011 No Comments Chad Nilep In the news, Language acquisition, Language and Political Economy

Recently some scholars in language acquisition and education have posted links on Facebook to the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (henceforth CCFC), which is asking the US Federal Trade Commission to stop the company Your Baby Can Read (YBCR) from advertising its products. According to CCFC, YBCR sells a system that promises to teach babies to read by watching DVD videos and using flash cards. I should say that all I know about YBCR, apart from what is alleged in the CCFC complaint, is what I’ve seen in their television commercials; I’ve never used or evaluated their products. CCFC

Letter to the Census Bureau from the SLA Committee on Language and Social Justice

January 21, 2011 No Comments Leila AAA, In the news, Language and Social Justice

January 5, 2011 David S. Johnson, Division Chief Housing and Household Economic Statistics U.S. Census Bureau 4600 Silver Hill Road Washington, DC 20233 Dear Mr. Johnson, Thank you for your Dec 22, 2010 response to our May 27, 2010 letter concerning the Census Bureau’s use of the term “linguistically isolated.” Speaking on behalf of the Association and its Task Group on Language and Social Justice, I am very encouraged to learn that you have been considering alternatives to this inaccurate classification, and hope that the elimination of this term will be implemented in next year’s data cycle. Thanks to your

As I was going through the Times…

December 8, 2010 1 Comment Stephen Chrisomalis In the news

Stephen Chrisomalis, Wayne State University
Recently, there has been a “Puzzle Moment” in the science section of the New York Times, with an eclectic mix of articles combining scientific pursuits with cognitive and linguistic play of various sorts. One that caught my eye is ‘Math Puzzles’ Oldest Ancestors Took Form on Egyptian Papyrus’ by Pam Belluck, which is an account of the well-known Rhind Mathematical Papyrus. The RMP is an Egyptian mathematical text dating to around 1650 BCE, and is one of the most complete and systematic known accounts of ancient Egyptian mathematics.

The Joke’s on You

September 28, 2010 6 Comments kerim In the news

P. Kerim Friedman, NDHU Paul Chambers, a 27-year old accountant in training from South Yorkshire got fined £1,000 for posting the following text to Twitter last January after learning that Robin Hood airport was closed because of the snow: Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!! According to the Guardian: A week later, he was arrested at work by five police officers, questioned for eight hours, had his computers and phones seized and was subsequently charged and convicted of causing a “menace”

The Naming of Africa

Steven Black, UCSD

This morning (Sept. 20, 2010) while drinking my coffee I did a perfunctory survey of the news on Africa, only to be jolted out of my pre-coffee stupor by an article on with the title, “Group: Use of ‘Sub-Saharan Africa’ Disparaging.” This immediately concerned me. While I prefer to describe ‘southern Africa’ generally or ‘South Africa’ specifically, I myself have unquestioningly used the term ‘sub-Saharan’ in past work in order to indicate the boundary of Arabic-dominant cultural practices. Some academics prefer the (inevitably more bulky) phrase, “Africa south of the Sahara,” but I wonder if this shift in terminology is really enough for the phrase to point to a different set of indexical meanings.

Guy Deutscher responds

September 19, 2010 3 Comments Leila In the news, Linguistic Relativity, Uncategorized

Kathryn Woolard, SLA President In response to my original posting on this website, I received the following email message a few days ago from the author of the NYT article, Guy Deutscher, who was concerned that he inadvertently offended linguistic anthropologists. Because Dr. Deutscher asked me to share his message with anyone who might have been offended, I’m posting it here: Dear Prof. Woolard, Yesterday I was sent a link to your blog on the Linguistic Anthropology list, and I was saddened to see that my NYT article has caused offence to linguistic anthropologists. I had no intention whatsoever of

Your own private griot

September 13, 2010 3 Comments kerim In the news, Language and Gender, Language and Political Economy

P. Kerim Friedman, NDHU In her now classic 1989 paper on language and political economy, Judith Irvine talked about situations where language doesn’t merely index political and economic relations in the way that accent is linked to class in Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” but where speech acts are themselves a form of political and economic economic activity. Her example is that of the Wolof griot “whose traditional profession involves special rhetorical and conversational duties such as persuasive speechmaking on a patron’s behalf, making entertaining conversation, transmitting messagesto the public, and performing the various genres of praise-singing.” She discusses how while not anyone can