AN News: “At the Crossroads of Linguistics and Anthropology: Disciplinary perspectives on language documentation” by Lise Dobrin (University of Virginia) and Niko Besnier (University of Amsterdam)

Anthropology News Article by Lise Dobrin and Niko Besnier For a long time in anthropology, the documentation of languages on the brink of disappearing was negatively tainted as salvage: quaint in its Boasian particularism, inappropriately objectifying speakers as passive vehicles of an authoritatively rendered ‘tradition’, naïve in uncritically adopting the folk category of ‘language’ as an analytic one, and irrelevant to a discipline that is concerned with linguistic practices and ideologies primarily as a form of evidence for claims about other areas of social life. But over the past couple of decades, a major transition has taken place in linguistics

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.”

For Ebonics, the New Milennium Is Pretty Much Like the Old One

Language and Culture (Anthro News Blog) I am delighted to announce the launch of the Language and Culture column on the Anthropology News blog. Jacqueline Messing, Richard Senghas and I will be sharing editorial duties for the blog for the coming year. My first act as co-editor was to ask Ronald Kephardt for an update on Ebonics and am really pleased he agreed to participate. His column is below. The original piece on the blog is at: Do drop by and leave a comment or give the piece some stars! All readers of this blog are also invited to think

Asymmetric/unreciprocal/receptive/non-accommodating bilingualism

Bilingual Interactions: A conversation borrowed from the Linganth e-mail list. Thanks to all the participants! Q: What do you/we call it when a conversation unfolds in which Speaker A speaks to Speaker B in one language (X-ish), and Speaker B responds in another (Y-ish)? The assumption is that both speakers have at least some passive competence in the other’s language. And do you know of any scholarship on this phenomenon? Rudolf P. Gaudio ——— This practice has been advocated by some policymakers in Catalonia over the last couple decades, since autonomy was established in 1979. I wrote about it as

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

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

Call for papers, AAA 2011: Language Contact

February 3, 2011 1 Comment Leila AAA, Events, Language Diversity, Language Loss, SLA

Forty Years After: Tidemarks, Legacies and Futures of Research on Language Contact This year marks forty years since the publication of Pidginization and Creolization of Languages. Edited by Dell Hymes, the volume has been foundational for research on language contact and creolization. Furthermore, in foreshadowing our intellectual engagements with the shifting realities of today, many of its insights and implications have entered into intellectual traffic with other fields and disciplines. The field of research charted by Hymes and DeCamp in their introductory remarks in the volume was as much concerned with questions of population flows, the linguistic and communicative continuities

Increasing number of US students study ASL

According to an article in the New York Times, American Sign Language is now the fourth most-studied language among US college and university students. While enrollment in foreign-language courses generally has held steady or increased only modestly, enrollment in ASL courses increased more than sixteen percent between 2006 and 2009. Instructor Amy Ruth McGraw suggests that students may switch to ASL after struggling to learn other languages. But if the cause of their difficulty “was memorizing vocabulary and grammar,” McGraw points out, “this isn’t going to be any better.” For information on academic research of American Sign Language since the

Susan DiGiacomo on Catalan

Reposted comment by Susan M. DiGiacomo John Tagliabue’s New York Times article on the new Catalan law mandating the dubbing and/or subtitling of 50% of foreign films into Catalan (“Trumpeting Catalan on the Big Screen,” March 10, 2010) contains a number of inaccuracies and tendentious arguments not easily recognized as such by the uninformed reader. Catalonia is represented as a place where all things Spanish are subjected to nationalistic backlash: Catalan schoolchildren are “required by law” to receive their education in the Catalan language, and the Catalan Parliament, “in a further blow to Spanish culture,” was poised to end bullfighting

John McWhorter on Talk of the Nation

Yesterday John McWhorter discussed the recent call by the DEA to hire “Ebonics translators” on Talk of the Nation. He did a good job describing his positions on translation and education, but his parting remarks on the nature of language variation were cut short. I presume to expand the description.

Linguistic Relativity, Whorf, Linguistic Anthropology

Kathryn Woolard, SLA President The question of linguistic relativity is the topic of an August 29, 2010 New York Times magazine article, “You Are What You Speak”   Many linguistic anthropologists were surprised by the article’s representation of Benjamin Lee Whorf’s ideas and by the scant reference to the longstanding tradition of research in linguistic anthropology. Most often known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis or the theory of linguistic relativity, the notion that the diversity of linguistic structures affects how people perceive and think about the world has been a canonical topic of American linguistic anthropology. This discipline’s exploration of the

Michel DeGraff on Haitian Kreyòl

Comments by Michel DeGraff on responses to his petition on Haitian Kreyòl As it turns out, these responses echo age-old arguments about the (mis)use of language in Haitian schools and in Haitian society at large. Yves Dejean and many others have addressed such arguments in previous publications. See, for example, Yves Dejean’s 2006 book _Yon lekòl tèt anba nan yon lekòl tèt anba_. As shown in Dejean’s publications, many of these counter-arguments against his petition have been made made and un-made over and over again. Unfortunately my current schedule won’t allow time to engage in these discussions. The good news

DEA and Ebonics

Repost of an article by H. Samy Alim and Imani Perry originally written for the The Grio blog: When the headlines appeared this week that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had issued a request to hire up to nine linguists proficient in Ebonics, it appeared it might be yet another cruel joke about the language of African-Americans. After all, who can forget the onslaught of racist “humor” and the angry vitriolic comments that circulated internationally after the “Oakland Ebonics controversy” a little over a decade ago. The DEA may not have known the full ramifications of its decision to

Haitian Kreyòl and Catalan

Reposted from Celso Alvarez Cáccamo 2010/08/24 at 3:13 am Catalonia’s educational system is one of immersion in Catalan. Catalan- and Spanish-speaking children alike (as well as immigrants from other countries) learn mandatorily in Catalan; Spanish is also taught. Spanish is not “the language of the majority” in Catalonia (or Galiza, for that matter). Be as it may, quantitative data about language distribution is only one of the criteria for language policies. The relevant criterium in Catalonia is that Catalan is the historical language of the country. As for the Haitian case and the petition, my opinion is that the various