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Linguistic Anthropology Roundup #8

Taping marriages

One of the most frequent uses of linguistic anthropology is to help us understand how people in marriages communicate with each other.

Article on people “learning to be married” and the importance of using videotapes to understand how people interact with each other.

This article is on studies from UCLA’s Center for the Everyday Lives of Families including those of Elinor Ochs.

More on Elinor Och’s work, marriage, and the phrase “Hi Honey, I’m home!”

Multi-lingualism and schools

While ever more news comes out about Arizona trying to ban linguistic diversity, a couple of other points of view emerge.

First, Samy Alim and other Stanford faculty have come out with a letter pointing out the faulty linguistic assumptions in the Arizona legislation.

Second, some schools are leading the fight by example. The first American bilingual Hebrew English school has opened in Brooklyn, New York. While the majority of the students are Jewish, one third come from a diverse set of backgrounds including African American Muslims and Latino.

Public and Private Language

General Stanley McChrystal was fired by President Barack Obama on Wednesday June 23 over remarks reported in an article in Rolling Stone by Michael Hastings. The Hastings article was a portrait of a man more comfortable with Budweiser than Bordeaux and part of the jocular, profanity laced culture common in the US military. I am putting links to this article and reactions to it in this Linguistic Anthropology Roundup because it illustrates the construction of public and private language. While there has been a lot of discussion about the intermingling of the two realms, the existence of the separation between the two realms is revealed by the reactions to the interview. The Rolling Stone interview treated McChrystal like a rock star, describing his likes and dislikes, his flipping of the middle finger at an aide, and his flippant comments about Vice President Joseph Biden and the French. The level of disclosure typical of portraits of rock stars, however, goes directly against military ideologies of language use. Elliot Cohen called the article an “appalling violation of norms of civilian-military relations”. The coverage after McChrystal was replaced by Gen. David Patreus often focused on “voice,” an idea connected to power, the wielding of power and the act of arguing for certain lines of action.

The Rolling Stone article:
The aftermath as reported in
The Blogs of War, including comments by Eliot Cohen and Joe Klein:
The New York Times on the problems created by McChrystal’s interview:
Business Week commentary by Margaret Carlson comparing McChrystal with Lady Gaga:
Washington Post on Obama firing McChrystal:
New York Times on “Strong Voices”:
NY Times columnist David Brooks on the problems of not separating private from public speech: