Journal of Linguistic Anthropology

Published by American Anthropological Association
Online ISSN: 1548-1395
Print ISSN: 1055-1360
This article is a comparative analysis of moving and still-image documentary produced as part of the factography movement in the USSR. Factography was an interdisciplinary movement (driven in part by contemporary linguistic work) that sought to align with the First Five-Year Plan by eliminating the opposition between signification and production, transforming the relationship between language and work. I examine Esfir Shub's The Great Way alongside a photo-essay on “a day in the life” of a Soviet working family in light of the critical responses to them in order to highlight the set of beliefs these practitioners, critics, and audiences held about the meanings these mediums convey. Because these ideas revolved so centrally around concerns about the rootedness and mobility of photographic signs, I turn to models of entextualization and develop a notion of cinematic indexicality as both trace and deixis in order to explicate the media ideologies subtending these positions.[factography, cinema, photography, entextualization, indexicality]
This article explores the reflexive role the Norwegian musical group, Vømmøl Spellmanslag, played as a mass-mediated cultural expression of an emergent counterpublic in 1970s Norway. It also examines how “Vømmøl Valley,” a fictitious community described in Vømmøl's music, came to constitute a cultural chronotope of dissidence within a context of sociopolitical polarization following Norway's 1972 referendum on membership in the European Economic Community (EEC). In their performance, Vømmøl deployed contrasting phonolexical registers to animate socially recognizable regional and class subjectivities. This article questions how the replication of regional and class indexical speech in Vømmøl's verse made available various role alignments to its listening audience. [Norwegian; register; popular music; chronotope; role alignment]
Natural Histories of Discourse. Michael Silverstein and Greg Urban. eds. Chicago:University Of Chicago Press, 1996. 352 Pp.
In this article, I explore the physical afterlife of one victim of the 1912 Titanic disaster, the Syrian American businessman Niqula Nasrallah, whose remains would widely be identified as those of the famous multimillionaire John Jacob Astor. Syrian emigrants constituted 10–20 percent of the Titanic's third-class passengers, and their names were overwhelmingly altered as casualty lists were transmitted via an early form of radio. Such transformations only served to reinforce linguistic barriers, in direct contrast to widespread assertions that new technologies would enable instantaneous worldwide communication. A discussion of the substitution of Astor for Nasrallah thus allows insight into the production of confusion that resulted from the development of wireless technology as a linguistic medium. [migration, technology, materiality of language, globalization, Lebanon, Syria]
Bilingual physicians, both Anglophone and Francophone dominant, do not vary their non-verbal behavior when switching from one language to another to accommodate a monolingual patient. However, when communicating with frail elderly patients, or in situations where the need for explicit communication is high, bilingual physicians and family practice residents will be more precise in paralanguage and use broader, more careful gestures and body motions.
We report a field study of the color terms of the Bantu language Xhosa. This was carried out to describe the Xhosa color term inventory, and particularly to establish which terms were basic, as a test of Berlin and Kay's theory of color universals. Our informants were from rural Transkei and performed two main color tasks: elicited lists ('tell me as many color terms as you know') and a color-naming task. Statistical indicators of salience and of consensus of use for each color term were derived from performance on the two tasks, and the range of referents of each term established. Our results indicate that Xhosa has basic color terms for white, black, red, yellow, and grue (green with blue), and as such is consistent with Berlin and Kay's theory.
Are folk-biological classification and naming informed by utilitarianist considerations (usefulness of plants and animals to people) or by intellectualist concerns (interest in species simply because they are there)? This question is investigated by examining the semantic content of native labels from Amerindian languages for living things introduced by Europeans to the New World. Such terms can be "utilitarian" in nature, for example, Cherokee "he carries heavy things" for horse, or "morphological" in nature, for example, Mataco "large tapir" for horse. This nomenchtural evidence indicates that the utility of living things is not an especially salient aspect of their conceptual cognition and, thus, lends support to the intellectualist argument.
A study of color terms in Damara, a Khoisan language spoken in Namibia, tested Berlin and Kay's (1969) theory of color term universals on a new language family (Khoisan) and investigated the extent to which the color term inventory was influenced by neighboring languages and recent social and political changes. The data indicate that Damara's 11 color terms (8 original and 3 loan terms) fit the theory well. The inventory is changing, but it has borrowed terms only to fill in the "missing" universals. Colonial circumstances and bilingualism have apparently influenced the age of color-term acquisition, among other effects.
When Tzeltal children in the Mayan community of Tenejapa, in southern Mexico, begin speaking, their production vocabulary consists predominantly of verb roots, in contrast to the dominance of nouns in the initial vocabulary of first-language learners of Indo-European languages. This article proposes that a particular Tzeltal conversational feature—known in the Mayanist literature as "dialogic repetition"—provides a context that facilitates the early analysis and use of verbs. Although Tzeltal babies are not treated by adults as genuine interlocutors worthy of sustained interaction, dialogic repetition in the speech the children are exposed to may have an important role in revealing to them the structural properties of the language, as well as in socializing the collaborative style of verbal interaction adults favor in this community.
Judgments of actor responsibility usually depend on attributions of actor intentions. In some circumstances, though, actor intention or even both intention and responsibility may be considered irrelevant. This raises the question of whether it is possible for an intentional actor to not be held responsible for the consequences of his or her act. This article claims that the hunger strike represents just such a possibility, mainly because (i) the actor is presented as having no choice, (ii) the stance of commentators (especially the media) is influential in shaping attributions of intentionality, and (iii) a significant time interval exists between the initiation of the strike and its effects.
This article analyzes three discursive strategies which White police officers use to talk about affirmative action. In different ways, these strategies allow officers to claim to see no racial difference or inequity. In one instance, however, a White officer did remark upon her own Whiteness in terms of cultural difference. I consider the implications of this fact for recent debates in anthropology about the relationship of culture and ideology, as well as for further studies of Whiteness.
This article examines the socially significant meanings generated through the use of the French second-person singular pronominal address forms, tu and vous. The enduring complexity of this address system derives from the coexistence of two orders of indexical relations, which link particular patterns of pronominal usage with various contextual dimensions. Speakers' strategic use of pronominal forms and beliefs about the uses and users of language are emphasized as crucial to understanding the logic and evolution of such systems.
As newspapers and rumors reported the presence—apparent, actual, or potential—of federal agents charged with surveillance of polygynous Mormons, the undergrounder emerged in the 1880s as a figure sharing the spy's metapragmatic register: namely, concealment of role-indexical signs. Seeming ubiquitous address by unseen but always possible agents of the law riveted the spy to the body of undergrounder. Bound to a spiraling play of reveal-and-conceal, the undergrounder's presence also summoned an “abduced” imaginary called “the underground.” Here suspicion was general; forms were questioned, disarticulated, assigned provisional indexicalities. Every sign could suggest an observer, a secret code, a warning to hide. The paranoid undergrounder thus was discursively incarcerated and panoptically triangulated as a modern subject. The underground ironically splintered the Mormon resistance, and realized the Supreme Court's decree that, in short, the citizen's body be severed from the colonized subject's imagination. [panopticon, mass media, secrecy, paranoia, modernity]
This article demonstrates how “diversity” is enregistered in performances of contemporary poetry in bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian) through voicing contrasts indexing membership in a linguistically and culturally heterogeneous Indonesian nation. Data from print media, instructional practices relating to the reading of poetry, and actual poetry-reading performances are used to trace interdiscursive links between public discourse about national diversity and performances of adequation– the social pursuit of linguistic sameness. These examples contribute to our understanding of how adequative language ideologies contribute to denaturalizing identities and suggest alternatives to language practices typically associated with ideologies of differentiation. [adequation, enregisterment, diversity, Indonesian poetry, national identity]
This article explores claims about how to understand others. It does so through ethnography of ways cultural producers and their apprentices struggled and colluded over what constitutes a true reading or empathic performance of another's words. The linguistic forms up for interpretation were those in Russian personal ads. Like many other forms in the region, personal ad texts are vulnerable to shallow readings as mere market imports, and so the article first unpacks Transition and Cold War ideologies in order then to discuss interactions that lay out alternate formulae for reading the ads. These latter hermeneutics are no less ideological—their makers also separate, condense, and combine “variables” to ratify the reality of categories (e.g., generation, nation, sentiment). Still, to examine how they do so does undermine Cold War paradigms and moreover suggests how people ground meta-discourse about misunderstanding itself. The article draws from fieldwork at the Russian Academy for the Theatrical Arts in Moscow in 2002–3 and 2005, as well as from other field, archival, and media work in Russia since 1988. [hermeneutics, intertextuality, performance, sentiment, Russia]
Narratives by mentally retarded and nonretarded adults of a short film were compared in terms of the structure they exhibited and the self-initiated repairs they contained. The mentally retarded speakers produced shorter narratives and made relatively more repairs. However, their narratives were story-like in their structure, and their self-initiated repairs were similar to those made by the nonretarded speakers. These results were interpreted as indications of underlying cognitive abilities.
In the late 1990s, when the American stock market was booming, television commercials for financial-services companies represented investing either as nurturing love or as violent anger. Although investing has long been constructed as love, this study of the visual, aural, and textual deployment of emotions in television advertising argues that the representation of investing as anger reflects a broad revaluation of anger in American culture from an emotion that is properly repressed to one that is ideally celebrated.
The Talking Greeks: Speech, Animals, and the Other in Homer, Aeschylus, and Plato. John Heath. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. vii. 392 pp.
Data from narratives, conversations, and didactic speech are employed to describe a multimodal, combinatorial civility register used by speakers of Kalapalo, a central Brazilian Southern Carib language. Practiced among family members, these intimate ritual communications involve complementary grammatical, lexical, discursive, and interactive features, including self-abnegation and avoidance practices. Examples of conventional usage, and the consequences of register misuse and the collapse of civility are included. Affinal civility enables both specific domestic unions, and more extensive social networks or chains of partnerships within the multilingual Alto Xingu macropolity. The question of the relationship of affinal civility to multilingual macro-polities more generally is addressed with respect to evidence from Australia.
Based on a corpus of 297 attested words for 'yes' collected from 44 countries, I propose a basic universal template or canonical form for this lexical item having the pattern /he?e/. In the accompanying discussion I show how the diverse language-specific variants can be derived from this theme through the optional selection of a handful of simple, natural phonological modifications. In the conclusion I suggest a functional explanation for this phenomenon by appealing to the notion of minimal articulatory gesture.
Discussions of racialized language rarely consider the linguistic practices of Asian Americans. This article examines one Korean American male student's conversational use of lexical elements from an imagined version of African American Vernacular English (AAVE). Although the speaker's linguistic practices maintain the dominance of whiteness in racial ideologies in the United States, his particular uses of AAVE index his relationship with both whiteness and blackness. He thereby projects a distinctively Korean American male identity in the context of existing discourses of race and gender in the United States.
This article shows that emergent meanings of impoliteness and insult in interaction are central to communicative exchanges among French adolescents of Algerian descent living in a cité, or low-income housing project. In the speech event “parental name calling” nonpolite interactions are routinely interpreted as politic or appropriate by adolescents. Yet these performances of conflict are not without risk. The potential slippage between ritual and personal insult is always present in parental name calling, an ambiguity that allows adolescents to achieve two seemingly contradictory but highly valued interactional goals: the vindication of a parent's “respect” and illicit, disrespectful play. [conflict, collaboration, names, adolescence, immigration, North Africa, France]
Despite a climate of authoritarianism and heavy censorship of independent media and political opposition in post-Soviet Kazakhstan, Kazakh aitys akhyndar (improvisational poets) have emerged as a voice of sociopolitical critique. In excerpts analyzed here, poets speaking as and for the xalykh (Kazakh people) berated contemporary Kazakhstani leaders as greedy, impotent, and russified. This article examines how poets' successful critique was made possible and protected by the conflictive and collaborative nature of poets' dialogues, by the legitimacy of aitys as “authentic Kazakh culture” as a result of folklorization processes, and by the collusion of the tradition's sponsors, members of the country's political elite. (Kazakh aitys, poetic dialogism, accountability in performance, post-Soviet nationalisms, cultural sponsorship, folklorization, Central Asian media, post-Soviet political critique).
Poetry, politics, and ethnography have been intimately linked in Algeria's Kabyle Berber region for over a century. This article examines two entextualizations of a related Kabyle poem: one recorded by French colonel Hanoteau in 1867 and the other unearthed by Kabyle scholar and cultural activist Mammeri in 1980. By analyzing the relationship between metapragmatic discourse and metapragmatic function in each poetry collection, the article shows how Berber culture has been variously configured as an object of ethnographic knowledge.
To date, reconstructions of Proto-Algonquian descent and residence (mostly bilateral-bilocal,) have been based on methods that, though widely accepted, are theoretically flawed (e.g., homotypical reconstructions using fewest transitions). A more successful method relies on searching for subtle contrasts of meaning in pairs or larger sets of terms in the protolanguage, indicative of important covert social categories and, in turn, reflecting residence patterns.
While there are numerous studies examining brain mechanisms of phonological, syntactic, and lexicosemantic processing, there has been little research directed toward examining the organic basis of sociolinguistic behavior. This may in part result from differences in the philosophical traditions associated with sociolinguistics and neurolinguistics. We compared discourse production in five patients with mild to moderate probable dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT) and their five spouses, during open-ended interviews. We found that DAT patients produced significantly more turns and topic shifts but produced fewer total words, words per turn, unique words, narratives, direct quotes, and figures of speech than did their healthy spouses. Examination of DAT speech samples showed that they were characterized both by a lack of propositional content and illocutionary force, illustrating deterioration in communicative competence. This research is part of an emerging focus in which conversational interaction is considered a window into human brain contingencies.
Rhetorical questions in medical encounters functioned to mitigate doctors' use of structural power, such as their necessary abrogation of patients' right to control over the viewing and touching of their bodies. Patients, lacking structural power, used functionally ambiguous rhetorical questions to mitigate their true questions and other face-threatening acts, such as sexual overtures or challenging the physician's competence.
This article traces putatively democratic speech and interactional techniques from their development during WWII to their translation into postindependence Delhi community development projects led by Ford Foundation consultants. Moving beyond a focus on high-level development discourse, this article describes the techniques of speech through which development was brought to ground and the ways of speaking that community development promoted in its target populations. The deployment of these techniques in Delhi shows how the promotion of democracy aggressively attacked existing forms of sociality within the city. [speech genres, democracy, technology, development, India]
This article analyzes interactions about food and eating among dual-earner middle-class families in Los Angeles, California. It synthesizes approaches from linguistic and medical anthropology to investigate how health is defined and negotiated both in interviews and in everyday communication. In particular, it explores dinnertime episodes from five families to illustrate how interactional bargaining contributes to struggles between parents and children over health-related practices, values, and morality. It compares naturally occurring videotaped interactions to parents' evaluations of their families' health elicited in interviews. The analysis of food interactions reveals much about the discursive construction of health and family life, including frequent conflicts between parents and children over eating practices. [health, food and eating, dinnertime interaction, children, working families, United States]
This article examines the paradoxes of linguistic purism in a series of sound recordings of comic dialogues made by Mexican immigrant comedians in San Antonio, Texas, during the Depression. The dialogues present characters who mix English and Spanish as transgressors of gender roles and national identities, reserving their harshest criticism for women. However, bilingual wordplay in the dialogues suggests a dialectically opposed ideological move toward a celebration of linguistic and cultural hybridity.
On the basis of primary sources and of reviewing recent scholarship on linguistic contact in North America, an ethnohistory of communication is advocated to achieve a greater realism. Central to this framework ought to be conceptual differentiation of speech community, an organization of communicating peoples by regularities of language-in-use, and language community, an organization of people by their orientation to structural (formal) norms for denotational coding (whether explicit or implicit). While considering the various parameters of the social organization of languages in North American contact communities, we survey a sample of cases to show their ethnohistorical distinctness from the traditional pidgin- and creole-forming situations, and the basis in contact for the role of indigeneous languages in contemporary ethnic politics of culture.
Frequency of applicational patterns and exceptions reported in Table 1" 
Eighty-seven English names for British birds are used to denote birds native to central and eastern North America. Analysis reveals that English names for British birds are typically applied to those American birds, among all American birds, that are closest to the British birds in scientific (Linnaean) classification. This naming strategy accords with the finding of a similarity judgment experiment in which 34 subjects match realistic pictures of British and American birds for perceptual resemblance. The results of the experiment indicate that folk observers tend to judge those American birds, among all American birds, to be most similar to British birds that have the same name as the latter. In addition, the experiment suggests that folk perception of biological similarity is a better predictor of the detailed nature of folk biological classification than is scientific taxonomy.
Debating Diversity: Analysing the Discourse of Tolerance. Jan Blommaert and Jef Verschueren. London: Routledge, 1998. xiv. 233 pp.
Temporal indexicality is deeply involved in the production of imagined communities. This article shows how the cultivation of Hindi as an “ancestral language” among Hindus in Mauritius mediates between two different modes of temporality while shaping diasporic identities. Diasporic ideologies of ancestral language are further shown to articulate with the creation of sacred geographies in the context of an annual Hindu pilgrimage.
Speakers of Guugu Yimithirr at the Hopevale aboriginal community in Queensland use inflected forms of four cardinal direction words in all talk about location and motion. This article compares the pointing gestures in parallel episodes of two tellings of a single story, first to demonstrate that gestures too can be directionally anchored, and then to contrast other gestures that are emancipated from cardinal direction. Different sorts ofindexical space and different modes of directional anchoring are posited to account for the contrasting gestural forms.
This article describes rehabilitative practices in a court school for juvenile offenders located in southeast Los Angeles. These practices entail the interactional engagement of students in participant structures through which they may view themselves in roles that extend beyond the space and time of the interaction. Certain elements of verbal and nonverbal behavior are highlighted and given meaning within two opposing moral spaces, often glossed as "street" and "school." The goal is to get the student to view his or her potential rehabilitated "self within and by way of constellations of social relationships that are imbued with moral force. As such this constitutes a theory or ideology of rehabilitation that is simultaneously local and situated within larger moral frames. The interactions most likely to enable rehabilitative work are those that emerge within informal talk during the activity of checking work. Student involvement in a program of volunteer work with disabled students at a school down the street—and the media attention generated by such work—reinforces this project of seeing oneself in different roles. It is suggested that these techniques reveal a political stance on the part of the school.
Maryan, Chep, and Manvel's kin relationships.  
Working with a series of narratives about a family dispute told over more than thirty years by an elderly Tzotzil-speaking Indian, from Chiapas, Mexico, I consider several puzzles about the widely espoused notion of the "textual self." Here the voices of others, perhaps more than that of the speaker whose self is being constituted, are centrally incorporated into his ongoing self-reflective biographical account. Moreover, as the narrator moves toward the end of his life, his story seems to lock itself into a closed discursive universe, in which the words of salient others become the repetitive, insistent, and inescapable theme of his self-conception and presentation.
Top-cited authors
Asif Agha
  • University of Pennsylvania
Richard Bauman
  • Indiana University Bloomington
Stephen C Levinson
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
J. Hill
  • The University of Arizona
Kathryn Woolard
  • University of California, San Diego