Linguistic Anthropology


Anthropology 290A                                                    Washington and Lee University

Dr. Alison Bell                                                                                               Fall 2002



Instructor Contact Information


Office:  Newcomb 6
Office Hours:    Tuesdays 3:00-5:00, Wednesdays 2:30-4:30, Thursdays 3:00-5:00,

                        and by appointment.

Office Phone:    x8638 (off campus: 463-8638)

Home Phone:    x5045 (off campus: 458-5045)



Course Description

This course surveys anthropological approaches to understanding the intersections among language, culture, and society. Topics include non-human communication systems, the origins of human language, and methods of establishing historical relationships among languages. Formal linguistic analysis also receives some attention, but the greatest part of the course concerns language in socio-cultural contexts. Examples of linguistic phenomena in ethnographic perspective are drawn from peoples around the world, including the Gullah, the Apache, and the Bedouin of Egypt.



Course Texts






Course Expectations



Three Assessments

Assessments are open-book, open-note, take-home exercises designed to allow the instructor to assess each student’s understanding of material in assigned readings and class discussion. Each assessment has 2-4 questions which together should require about five pages (word-processed, double-spaced) to answer.

            Assessment 1:   distributed Mon. Sept. 30; due Fri. Oct. 4

                                    covers Savage-Rumbaugh and Lewin & class material Sept. 6-27

            Assessment 2:   distributed Mon. Oct. 28; due Fri. Nov. 1

                                    covers Mallory, Leith, Joyner & class material Sept. 30 - Oct. 25

            Assessment 3:   distributed Fri. Dec. 6; due Fri. Dec. 13

                                    covers Whorf, Basso, Abu-Lughod & class material Oct. 28-Dec. 2



One Research Paper

Each student should identify a topic of interest within linguistic anthropology. Students will submit a paper topic and tentative bibliography midway through the semester. The paper itself (8-10 pages double-spaced) is due December 6 at 1:00 p.m.. The instructor encourages students to submit rough drafts of papers on or before December 2. During the last week of the course, students will present the findings of their papers for class discussion.



Class Participation

Though the instructor will have ideas she wishes to convey to students at each class meeting, this course is a seminar rather than being lecture-based. Students should be prepared and willing to participate in class discussions. Oral participation is a key feature in this course for several reasons, not the least of which is the benefit students will derive (both during college and after graduating) from being able to speak comfortably in group contexts.



Final Grades

The breakdown of final grades for the course is as follows:

            Assessment One:          22.5%

            Assessment Two:          22.5%

            Assessment Three:        22.5%

            Paper/Presentation:       22.5%

            Class Participation:       10%




Course Outline


Fri. Sept. 6                   Introduction


Mon. Sept. 9 -             Savage-Rumbaugh and Lewin Chapters 1-3

Fri. Sept. 13    


Mon. Sept. 16 -           Savage-Rumbaugh and Lewin Chapters 4-6

Fri. Sept. 20


Mon. Sept. 23 -           Savage-Rumbaugh and Lewin Chapters 7-10

Fri. Sept. 27


Mon. Sept. 30 -           Mallory; Leith “Introduction” (pp. 1-3); Leith Chapter 8

Fri. Oct. 4                    Assessment 1 due Fri. Oct. 4                         


Mon. Oct. 7 -               Leith Chapters 1-2

Wed. Oct. 9


Fri. Oct. 11                  Reading Holiday


Mon. Oct. 14-              Leith Chapters 3-5

Fri. Oct. 18                  Paper Topic & Bibliography due Mon. Oct. 14


Mon. Oct. 21-              Leith Chapters 6-7; Joyner

Fri. Oct. 25                 


Mon. Oct. 28 -             Whorf; Basso Chapters 1-2

Fri. Nov. 1                   Assessment 2 due Fri. Nov. 1


Mon. Nov. 4 -              Basso Chapters 3-4

Fri. Nov. 8


Mon. Nov. 11 -            Abu-Lughod Chapters 1-4

Fri. Nov. 15


Mon. Nov. 18-             Abu-Lughod Chapters 5-6

Fri. Nov. 22


Mon. Nov. 25 -            Thanksgiving Break

Fri. Nov. 29


Mon. Dec. 2 -              Abu-Lughod Chapters 7-8

Fri. Dec. 6                    Paper presentations this week; papers due Fri. Dec. 6


Final Exams                  Assessment 3 due Fri. Dec. 13