LING-495 Ethnography of Communication
Fall for 2008-2009
Anna Trester
This course is designed to introduce students to the Ethnography of Communication (EoC) an approach to the analysis of language and communication in context. The EoC approach, drawn principally from Anthropology and Linguistics, suggests that “what language is cannot be separated from how and why it is used.” The course is a blend of theory, practice, and method, with particular focus on 'participant observation.' Along with some of the basic 'core' articles that present this perspective, students will read about ethnographic work which has been done (and which is currently being done) on specific topics and in particular geographic locations, while at the same time conducting ethnographic observations within a chosen community or site of interaction (e.g. a coffee shop, a supermarket, a gym, an office, a team working together on a long term project, Gallaudet University). Class time will be a combination of lecture, work shopping of data (that collected by students as well as data brought by the professor drawn from larger ethnographic projects), and discussion (of course readings and students’ application of the theoretical concepts in ongoing research projects).

Course Objectives: To cultivate the skills linguistic observation and analysis through extended participant observation with a group that is culturally, socially, or linguistically different from the researcher. Students will learn to balance insider / outsider perspectives to discover the interactional norms both of the studied group as well as their own culture, based on the premise that the best way to learn about one’s own “ways of speaking” is to contrast them with those of other communities, a process which reveals that what is assumed to be “natural” is in fact culturally unique.

Course Goals: The goal of the course is to uncover some of the ways that language is intertwined with social actions, values, beliefs, group memberships, identities and social institutions.

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Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
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