Topic outline

  • General

    Linguistic anthropology studies the relationship between language and culture, as well as the linkages between language, culture, and cognition. Language is defined as the common human condition, which is also a fundamental mode of diversity across communities, and considered an integral part of culture – the sum of knowledge and practices shared by members of a community. This course provides an overview of important and current topics in the field and focusses on the question of how linguistic variation and categorization can be investigated from an anthropological perspective. In addition, research methods, including digital means to study culture and language, will be discussed. Students will become familiar with philosophical ideas, sociolinguistic models, and anthropological theories that have inspired the anthropology of language. An up-to-date review of the latest theories and findings in all the key areas will be presented alongside famous and influential studies that have shaped anthropological approaches to language in the past.




    The final exam will be held as an in-class exam at our faculty. You are expected to be present in person. If, due to health issues, that is a problem for you, please contact me. 

    The exam will be 90 min. long. I have compiled a list of exam questions for you to study - please see below (last topic after your presentations). 

    You have three date options to choose from: 


    1. June 9, 2020, 13:30
    2. June 26, 2020, 10:00
    3. September 8, 2020, 10:00


    The rooms will be announced in due time. 



    Important: If you send me your presentation file by Monday, May 25, 2020, it will count as a timely submission.


    Click on this link to get to the results:

    Thanks for participating!  



    Syllabus (will be updated weekly)

    Lesson 1

    Preview of the course: goals, readings, requirements, grading. 

    Introduction to linguistic and cultural anthropology


    Lesson 2

    The beginnings of modern linguistic anthropology

    Required reading: 

    Duranti, A. (2009). History of linguistic anthropology. In A. Sujoldzic (Ed.), Linguistic Anthropology: UNESCO Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems. Oxford, UK: Eolss Publishers, pp. 263-278


    Lesson 3

    Language, culture, and worldview

    Required reading: 

    Pullum, G. K. (1991). The great Eskimo vocabulary hoax. And other irrelevant essays on the study of language. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Optional reading:  

    Everett, D. L. (2005). Cultural constraints on gammar and cognition in Piraha: Another look at the design features of human language.  Current Anthropology, 46/4, 621-646. 

    Nevins, A., Pesetsky, D. & Rodrigues, C. (2007). Piranha exceptionality: A reassessment. Language, 85, 355-404. 

    Martin, L. (1986). Eskimo words for snow: A case study in the genesis and decay of an anthropological example. American Anthropologist, 88/2, 418-423. 


    Lesson 4

    "Social media culture" and linguistic self construction

    Required reading:

    Lee, C. (2014). Language choice and self-presentation in social media - The case of university students in Hong Kong. In: P. Seargeant & C. Tagg (eds), The Language of Social Media. Palgrave Macmillan, London, pp. 91-111. 

    Optional reading:  

    Mahay, J. (2013). "Their lives are so much better than ours!" The ritual (re)construction of social identity in holiday cards. In: D. Tannen & A. M. Trester (eds.), Language and the new media. Georgetown" Georgetown University Press, pp. 85-98. 

    Crystal, D. (2006). Language and the internet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 2: Netspeak, pp. 26-65. 



    Lesson 5


    The primordial scene of cultural life: Conversational exchanges

    Required reading:

    Tannen, D. (1984). The pragmatics of cross-cultural communication. Applied Linguistics, 5,/3, 189-195. 

    Optional reading:  

    Dingemanse, M. & Floyd, S. (2014). Conversation across cultures. In N. J. Enfield, P. Kockelman & J. Sidnell (Eds.), Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.434-464. 


    Lesson 6


    Digital linguistic anthropology: Language change within online communities

    Required reading:

    Dogs Are Doggos: An Internet Language Built Around Love For The Puppers:


    Lesson 7


    Oral folklore and spoken art

    Required reading: 

    Salzmann, Z. (2004). Language, culture, and society. Oxford, UK: Westview Press. Chapter 12, pp. 271-291

    Optional reading:


    Sindoni, M. G. (2010). Creole in the Caribbean: How oral discourse creates cultural identities. Journal des africanistes 80(1-2):217-236


    Lesson 8


    Language vitality, death, and revitalization: The role of English

    Required reading: 

    Eckert, T., Johann, A. Kaenzig, A., Kueng, M. Mueller, B. Schwald, C. & Walder, L. (2014). Is English a 'killer language"? The globalisation of a code. eHistLing, 1. 

    Optional reading: 

    Kornai, A. (2013). Digital language death. PLoS ONE, 8/10, e77056. 


    Lesson 9

    Student presentations


    Lesson 10

    Student presentations


    Lesson 11

    Student presentations


    Lesson 12

    Student presentations

    • Grading


       Attendance (i.e., doing the online lessons, not missing more than 3) = 20%

       Oral presentation  = 40%

       Final exam = 40%


      your assigned nbr Mar 16 Mar 23 Mar 30 Apr 06 presentation
      21  well done  well done  x   well done  done
      22  well done  well done  well done  well done done 
      23  well done  well done  well done  well done done 
      24  well done  well done  well done  well done done 
      25  well done  x  well done  well done
      26  well done  x  x  well done
      27  well done  well done  well done  well done done 
      28  well done  well done  well done  well done done 
      29  well done  well done  well done  well done done 
      30  x  x  x  well done
      31  well done  x  well done  well done done 
      32  x  well done  well done  well done - very detailed done 
      • Oral presentation


        The oral presentations will take place as scheduled but in digital format. The requirements stay the same as we discussed at the beginning of the semester (choose your own topic, prepare well, length 15 min. etc.), only the 5-min classroom task has been eliminated.

        Please find 3 questions stemming from your presentation that you think would be fair to ask your classmates at the exam. 

         We have reserved three lessons for presentations (and there will be no class activities during these dates): April 20 and May  4 and 11, 2020. You are free to choose when you upload your presentation. The latest date by which you should upload/file-share your presentation with the class is May 11, 2020. 

        You are required to watch all presentations that were uploaded by your classmates before the semester ends. 



        Here are some of the options you have:

        a. Do a screencast of a powerpoint presentation. This is possible when you are using Powerpoint 2013 and later. You can record your voice while going through PPT slides (probably the easiest way). You can only record your voice or also broadcast an embedded video of yourself - that's up to you. Alternatively, you can use QuickTime Player (free download) to do a screen recording (under File -> New Screen Recording). 

        b. Record yourself with a video/ laptop camera or cell phone camera while giving your powerpoint presentation on your home computer. This way, we get a video of you giving the presentation. 

        c. Audio-record yourself using an audio recorder on your laptop or cell phone while giving the presentation and provide the ppt slides separately for us. 

        Note: I am sure there are other options available and you are free to choose the technology that best suits your needs.


        There are essentially two options:  

        (1) either create a video plus audio file, so that we can hear you talk and see your slides at the same time. 

        (2) or only create an audio file of yourself giving the presentation and upload the ppt slides separately. In this case, you need to add slide numbers on the ppt and then, as you talk, indicate which slide you are talking about (e.g., by saying: “now to slide number 3”). This will make it easier for your classmates and me to follow the presentation.


        Once you have made a recording of your presentation, you can decide to upload your file on a platform (e.g. Google Drive, Youtube) and share the link with the class in MOODLE. Alternatively, you can record your presentation in Youtube/ Teams directly and then post a link to it on MOODLE. Ondrej Tichy is the contact person if you have technical questions about where to post your presentation.

        If you choose the option to only record audio (in mp3) and upload your ppt slides separately, this could be uploaded on MOODLE if your files are under 20MB. 

        If you have trouble finding a solution for your online presentation, please talk to me via email. 

        • The primordial scene of cultural life: Conversational exchanges

          General information about the class

          This is an online class. 

          You are required to do three tasks. The first one is related to the required reading (Tannen, 1984), and you are asked to answer a question about the text. In the second step, you are asked to watch a TED Talk of Elizabeth Stokoe (on Youtube, 20 min.) and discuss some aspects of the content. The third step is a short exercise, where you have to apply some of the new knowledge gained from Tannen and Stokoe, as well as common sense. 

          Please type your answers to steps 1, 2, and 3 on a computer and send them to me in an email (as one PDF file) by Friday, March 20, 2020. If I do not receive your document by that deadline, you will be marked as 'absent' for this class. 

          There will be no required reading assignment for next week (I think you might already have lots of reading assignments from various classes). 

          If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please contact me any time via email. 



          Step 1, Class reading, Tannen (1984). Answer the following question: 
          1. Summarize each level of communicative difference in Conversation Analysis, as outlined by Tannen (1984). 

          Step 2, TED Talk Elizabeth Stokoe. Watch the video and answer the questions: 

          Please click on the following link to watch the TED Talk: 

          Afterwards, answer the following questions:

          1. How would you describe what Conversation Analysis (CA) is in 2 short sentences?
          2. Recapitulate the telephone analysis Stokoe is doing in her talk. What was she investigating, what were her main findings, what did you find interesting? 
          3. What roles can pauses and silences take in conversations? 
          4. Describe Stokoe’s "race track–landscape” analogy in CA. 

          Step 3, Cross-cultural conversation analysis. Do the following exercise: 
          1. Do a short analysis of the greetings of the following two conversations (A and B) between a Korean shop owner and a customer. In the first, the customer is African-American, in the second, the customer is Korean (the latter text is translated from Bailey, B., 1997, Communication of respect in interethnic service encounters, Language in Society, 26/3, pp. 327-356).  
            1. Focus on the type of greetings that are exchanged and consider their lengths and contents, especially with regards to personal and emotional information that is transmitted between the speakers. 


          A. Korean shop owner and African-American customer in interaction

          Customer enters store and goes to fridge 

          Customer:                 Hi. 

          Owner:                       How are you? 

          Customer:                 What's going on man? How've you been?

          Owner:                       OK, OK. And you? 

          Customer takes drink toward cash register and stands there

          Customer:                 Wow, you guys moved a lot of things around. 

          Owner:                       I haven’t seen you for a while hehe. Where you been 

          Customer:                 Chicago. 

          Owner:                       Oh really? 

          Customer:                 Yeah.

          Owner:                       How long? 

          Customer:                 For about a month. 

          Owner:                       How's it there? 

          Customer:                 Cold. 

          Owner:                       Cold, yeah?

          Customer:                 Hehe heh heh heh (headshake)

          Owner:                       Is Chicago cold?

          Customer:                 Man, I got off the plane and walked out the airport I said "Oh shit" 

          Owner:                       I thought it's gonna be nice spring season over there 

          Customer:                  Well not now this is about a month - I been there – I was there for about a month but you know… (headshakes)

          Owner:                       Hehehe

          Customer:                 Too cold. I mean this was really cold 

          Owner:                       They have snowy season there 

          Customer:                 I've seen it snow Easter Sunday 

          Owner:                       The California weather almost never changes 

          Customer:                 Back there it's a seasonal change, you got fall, winter, spring 

          Owner:                       Mm hm 

          Customer:                  You know. But back there the weather sshhh [headshake]. ….. Well, got to go. See you man. 

          Owner:                       Take care. 

          Customer:                 Bye. 

          B. Korean shop owner and Korean customer who enters the store to buy cigarettes. 

          Owner:                       Hello, how are you ? [customer has just entered store]

          Customer:                 Hello, how are you? 

          Customer:                 Cigarettes!

          Owner:                       You would like cigarettes? [owner reaches for cigarettes under counter]

          Owner:                       Here you are. [owner takes customer’s money and hand her cigarettes; customer turns to leave]

          Owner:                       Good-bye.

          Customer:                 Okay. 

          • Digital language-culture studies


            Consider the findings of the NPR article on internet dog language: 


            Now, identify one online community (be it blog community, groups on social media, etc.) that shows non-standard use of English in some way. Describe the group and their linguistic peculiarities.

            The non-standard language use of the community can encompass a few words or may go as far as involving structural changes to English (syntactical deviations). Please cite examples for the specific language use, and try to find out something about the origins of it in your online community. 

            Write approx. 1 typed page (Times New Roman 12 pt, spacing 1.5), and send me a PDF or .docx file by Friday March 27, 2020.  

          • Oral folklore and spoken art


            Please listen to/ watch the screencast that I made for today (and excuse the inferior recording and the hoarseness of my voice). You will find the Powerpoint presentation as .pptx below. 


            Then do the two tasks that I describe at the end of the presentation. 


            Please type your answers on a word processor and send me a .docx or PDF file by April 3, 2020. 

            For next week, please read the following article on English as a "killer language": Eckert, T., Johann, A. Kaenzig, A., Kueng, M. Mueller, B. Schwald, C. & Walder, L. (2014). Is English a 'killer language"? The globalisation of a code. eHistLing, 1. 

          • Language vitality and death


            For this class, you need to complete two tasks. First, answer the questions concerning the text you read for homework Second, find examples of English influencing Czech (or your native language) in terms of it replacing words in the language. 


            Step 1
            1. Define the difference between so-called “language suicide” and “language murder”. 
            2. Briefly explain exploitation and grassroots theories concerning the spread of English as a global language within the last centuries.  
            3. What is the interaction between English presumably decimating other languages and speakers of other languages presumably deforming Standard Englilsh? 


             Step 2

            Please find 10 examples of English loanwords in Czech (or your native language) where the loanwords replace existing native language words. Frequently, loanword enter a language to account for a term/ concept that did not exist in the language before (for instance, computer in many languages). What interests us, however, is loanwords that replace existing words. The loanwords might not be perfect equivalents of the Czech (or other language) terms but are still being used in favor of a Czech (or other) words that would exist in the vocabulary.


            1.  Identify the 10 loanword examples and please provide translations for me (I am only good at English and German). 

            2. Speculate on why the English loanwords are replacing the native language terms and since when this process has been going on (a few sentences per loanword are fine). Maybe there are some interesting social, cultural, political, geographical (etc.) reasons behind some of the loanwords. Maybe it is purely practical as the loanword better describes a concept. 


            Please send me your analysis via email, as PDF or Word document, by Friday, April 10, 2020.


            There will be no reading assignment for next week. 


            For those of you who haven’t done it yet, please go to the class survey I sent out a few days ago to rate the contents and work load of the class. Only few have done it so far. 

            • Student presentations, no class activities

              Please download the files, open them in Powerpoint, and press F5 to make the screencast work. If you have problems doing so, contact me or your classmate and we can send you the file via email. 

              At least one presentation has small audio files linked to each powerpoint slide. You can click on those when you inspect a certain slide. 

              If you have any questions about a specific presentation, please send an email to your respective classmate.