Courses

The following course descriptions represent a few of the graduate seminars that have been offered in the CLASP program over the last several years. These should provide an idea of the breadth and depth of course offerings in the program. Many of these seminars are offered on an annual or semiannual basis.

ANTH/LING 6320: Linguistic Anthropology Professor: Kira Hall

Linguistic anthropology, one of the four classic subfields of anthropology, seeks to explicate culture and society ethnographically as they emerge through language and discourse. This graduate-level introduction to the field examines language as a form of action through which socio-political relations are constituted. The seminar is organized around key concepts that are of ongoing importance to contemporary linguistic anthropologists, among them practice, ideology, indexicality, and identity. Because social subjectivity is produced, challenged, and affirmed through linguistic practice, the readings required for the course view speakers and hearers as embedded within complex relations of race, class, gender, and sexuality. We will explore issues that have been central to research and discussion in linguistic anthropology, such as language, categorization, and worldview; language socialization; models of language as action; ritual and performance; language endangerment and globalization; intertextuality and dialogism; the co-construction of meaning in conversation; language, nationalism, and modernity; and literacy practices.

ANTH/LING 6320: Linguistic Anthropology Professor: Andrew Cowell

This course will provide a broad introduction to socio-cultural perspectives and methods in linguistics, focusing on linguistic anthropology and cross-cultural comparisons. We will read a basic introduction to the topic, as well as numerous articles which provide examples of specific applications. Students will also be expected to engage with linguistic data, including at least one independent project involving data gathered on their own. Topics to be covered include: ethnographic methods; the idea of ‘culture’ and different theories of culture from within linguistic anthropology; relationships between language and culture on the level of lexicon and grammar; the concept of ‘speech community’ and ethnography of communication; cultural models and metaphors; language and inequality; language, power and agency; language ideology and its connection to social structures; language socialization; ethnopoetics, narrative and performance; language, identity and subjectivity; language, interactionism, and the construction of social relationships; and language change from a socio-cultural perspective, including language shift, pidgins, creoles, and language endangerment. The course will provide both an introduction to older classical theories and topics, as well as to contemporary trends.

COMM 5210: Readings in Communication Theory Professor: Robert T. Craig

Critical overview of leading theoretical traditions in communication studies. Attention to metatheoretical issues including epistemological foundations, the structure of communication theory as a field, and reflexivity between communication theory and cultural practice. Recommended for graduate students in Communication and related disciplines.

COMM 6410: Discourse Analysis Professor: Karen Tracy

Discourse Analysis points to a family of approaches to inquiry and a substantive area of study. In communication, it’s often referred to as language and social interaction, "LSI." The class attends to both meanings, albeit tilting toward discourse analysis as a method for the study of interaction. The seminar has two purposes, with each reflected in class activities and assignments. A first purpose is to acquaint you with three important kinds of discourse analysis: conversation analysis, critical discourse approaches, and rhetorically influenced approaches (discursive psychology, action-implicative discourse analysis). For each approach you will learn what are its assumptions and distinctive features, usual kinds of analytic moves, and the important questions for investigation. The second purpose of the seminar is to enable you to do a discourse analysis yourself: To take instances of talk or text and arrive at an interesting, persuasive scholarly analysis. To accomplish this second purpose, you will be practicing the technical and analytic skills that comprise discourse analysis (transcribing, listening for particulars, selecting excerpts, documenting inferences, linking to scholarly controversies, building insightful central claims). The first part of the class will involve assignments with a common text. Then, for the remainder of the semester, students will work with a slice of institutional or interpersonal interaction that they have selected to develop a full-blown research paper.

COMM 6440: Grounded Practical Theory Professor: Robert T. Craig

Grounded practical theory (GPT) refers to a range of concepts and methods for theorizing communicative practices. The seminar will explore GPT through assigned background readings and individual research projects. Readings will include units on GPT methodology with applications to discourse analysis of group interaction (Craig, Tracy, et al.), the concept of social practice (Schatzki et al.), sociocultural activity theory and communities of practice (Lave & Wenger), reflexive practice theory (Bourdieu), and genealogy of social practices (Foucault). For the semester project, each student will select a sample of discourse (consisting of public documents, media texts, field observations, and/or recordings of interaction) from any field of social practice of interest to the student. Writing assignments will include short papers exploring the application of unit readings to the student’s discourse sample and a major paper developing a selected analytical approach in depth.

COMM 6445: Communication and Culture Professor: David Boromisza-Habashi

The focus of this graduate course is the life of culture in communication, and of communication in culture. We will seek answers to these questions: How can communicative practices be seen as cultural practices? How is “culture” itself a product of communication? What happens where divergent culturally specific communicative practices come into contact? We will cultivate an interest in the cultural forms and meanings of observable language use chiefly, although not exclusively, in the tradition of the ethnography of communication. The course has two main objectives: (1) to acquaint you with classic and contemporary readings that engage the relationship between communication and culture, and (2) to introduce you to ways in which you can adopt a cultural approach toward communication phenomena. Although this is a survey and not a methods course, you will have the opportunity to use ethnographic methodologies to develop new field-based research projects or to sharpen some aspects of their existing projects. The course comprises four units. Unit 1 focuses on classic readings. Unit 2 is concerned with what it means to adopt a cultural approach to language use. Unit 3 reviews cultural approaches to topics of concern to our department’s chief areas of study: rhetoric, discourse and society, organizational communication, and critical/cultural studies. The focus of Unit 4 is intercultural communication.

COMM 6470: Meetings, Their Practices and Problems Professor: Karen Tracy

Meetings are a, if not the, most routinely used communicative form that institutional groups use to accomplish their multiple purposes. Public deliberative groups, teams in workplaces, grassroots social action groups, official political organizations, support-giving institutions: All do work in meetings. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that meeting is what groups are all about. Through meetings groups solve (and create) problems, give information and misinformation, develop and rework policies, make (and remake) decisions, affirm (and dissolve) groupness, and, sometimes, change the world. Meetings are where groups celebrate (and challenge) institutionally important values; they are also routine sites in which individuals display their own power and resist the demands of others. The “having of meetings” is linked to some of society’s most valued ideals—giving voice, fairness, democracy. At the same time meetings are everyone’s favorite thing to hate, occasions to be escaped, complained about, and derogated.

The purpose of this seminar is twofold. A first goal is to develop your familiarity with a disciplinarily diverse and interesting literature about meetings, including influential case studies, a picture of how they came into existence historically, theorizing about their functions and effects, routine communicative practices that occur in them, common interactional troubles, cross-cultural differences, and some of the different expectations about “ideal” meeting conduct. A second goal is for you to carry out a field research project on some specific set of meetings, the scope of which will depend on whether you are an MA or PhD student. In the seminar we will move back and forth between discussion of readings and occasional mini-lectures, and the analysis of tapes and written documents (e.g., minutes, policy documents, virtual discussions) from the meetings that are the foci of people’s different projects.

Seminar Prerequisite: Students are expected to have some familiarity with qualitative research methods.

COMM 6740: Power and Control in Organizations Professor: Stan Deetz

This course is a Ph.D.-level course offered in a seminar format. No specific background is required though both basic organization and communication theory would be helpful. The course focuses on understanding the relations among power, language, social/cultural practices, and the treatment and/or suppression of important conflicts as they relate to the production of individual identities, social knowledge, and decision-making in corporate and community organizations. Most of the attention will be at the micro-level looking at how discourse and concrete practices produce and reproduce relations of power, though larger institutional forces, ideology and society-level discursive formations will be related to these. The readings will include studies investigating the positive forces of member production and the need for control and compliance especially within knowledge-intensive and other organizations with work practices fostering new forms of normative and concertive control. Other readings will discuss the negative side of these new processes and identify systems and practices of inappropriate control and distorted decision-making including detailing the costs of these for people, organizations and host societies.

EDUC 5615: Second Language Acquisition Professor: Kathy Escamilla

This course will examine the intricate web of variables that interact in the second language leaning process. These variables include linguistic, cognitive, social, cultural, and political factors. Learning a second language is both an individual and social experience. It includes linguistic, cultural, cognitive, social, psychological, and emotional elements. As such, second language learning involves complex interactions between the individual and the contexts in which s/he interacts. The emphasis in the course will be on examining each of these factors in turn and then attempting to understand how they work together to foster or inhibit successful second language learning and acquisition.

EDUC 5635: Education and Sociolinguistics Professor: Guillermo Solano-Flores

This course explores the discipline of sociolinguistics, the study of language variation and use, and its application within education settings. Not designed as an advanced sociology or linguistics course. Areas of study include language variation, speech communities, the ethnography of communication, speech and social identities, and sociolinguistic research related to teaching and learning.

LING 5900: Body and Language Professor: Barbara Fox

This course will examine in detail the richness of the body as a set of semiotic practices in moment-by-moment interaction. Students will record and transcribe video data and write a paper about some embodied practice. The assigned readings will include discussions of gesture, body torque, etc.

LING 6310: Sociolinguistic Analysis Professor: Kira Hall

This seminar serves as a graduate-level introduction to the study of language in its social context. Designed as a complement to the graduate-level introductory course in linguistic anthropology, the course will cover insights traditionally attributed to the field of sociolinguistics, broadly defined. Readings and discussion will draw from perspectives voiced in a variety of research traditions associated with the field, among them variationist sociolinguistics, the ethnography of speaking, the sociology of language, and socially oriented discourse analysis (e.g., interactional sociolinguistics, conversation analysis, critical discourse analysis). Classic publications in the field by scholars such as John Gumperz, William Labov, and Dell Hymes will be discussed alongside newer works. The course will focus on innovative directions in the field that have arisen over the last decade: for example, we will interrogate new sociolinguistic conceptualizations of interactive phenomena such as stance, indexicality, style, identity, and enregisterment, as well as examine recent arguments that call for a deeper consideration of the mobility of language in the context of globalization. The seminar has several goals: (1) to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the historical development of theory and practice in the field of sociolinguistics; (2) to equip students with the analytic tools necessary to understand and evaluate contemporary research in sociolinguistics; (3) to interrogate the divide between micro- and macro- analyses of language through a consideration of various forms of social theory; and finally, (4) to bring students to a critical awareness of the place of language in the constitution of social, cultural, and political relations. As sociolinguistics is conceptualized in this seminar as a broadly interdisciplinary field, students from diverse disciplines are invited to join.

LING 7320: Narrative and Identity Professor: Kira Hall

This seminar will examine the ways in which identities are constructed, negotiated, and affirmed through oral narrative, particularly life stories, personal narratives, and institutional narratives. We will survey different approaches to the analysis of oral narrative, as developed in ethnography of speaking, interactive sociolinguistics, conversation analysis, and linguistic and cultural anthropology. Students will develop technical skills in the transcription and analysis of spoken narrative and will incorporate these skills into a final essay on language and identity in a particular community, forum, or narrative genre. There are no prerequisites for the course, although some understanding of discourse analysis, sociolinguistics, or anthropological theory is desirable.

LING 7360: Language and Sexuality Professor: Kira Hall

This seminar explores the role of language in the social construction and articulation of sexuality, broadly conceived to include sexual identity, desire, erotics, and reproduction. We will attempt wherever possible to draw links between social theory and sociolinguistic analysis, as we review a variety of theoretical perspectives in the humanities and social sciences and explore their implications for the linguistic study of sexuality. These perspectives arise out of discussions of sexuality in early and contemporary cultural anthropology, sexology, feminist theory, gay and lesbian studies, poststructuralism and queer theory, psychoanalysis, and globalization theory. Texts in critical gender/sexuality theory will be read alongside linguistic texts on sexuality written from varied methodological standpoints.

LING 7420: Syntactic Theory Professor: Barbara Fox

This seminar will explore the view that “grammar does best what speakers do most” (a quote from Du Bois); that is, that syntax is shaped by communicative/interactional functions. We will trace the development of this idea in a subfield known as Discourse-Functional Syntax, including work in a new sister subfield known as Interactional Linguistics (which brings together insights, concepts and methods from Conversation Analysis and the perspectives of Discourse-Functional Syntax).

LING 7800: Interaction and Grammar Professor: Barbara Fox

This seminar will begin with a short introduction to Conversation Analysis, and then cover grammatical issues (including phonetics) of turn-taking, repair, initiating and responsive actions, reference, etc. The course will include material from a range of languages, including (but not limited to) English, Japanese, German, Finnish, Danish, Swedish, Russian, Korean, Murrinh-Patha and Mandarin.

LING 7800: Language and Globalization Professor: Kira Hall

This seminar is designed to bring together sociolinguistic and linguistic anthropological work on globalization with recent work on the same subject from the fields of cultural anthropology and cultural studies. Specifically, the readings assigned for the course will examine varied contemporary border-crossing phenomena that have quite serious implications for language use and theorization, among them globalization, diaspora, neoliberalism, migration, outsourcing, asylum, consumption, NGOification, tourism, and the commodification of identity. We will read central theoretical anthropological texts regarding each of the areas listed above, followed by linguistic work that seeks to expose these processes in grounded, or at least particularized, contexts. The course will primarily be a readings course, with the additional requirement of occasional response papers and a final paper on a topic that builds on the course readings. There are no formal prerequisites for the course, except a willingness to read deeply and discuss course concepts with insight and enthusiasm. (Students with little or no training in the broad study of language and society should consult with the instructor about the appropriateness of the seminar.)

LING 7800: Language and New Media Professor: Kira Hall

This course is designed to interrogate the relationship between language and new media, focusing in particular on how interactive communication technologies (digital, satellite, or cellular) are changing the contours of social interaction. As scholars of varied forms of socially oriented discourse analysis have begun to argue, the pervasiveness of these technologies in everyday life compels us to rethink some of our most basic assumptions regarding social interaction, whether we are analyzing everyday conversation, narrative, political speech, sociolinguistic style or variation, language and the nation-state, or human sociality more generally. Whereas linguistic anthropologists and sociolinguists are now examining the place of digital interactivity in processes of language and globalization (as carried through satellite television, video sharing sites such as YouTube, email, and MMS or SMS text messaging), analysts of conversation are considering how digital mobility provides important challenges to the deictic and organizational norms of face-to-face conversation. At the same time, narrative analysts are considering how advanced forms of digital editing are changing how we authenticate, distribute, and valorize newsworthy events. This course seeks to synthesize this material, while also considering ethnographic research on varied forms of social media, among them Twitter, Facebook, virtual worlds such as Second Life, online dating services, interactive video games, and personal blogging. We will be particularly interested in how new communication technologies intrude into face-to-face conversation, producing what some scholars have called “augmented environments” and others “interactivity.” Finally, we will reflect on our own position as researchers who rely on digital media for analysis, considering the theoretical and even ethical implications of our use of audio- and video-recordings as evidential data.

LING 7800: Language and Performance Professor: Andrew Cowell

This course will look at the special case of language in performance – that is to say, special, marked genres of language use. These will include narrative, musical texts, joking, speeches, prayers, and didactic performances, oral poetry, discourses of salesmanship, and potentially other genres such as sermons and so forth. We will consider how these are all a special kind of “performance” and analyze definitions of performances of this sort in relation to broader theories of linguistic performativity. Among the questions we will consider are exactly how different these linguistic practices and behaviors are from less marked types of linguistic behavior and to what extent the term “performance” as elaborated by Bauman, Briggs, Hymes, Tedlock, Turner, Sherzer, and others is analytically useful; how such performances are marked in space and time through language; the ways in which such performances are involved in broader socio-linguistic phenomena such as language socialization, identity formation, and the development of cognitive models; and the ways in which phenomena such as literacy or uses of other specific language technologies, or code-switching, use of pidgins and jargons, and the like, can also be considered as performances in the context of certain societies.

The course will be primarily anthropological in approach: we will look at a number of cultures and languages from around the globe, with some attention to the contemporary US as well.

LING 7800: Language in Time and Space Professor: Kira Hall

This seminar reviews a diverse range of scholarship in sociocultural linguistics to examine how time and space are produced through discourse. Taking the linguistic literature on deixis as our starting point (deictics are expressions such as ‘then’, ‘now’, ‘that’, ‘this’, ‘there’, and ‘here’ whose interpretation depends strictly on the context in which they are uttered), we will move on to a broader consideration of the ways in which discursive practice—whether personal narrative, nationalist rhetoric, stand-up comedy routines, everyday conversation, place names, sexualized humor, online communication, multilingual billboards, graffiti, gestural emblems, or a localized language variety like Pittsburghese—is critically reliant on spatiotemporal considerations for its form, use, and interpretation. The readings assigned for this course consider time and space not as static phenomena that precede and determine discourse, but rather as sociocultural constructs that are ever-shifting and actively constituted by speakers. The course thus moves away from fixed notions of time and space to focus on the ideological processes of spatialization and temporalization, terms that highlight the production of these concepts within the social world. For instance, an important undercurrent of the course will consider how ideologies of time and space are invoked in the discursive production of identity (as when, to name a common example, urban-identified cosmopolitans assert themselves as "progressive" against an imagined rural backdrop of ‘backwardness’). The course will review contemporary scholarship on time and space from within sociocultural linguistics (as forged in literature on linguistic landscapes, narrative, sociolinguistic variation, linguistic anthropology, discourse, and globalization), as well as introduce relevant theoretical work from fields beyond linguistics.

LING 7800: Linguistic Hybridity Professor: Kira Hall

Although scholarship in discourse analysis has traditionally conceptualized interaction as taking place in a single language, a growing body of research in language and globalization has begun to view multilingual interaction as a norm instead of an exception. Linguistic scholarship acknowledging the diversity of sociality in this current era of accelerated globalization has focused on linguistic hybridity instead of uniformity, linguistic movement instead of stasis, and linguistic borders instead of interiors. This seminar seeks to address how we have arrived at this formulation through a sociohistorical account of theoretical perspectives on discursive practices associated with code switching. We use the term broadly in this course to encompass the many kinds of bidialectal, bilingual, and multilingual alternations that have often been subsumed under or discussed in tandem with code switching, among them borrowing, code-mixing, interference, diglossia, style shifting, crossing, mock language, bivalency, and hybridity. Graduate students from all disciplines are invited to participate in the seminar, although some experience with, or potential access to, code switching or style shifting language data is encouraged. The course will primarily teach perspectives developed within the related fields of linguistic anthropology and sociolinguistics, with some attention to research conducted within conversation analysis. There are no prerequisites for this course, other than graduate student standing and a willingness to read and think deeply.

LING 7800: Sociolinguistic Methods and Research Development Professor: Kira Hall

This seminar is designed to assist graduate students in the collection, interpretation, and analysis of sociolinguistic data, with special emphasis on ethnographic methods. The term sociolinguistics is here broadly defined to include diverse approaches to the study of language, culture, and society, ranging from linguistic anthropology to varied forms of socially oriented discourse analysis. Participants will decide on a socially meaningful topic to pursue during the first two weeks of the semester, after which they will collect, transcribe, and analyze supporting linguistic data, such as ethnographic interviews, audio-visual recordings of face-to-face or on-line interaction, political speeches, or other kinds of performance data. Each student will develop an annotated bibliography of theoretical and ethnographic scholarship tailored to the topic at hand, and will incorporate this bibliography into the final paper. The ultimate goal of the seminar, to be facilitated by instructor feedback, peer review, and selected readings on sociolinguistic and ethnographic methodology, is for students to develop an article suitable for publication in a leading journal. This seminar is designed for M.A. or Ph.D. students in any discipline who have had previous coursework in the areas of sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, conversation analysis, or socially oriented discourse analysis. Enrollment will be limited to 12 participants, so students interested in taking the seminar should contact the instructor before enrolling.

LING 7900: Topics in Native American Languages Professor: Andrew Cowell

This course will be a general survey of several key topics in the study of Native American languages, which for the purpose of this class will be the indigenous languages spoken in the US and Canada (we’ll include Hawaiian in that). As a semi-formalized independent study, the burden for much of the class presentation and discussion will fall on the students: the instructor will bring expertise and guidance, but he will not prepare extensive lectures, though he will certainly be willing to provide some formal contextualization and introduction to the topics in question. We will plan to meet once a week for 2-2 1/2 hours. The course will cover three main areas: 1) language structures; 2) ethnography of communication in Native America; 3) language maintenance, loss, endangerment and extinction and responses to it. We will spend around 5 weeks on each of the three areas.

SOCY 5531: Graduate Seminar in Social Psychology Professor: Leslie Irvine

Social Psychology is an interdiscipline situated between psychology, which examines inner lives and selves, and sociology, which examines the relationships between collectivities and organizations. Social psychologists examine how the self and the social interpenetrate, as well as how individuals influence one another. In other words, social psychology looks at the micro-macro link, also known as the relationship between structure and agency. By setting out as its terrain the intersection of two disciplines, social psychology has the benefits of borrowing from both intellectual histories. Yet, because of the organizational structure of American universities, social psychologists tend to be in either psychology departments or sociology departments (although more often in the former). Thus, there is psychological social psychology, and sociological social psychology. This course deliberately adopts an inclusive view that recognizes the contributions of both traditions, but emphasizes the sociological view. Within sociological social psychology, there are two predominant approaches, loosely categorized as experimental and symbolic interactionist. This course will examine both approaches, but will place more emphasis on the latter.

SPAN 5430/7430: Usage-based Approaches to Language Contact Professor: Esther Brown

This course provides a general introduction to usage-based theory and methods and explores the different insights gained through the application of such theory and methods to situations of language contact. Linguistic phenomena attributed to contact and studied in contact linguistics (e.g.; borrowing, convergence, code-switching) will be considered, and traditional explanations regarding causes and/or motivations for such changes will be questioned. The nature of the bilingual lexicon will be explored and the degree to which lexical representations can be implicated in processes of variation and change will be considered. Particular emphasis will be given empirical analyses of Spanish in contact with other languages.

SPAN 5450: Introduction to Hispanic Sociolinguistics
(Introducción a la Sociolingüística Hispánica) Professor: Esther Brown

This is a graduate-level introduction to the study of how language shapes and is shaped by society. The course will cover various approaches to sociolinguistic research with particular attention paid to quantitative methods employed within variationist approaches to language. Most examples for topics covered in class will be drawn, when possible, from studies conducted on varieties of Spanish world-wide.

Seminar Prerequisite: Advanced comprehension of spoken & written Spanish is required.