1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Linguistic Anthropology Seminar -- 2016 - 2017

Fall 2016

Friday, November 18, 3:30pm *note that we are meeting at a different time than usual* (Brooks Hall 2nd Floor Conference Room)

Dan Meliza, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

"Experience-Dependent Development of Auditory Processing in Songbirds: A Model for Early Speech Learning"

Human speech perception is profoundly and irreversibly shaped by auditory experience during the first year of life. We learn the acoustics of speech sounds and the makeup of phonetic categories from the statistical patterns of language input. It is important to understand the neural mechanisms of speech processing and how they are shaped by experience, specific language impairments, and dyslexia. Songbirds are a powerful animal model for studying these mechanisms because the ontogeny of song production is similar to speech in its trajectory and dependence on experience. Recent work in my lab has identified a candidate mechanism for how the temporal structure of early auditory experience prepares the brain to process temporarily complex inputs. 

Background reading: 

Kuhl, P. K. (2004). Early language acquisition: cracking the speech code. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 5(11): 831-843.  http://doi.org/10.1038/nrn1533


Friday, December 2, 1:30pm *note that we are meeting at a different time than usual* (Brooks Hall 2nd Floor Conference Room)

Frank Brannon, Research Fellow, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

"Print Your Own Language"

Frank will discuss his work supporting Cherokee language revitalization through letterpress printing. The work, done through the support of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, provided for contemporary art instruction while also honoring the heriage of Cherokee printing. Frank will share recently printed student work that was a part of printmaking classes at Southwestern Community College, North Carolina. More information about this project can be found at: http://virginiahumanities.org/2016/11/the-lost-art-of-cherokee-letterpress/


Friday, December 9, 1pm (Brooks Hall 2nd Floor Conference Room)

Grace Reynolds, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia

"Cooperativism, counter-voices, and tales of transgression in activist Barcelona"

Grace will be presenting about her dissertation research on Catalan.

This dissertation, a work-in-progress, looks at activist storytelling, situated language use in social movements, and the linguistic landscape of protest discourse in Barcelona, and sees a common theme emerge: transgression. In the form of civil disobedience, certainly, but transgression in other forms as well: in norms of language use and in collective direct action. I collect the stories of a group of elderly activists who were involved in clandestine labor-organizing under Franco's dictatorship, and who continue to organize today, aligning themselves with the anti-austerity, anti-capitalist 15M movement. I also engage with the visual linguistic landscape of protest among activists in the 15M movement and especially among this elderly group, demonstrating how the elderly activists are uniquely able to claim authority not only through the competing ideologies of authenticity and anonymity, but also indexically and performatively through their very presence as reminders of a different time in Spanish history with its transgressive traditions of cooperativism and worker self-management which are not emphasized (often not acknowledged) in mainstream 21st century Barcelona. Another dissertation chapter focuses on how ideologies of linguistic parochialism and cosmopolitanism are held and enacted differently by various members of the 15M community, in particular by one elderly activist who defies tradition in order to inhabit a 'free space' in which he can make the very Bakhtinian choice of 'not choosing at all' amongst the different politically-charged linguistic varieties in his heteroglossic Catalonian repertoire. Throughout the dissertation I argue that, acting as a mediator between past and present, the trope of disobedience/ transgression is a central foundation upon which activists in Barcelona construct a moral geography that places them, as activist subjects, in the center. Transgression and disobedience are constructed via storytelling, direct action, and protest to be at the moral center of activist consciousness, and are a necessary means of preserving a collective social order in opposition to individual business for profit.

Spring 2017

Friday, April 7, 4-6pm

Olivier Le Guen, Center for Advanced Study in Social Anthropology (CIESAS), Mexico

"A Linguistic and Cultural Approach to Epistemicity among the Yucatec Mayas (Mexico)"

According to Grice (Lecture 2:15): "Interlocutors are expected to meet the informational need of their interactional partner(s), i.e. if a speaker has access to the information required by the hearer, then he is expected to communicate that information to the hearer." It might be the case that speaker is expected to share the information, this does not mean however that (s)he willingly shares that information. Many recent cross-cultural studies in non-Western industrial cultures have challenged some "basic" conversational principles: in Madagascar (Ochs Keenan, 1976), in the Pacific (Duranti, 1992; Robbins & Rumsey, 2008; Rosaldo, 1980; Rumsey, 2013; Schieffelin, 2008 inter alia), and in Mesoamerica (Brown, (2002); Groark, (2013) for the Tseltal Maya in Mexico and Danziger (2006, 2013) for the Mopan of Belize). In this paper I will consider the management of epistemicity among the Yucatec Mayas of Mexico. I am interested in understanding not only the function of the evidential particle in Yucatec Maya but also its use and moreover, the cultural context in which it fits. More particularly, I will present and analyze what constitutes rules for knowledge acquisition and evaluation among the Yucatec Mayas, both children and adults.


Thursday, April 13, 5-7pm        EVENT CANCELLED: We will try to reschedule next Fall.

Amy Paugh, Department of Anthropology, James Madison University

A discussion on the concept of "sociolinguistic scale"

Amy will be leading us in a discussion of the concept of "sociolinguistic scale" and its potential applications and utility. There are two short background readings for this event: 

1. The first 11 pages of the introduction to the book Scale: Discourse and Dimensions of Social Life (2016), edited by E. Summerson Carr and Michael Lempert. The entire book is availabe open access via Luminos at: http://www.luminosoa.org/site/books/10.1525/luminos.15/

2. A short article entitled "Further Notes on Sociolinguistic Scales" by Jan Blommaert, Elina Westinen, and Sirpa Leppänen which was published in the journal Intercultural Pragmatics in 2015. 

Amy Paugh is Professor of Anthropology at James Madison University. Her research and publications focus on language and identity, language socialization, multilingualism, creole languages and cultures, and work and family. She has conducted fieldwork in Dominica in the Caribbean, and in Los Angeles, California. Her most recent book is Playing with Languages: Children and Change in a Caribbean Village (Berghahn Books, 2012). Her website can be found at: http://www.jmu.edu/socanth/anth/paugha.shtml