1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Linguistic Anthropology Seminar -- Fall 2010

Thursday, September 2, 4:30-6:30pm (Brooks Hall 2nd Floor Conference Room)

Marcin Kilarski, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland

"On the Regularity and Functions of Nominal Classification"

Suggested Reading

Contini-Morava, Ellen, and Marcin Kilarski. Functions of Nominal Classification. Under review for the journal Studies in Language.

Note: Professor Kilarski will also be speaking in the Department of Anthropology seminar series at 1pm on Friday, September 3, 2010, in the Brooks Hall 2nd Floor Conference Room. The title of his lecture is "Eskimo Words for 'Snow' and Linguistic Misconceptions in Social Sciences and Philosophy."


Tuesday, September 21, 3:30-6pm (Brooks Hall 2nd Floor Conference Room)

Susan Penfield, National Science Foundation and the University of Arizona

"Linguistic Research in Indigenous Communities: Finding Common Ground"

The history of linguistic field researchers working in U.S. indigenous communities is fraught with classic stories about the tensions created by conflicting goals, methods, protocols, and power positions. There have been changes in how researchers see themselves in relation to communities, but this fact is not always embraced by indigenous groups, who may have a negative history with the research community. This talk addresses some of the issues, some of the trends toward change, and some of the possible answers. Dr. Penfield's reflections draw from her 40 years of experience working with indigenous tribes in the Southwest and from her perspective as a Program Officer for the Documenting Endangered Languages Program at the National Science Foundation. Collaborative research projects involving both academic institutions and community-based participants are discussed from the point of view of both on-the-ground field work and from the position of funding agencies which support community-based research projects.

This seminar will be a joint discussion with ANTH 5549, Language and the Culture of Preservation.

Suggested Readings

Grenoble, Lenore A. and Lindsay J. Whaley. 2006. Saving Languages: An Introduction to Language Revitalization. Chapter 2: Issues in Language Revitalization, pp. 21-49. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

National Science Foundation. 2010. Documenting Endangered Languages Program Solicitation # 06-577. Section I (Introduction) and Section II (Program Description).


Friday, October 1, 1-3pm (Brooks Hall 2nd Floor Conference Room)

John Rickford, Stanford University

"Girlz II Women: Age-grading, Language Change and Stylistic Variation"

Quantitative sociolinguistics, as pioneered by Labov’s studies of Martha’s Vineyard (1963) and New York city (1966), achieved its most ready acceptance within mainstream linguistics for its breakthroughs in the study of change in progress. Its advances included the use of socially realistic data (recordings of people from different social groups speaking in various styles) at one point in time, the age differentials providing evidence of change in apparent time. The importance of seeking confirmatory evidence of change in real time has always been emphasized, e.g. to distinguish between age grading and generational change. However, as Sankoff and Blondeau (2007:561) note, the number of longitudinal studies of real-time change in sociolinguistics over the past forty years is small, relative to the larger number of synchronic, apparent time studies. In this paper I report on a new longitudinal study of stability and change in African American Vernacular English [AAVE], as spoken in the low income, minority community of East Palo Alto, California. Although AAVE has received far more attention within sociolinguistics than any other ethnic or regional dialect, it has attracted only a handful of longitudinal studies, all within the last twelve years. The present study, in which I collaborated with Stanford undergraduate Mackenzie Price, is primarily a panel study of the same individuals at two points in time, focusing in depth on the language of Foxy Boston and Tinky Gates. First interviewed in 1987 when they were 14 and 15 years of age respectively, they used whopping percentages of the canonical AAVE forms, like copula absence, invariant habitual be, and third singular present tense –s absence. Re-interviewed in 2006 and 2008, however, as working mothers in their thirties, they show significantly reduced usage of all these variables. The basic conclusion to be drawn from this and the independent evidence of a recent study of the same community is that Foxy and Tinky’s altered usage represents age-grading rather than generational change. However the picture is not that simple, as revealed by attention to stylistic variation in both speakers, and the evidence of multiple recordings in the intervening years (Rickford and McNair 1994). The importance of style in this case raises questions about the validity of earlier studies of stability and change which may not have taken this variable into account. And it reaffirms the value of what Eckert (2005) has called ‘third wave’ sociolinguistics, in which the study of style and social meaning are central.

Professor Rickford will also be speaking the evening before (Thursday, September 30) at 5:00 pm in Wilson 301 on "African American Vernacular English and the Black/White Achievement Gap in American Schools." His talk is sponsored by the Linguistics Program, the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies. A reception will follow.

Suggested Reading

Sankoff, G., and H. Blondeau. 2007. Language change across the lifespan: /r/ in Montreal French. Language 83.3:560-588.


Friday, October 22, 11am-1pm (Brooks Hall 2nd Floor Conference Room)

Yuling Pan, U.S. Census Bureau

"Politeness in Historical and Contemporary Chinese"

This talk is based on the author's new book (with Daniel Kadar) which takes a diachronic approach to comparatively examine linguistic politeness in historical (18th century to early 20th century) and contemporary (1950s to present) Chinese. After outlining the main characteristics of linguistic politeness in historical and contemporary Chinese, the author analyzes the motivating socio-political-cultural factors behind the large-scale changes in politeness practice that took place in modern China. She will discuss the implications of such a study for other areas, including intercultural communication and Census Bureau data collection efforts.

This seminar is generously sponsored by the East Asia Center.

Suggested Reading

Yuling Pan and Daniel Kadar. Forthcoming 2011. Politeness in Historical Contemporary Chinese (Selections from Chapter 2). London/NY: Continuum.