1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Linguistic Anthropology Seminar -- Spring 2008

Friday, January 25, 1-3pm (Brooks Hall)

Lise Dobrin: "Dying to be counted: Commodification of endangered languages in documentary linguistics" (with Peter Austin and David Nathan, SOAS)


Dan Lefkowitz: "Creaky voice: Constructions of gender and authority in American English conversation" (with Mark Sicoli, Max Planck Institute)

Presentations from the Nov. 2007 AAA meetings

Suggested Readings

Kopytoff, Igor. 1986. The cultural biography of things: Commoditization as process. In Arjun Appadurai (ed.), The social life of things: Commodities in cultural perspective, pp. 64-91. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [Dobrin]

Grivicic, T. and C. Nilep. 2004. When phonation matters: The use and function of yeah and creaky voice. Colorado Research in Linguistics 17: 1-11. [Lefkowitz]


Thursday, March 13, 4-6pm (Brooks Hall Library)

Steven H. Weinberger (Associate Professor and Director of Linguistics, George Mason University)

"The special status of /s/ in second language speech"

This paper deals with the L2 modifications of English 2-member onset clusters and ultimately with the proper phonological representation of these clusters.

English allows approximately 27 different 2-member onset clusters, and there is some debate on the proper categorization of these clusters. Blevins (1996), Boyd, (2006), and Stemberger and Treiman (1986) group them all equivalently. Broselow (1987), and Selkirk (1982) divide them up into two classes: those clusters that violate the Sonority Sequencing Constraint (Clements 1982)), ([sp], [st], [sk]), and those that do not ([bl], [kw], [fr], [sn], [sl]...). A third categorization separates all of the /s/-clusters from all other onset clusters. This is the position of Barlow (2001), Davis (1990), and Treiman, et. al. (1992). There is a fourth hypothesis that further divides the /s/-clusters into two subgroups: the /s/+stop clusters ([sp], [st], [sk]), are merged with the /s/+nasal clusters, and this merger is classified differently from the other /s/-clusters, like [sl]. This is the position of Geirut (1999) and Yavaş and Someillan (2005). This paper presents controlled cluster production data from over 450 non-native speakers of English from 200 native language backgrounds, and suggests that all /s/-clusters be classified together. English onset clusters like [pl] [fr]…; [sp] [st] [sk]; [sm] [sn]; and [sl] were produced and analyzed. Three types of cluster modification behaviors were observed: L2 speakers either added a vowel before the cluster (prothesis), added a vowel between the cluster (anaptyxis), or deleted one member of the cluster. The results show that there is an overwhelming use of anaptyxis and liquid deletion in the [pl] [fr] types. There is an equally large and inordinate use of prothesis in all of the /s/ clusters. This supports the third hypothesis above: all /s/ clusters pattern similarly. This is the case even for speakers whose native languages lack clusters altogether. The indication here is that the phonological grammar of L2 adults is more sensitive to the exceptional nature of /s/ in clusters than to sonority sequencing violations.

Suggested Reading

Gierut, Judith A. 1999. Syllable onsets: Clusters and adjuncts in acquisition. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 42: 708-726.

Steven Weinberger will also be giving a general lecture on accented English on Friday, March 14, at 1 pm in Minor 125.


Friday, March 28, 11:30-12:45 (Brooks Hall Library)

"The promises and challenges of community language revitalization in Chiapas, Mexico." A brown bag lunch with Genaro Lopez, facilitated by Lydia Rodriguez.

Genaro Lopez is a local teacher hailing from the Northern Rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico. Bilingual in Chol Mayan and Spanish, he has worked to initiate a program of bilingual Chol/Spanish education in Sabanilla, Chiapas. Genaro comes to us willing to discuss bilingual education in the local political and linguistic context. The seminar presents an opportunity for us to learn about an increasingly endangered language and community efforts to revitalize it from the perspective of a native speaker.


Wednesday, May 14, 2pm (Brooks Hall Library)

Adam Harr (Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia)

"Recentering the margin: New orders of indexicality in decentralized Indonesia"

Suggested Reading

Lee, Benjamin. 1997. The Performativity of Foundations. In Talking Heads: Language, Metalanguage, and the Semiotics of Subjectivity, pp. 321-345. Durham: Duke University Press.