Linguistic & Semiotic Anthropology

Linguistic and semiotic anthropologists study how language and other systems of human communication contribute to the reproduction, transmission, and transformation of culture. They are concerned with the role of language and other communicative systems in reproducing and transforming such aspects of society as power relations, ideology, subcultural expression, as well as class, gender and ethnic identity.

Linguistic anthropologists study language as an integral aspect of social life. Because, language is a primary vehicle for social interaction and social interaction in turn is the medium through which the major institutions of any society (the family, the law, the polity, the economy) are implemented, linguistic anthropologists study a broad swath of human social life. At the University of Toronto , linguistic anthropology is conceptualized as one aspect of a broader study of semiotic systems. Semioticians study the way sign systems organize meaning and culture within communicative practice, as well as the way such sign systems articulate with other aspects of social life.

In terms of methodology, linguistic anthropologists combine ethnographic techniques of long-term participant observation through fieldwork with the use of audio or video recording technology. While fieldwork provides the broader context and temporal span that is crucial to interpretation, recordings allow linguistic anthropologists to focus in on particular details of language and social interaction. Linguistic anthropologists have also increasingly turned to the study of written texts in their socio-historical contexts of production and dissemination. By this combination of methods and analytic techniques linguistic anthropologists are able to examine how language and other systems of human communication contribute to the reproduction, transmission, and transformation of culture, as well as the role of language and other communicative systems in reproducing and transforming power relations, ideology, class, gender and ethnic identity. Moreover, linguistic anthropologists have developed a unique approach to the details of linguistic form itself – seeing it not as an abstract representational medium or as a reflection of inner cognitive process but rather as a public practice and instrument of social action.

Linguistic Anthropology Faculty

Marcel Danesi – Europe (Italy, France), North America

Ivan Kalmar – Europe

Hy Van Luong – Asia (East and Mainland South East Asia)

Bonnie S. McElhinny – Asia (Philippines), North America (Canada, USA)

Alejandro Paz – Israel, Middle East

Jack Sidnell – Caribbean

Francis Cody – Southeast Asia

Sarah Hillewaert – Africa

Linguistic Anthropology on the Internet