The Subject and Perspective of Anthropological Linguistics


Characterize the subject and perspective of anthropological linguistics (opposed to e.g. sociolinguistics).
Please use the uploaded chapters as a part of the sources.


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Linguistics Paper

11 September 2016.

The Subject and Perspective of Anthropological Linguistics

            Anthropological linguistics is a field of linguistics that studies language and its relation to culture as well as its influence on sustaining cultural practices (Foley 19). In contrast, sociolinguistics refers to the study of language as it related to social factors such as differences in religion, gender, class, and bilingualism/ multilingualism (Woolard 240). The field of anthropological linguistics arose due to the need to document endangered languages, to study theoretically the use of language as well as to answer questions related to the field of linguistics from an anthropology perspective (Duranti 35). It studies how language defines communication, organizes widespread cultural beliefs and ideologies, and develops a common cultural representation in communities.  Studies in anthropological linguistics have helped to spur research in the fields of human biology, visual perception, language processing, and cognition.


            Meanwhile, one may draw contrast with sociolinguistics, a branch of linguistics that focuses on how language varieties differ among groups that are separated social variables such as status, religion, level of education, gender, and ethnicity (Robbins and Rumsey 415). Using these variables, norms are created for use in divide individuals into various social entities, with language playing a central role in this process (Salzmann, Stanlaw and Adachi 126). From the sociolinguistic perspective, language variations are conceptualized in terms of social constraints and changes in the environment as well as the context in which different language varieties are used. One of the outcomes of this approach is the emergence of code-switching, a phenomenon involving the use of customized language varieties in different social situations and contextual settings. While anthropological linguistics has its clear focus on a people’s culture and its effect on language and vice versa, the sociolinguistic perspective is directed at social factors that influence language use and how language use shapes social interactions.           

Works Cited

Duranti, Alessandro. Linguistic Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Print.

Foley, William A. Anthropological Linguistics: An Introduction. Malden: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 1997. Print.

Robbins, Joel and Rumsey, Allan. “Introduction: Cultural and Linguistic Anthropology and the Opacity of Other Minds.” Anthropological Quarterly, 81.2 (2008): 407-420. Print.

Salzmann, Zdenek, Stanlaw, James and Adachi, Nobuko. Language, Culture, and Society: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology. Princeton: Westview Press, 2014. Print.

Woolard, Kathryn A. “Language Ideology: Issues and Approaches.” Pragmatics, 2.3 (1992): 235-249. Web.

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