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Linguistic Anthropology

Language is a, if not the, particularly human ability. Linguistic anthropologists are concerned with not only the sound, meaning, and structure of language, but also how it is acquired and lost and how people use it in social contexts (sometimes known as the ethnography of speaking). The program in anthropological linguistics is designed to train the student in modern techniques of language analysis and description, while providing exposure to the elements of diversity and universality in human language use. The student gains familiarity with real language data, at the same time developing theoretical frameworks within which to evaluate this knowledge and skills in formal analysis, language, and social modeling.

Our Anthropology Department includes two full-time linguists:

  • Assistant Professor Nathalie Dajko studies Linguistics, sociolinguistics, language death, pidgins and creoles, and Louisiana French.
  • Professor Judith Maxwell is involved in research in Mesoamerica, a long-time strength of the Department. She teaches courses in pragmatics, language and power, and language and gender. She is a fluent speaker of two Mayan languages - Chuj and Kaqchikel - both spoken in highland Guatemala, and she offers a course in spoken Nahuatl during the academic year and a sequence of courses in the Kaqchikel language and culture in Guatemala during the summer. She also teaches spoken Yucatecan Maya.
  • Professor Olanike Ola Orie carries out research in West Africa and specializes in dialects of Yoruba, a language of Nigeria, as well as linguistic theory, language acquisition, and sign language. She offers courses in phonetics, phonology, morphology, and language acquisition, as well as in spoken Yoruba, her native language.
  • Professor Nick Spitzer researches folklore, ethnography, and American vernacular music/culture.
  • Assistant Professor Marc Zender studies contemporary and historically-attested Mesoamerican languages in order to reconstruct older stages of these languages, the better to compare them to ancient writing from the region. As an epigrapher and archaeologist, his work focuses on the ongoing decipherment and interpretation of these writing systems, and especially in their origins, development, and eventual abandonment during the Colonial era.

For the Interdisciplinary Linguistics Program, click here, or navigate to its page through the link on our Resources page.