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Linguistic Anthropology

Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin offers an exceptionally diverse and comprehensive training program that is unique and unparalleled in the US. Our strength lies in our interdisciplinary approach to the teaching and applications of Linguistic Anthropology, whereby students benefit from a program grounded in sociocultural and sociolinguistic theory.

Graduate students select and combine from a broad range of expertise when developing a program of study, including:

  • An ethnographically constituted, discourse-centered approach to language, culture and society;
  • the close analysis of talk-in-interaction across a range of settings and contexts;
  • the analysis of gesture, body comportment and semiotic uses of space;
  • language endangerment and the role of the anthropologist in threatened communities;
  • issues in language contact and language change;
  • verbal art and the aesthetics of language production including humor, narrative and poetics;
  • institutional language and its role in the reproduction of culture and the nation-state;
  • the poetics and politics of translation;
  • language in its relation to other semiotic media;
  • post/colonial linguistic institutions.

Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin has long been at the center of the intellectual currents and theories of linguistic anthropology. Starting in the early 1970s, with the presence of such scholars as Richard Bauman, Ben Blount, Mary Sanches, Joel Sherzer, and Brian Stross, the Department was a hub of activity concerning the then emerging ethnography of speaking and performance based views of verbal art—which linked Linguistic Anthropology with concerns in Folklore and Sociolinguistics. Ties between Linguistic Anthropology and Folklore were exemplified in work by Roger Abrahams and Américo Paredes. In the 80s, UT Linguistic Anthropology was at the forefront of ethnopoetics and later the discourse-centered approach to language and culture. Key figures at the time were Steve Feld, Joel Sherzer, and Greg Urban. In the mid-90s, graduate students in Linguistic Anthropology helped create the Symposium About Language Society—Austin (SALSA), one of the premier graduate run conferences on topics of interest to Linguistic Anthropology. More recently, UT Linguistic Anthropology has been dedicated to the documentation and archiving of Indigenous languages of the Americas (resulting in the Archives of Indigenous Languages of Latin America, (AILLA).

UT Austin also has a top-ranked Department of Linguistics, and students in Linguistic Anthropology take courses with the Linguistics faculty who represent a comprehensive range of expertise, interests and language areas, including Professors Nora England, Patience Epps, Danny Law, and Tony Woodbury, among others. The departments of Anthropology and Linguistics continuously build close relationships among faculty and students through social and professional activities, which include symposia, interest groups and coordinated course offerings in such areas as natural discourse, social meaning and social variation in language, the nature of speech communities and the social basis of language change. The Texas tradition of Linguistic Anthropology has long stressed intensive ethnographic engagement and careful attention to linguistic details.

Within Linguistic Anthropology, we have a strong commitment to providing our undergraduate and graduate students with state-of-the-art equipment for coursework, field research, and data analysis in our Multimedia Lab. Relevant faculty and courses can also be found across the University, especially in the departments of English, French-Italian, Communication Studies, and Rhetoric and Composition.

In addition, faculty and students in linguistic anthropology and sociolinguistics maintain a continuing interest in the linguistic and cultural diversity found in Texas and its adjacent areas, and students are encouraged to take advantage of the ample opportunities for fieldwork in the region.