TU HomeTU PortalText Only Version

Linguistic Anthropology

Linguistic anthropology, one of the four traditional subdisciplines of American anthropology, is an inherently interdisciplinary field of study concerned with the dynamic relationships among language, culture, and society. 

With regard to anthropology's other three subdisciplines, linguistic anthropology is particularly closely allied, historically, theoretically, and epistemologically, with sociocultural anthropology.  (Many if not most linguistic anthropologists also consider themselves sociocultural anthropologists.)  Language is the primary symbolic medium through which humans apprehend, conceptualize, engage with, participate in, and thereby co-construct their worlds.  The study of language and other aspects of communicative practice is therefore crucial to understanding all aspects of human
society and culture, from the most intimate of face-to-face
interactions to the workings of institutions to such "global"
phenomena as colonialism, transnational migration, and the
proliferation of neoliberal modes of governmentality. 

Linguistic anthropology shares many of its basic units of analysis, and some of its working concepts, with the discipline of linguistics—especially sociolinguistics, pragmatics, discourse analysis, and other areas of study that conceptualize language, first and foremost, as a dynamic social phenomenon, and that treat language use as social action.  Linguistic anthropology is distinct from these other approaches to language, however, in that it is strongly rooted in social theory and ethnographic methods; and as this suggests, its concerns extend well beyond language to comprise virtually all aspects of human sociality.  Linguistic anthropologists recognize that language use and other kinds of communicative practice do not just reflect pre-existing social formations and cultural patterns—they are in fact fundamentally constitutive of society and culture. 

Linguistic anthropology at Temple has recently entered a new phase of development and innovation.  Over the next few years, we hope to recruit outstanding new faculty members, work with highly motivated new graduate students, and develop an expanded curriculum of courses for undergraduate anthropology majors and minors who wish to specialize in linguistic anthropology.  Funding has been secured for updating and improving the Linguistic Anthropology Teaching Laboratory, which supports course-related projects as well as independent research and provides a forum for collaborative hands-on training.

In our research and teaching, Temple's linguistic anthropologists are concerned with virtually all aspects of communicative practice, understood in the broadest of terms
to include spoken language as well as written texts, the aural,
visual, and performing arts, audio and video recordings,
"new media," and other modes of expression and
meaning-making.  As in years past, linguistic anthropology
continues to be an integral part of the department’s
longstanding specialization in the anthropology of visual
communication.  We are also expanding and strengthening
our collaborative relationships with faculty members and
students in other Temple departments and colleges whose
scholarly activities focus on language and language-related

Linguistic Anthropology Teaching Laboratory

The Linguistic Anthropology Teaching Laboratory, or "LingAnth
Lab," is a resource for both instruction and research.  It provides
work space and technological support for linguistic anthropology
courses (both graduate and undergraduate) as well as for
independent projects that involve collection and analysis of audio
and audio-video data.  The LingAnth Lab makes it possible for
linguistic anthropology students and others with similar interests
to receive practical, hands-on training in data collection and
analysis.  It also serves as a center for collaborative faculty and
faculty-student research projects. 


Department of Anthropology | Gladfelter Hall, second floor | 1115 West Berks Street | Philadelphia, PA 19122
Voice mail: 215-204-7577 Fax: 215-204-1410