Working closely with cultural anthropologists in the department, linguistic anthropologists examine how language use and choice shape the cultural and social diversity of communities and persons.
This research reveals how political, economic, and social processes are grounded in communicative practices and linguistic forms and subject to transformation over time. We adopt a variety of ethnographic and sociolinguistic methods to document the social life of language, applying these methods across large and small-scale societies and with mobile and diasporic peoples to understand language within broad sociohistorical contexts. As anthropologists, we also seek to contribute to a deeper understanding of one of the most important legacies of human evolution, our shared capacity for language and symbolic communication, along with our diverse ways of using language in everyday life in different modalities, written, spoken, signed, and face-to-face, among others.
Topics of particular interest include social interaction, acquisition and socialization, multilingualism, language ideology, language contact and social change, linguistic minorities, language and political economy, and language and media.
Graduate Program in Linguistic Anthropology
We train graduate students to carry out research in a broad range of communities and settings where complex issues of language choice and variation are tied to other social phenomena, such as migration and transnational processes, gender, education, religion, politics, race, and social class. Situating the study of language practice within a framework of political economy also enables students to examine how language partakes in systems of exchange and social inequality. This program serves students both within and outside of the Anthropology Department at NYU. Within the department, the linguistic anthropology core course is required for students in cultural and linguistic anthropology. Additional courses complement departmental strengths--for example, culture and media--and offer students training in discourse analysis and social interaction. These courses expose critical connections between macro-level social institutions and the micro-level linguistic and social practices contributing to their reproduction and change.
Many students also elect to take courses in linguistics at the LSA Institute and in sociolinguistics at the Department of Linguistics. Students can participate in the Working Group in Urban Sociolinguistics, which was established in collaboration with the Department of Linguistics to showcase qualitative and quantitative research on language in cities. Members of the linguistic anthropology community at NYU also collaborate with other educational institutions in the New York area to support the anthropological study of language. NYLAWG (New York Linguistic Anthropology Working Group), which is hosted in NYU’s Anthropology Department, functions as a laboratory for scholars and graduate students to present and receive feedback on original research in progress.