Talk:Linguistic anthropology

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 Definition The branch of anthropology that brings linguistic methods to bear on anthropological problems, linking the analysis of semiotic and particularly linguistic forms and processes to the interpretation of sociocultural processes. [d] [e]
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 Workgroup categories Anthropology and Linguistics [Editors asked to check categories]
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Original Authorship Note: The original form of this CZ article has been written by User:James M. Wilce, who wrote the version that first appeared on Wikipedia. He has moved the article here to CZ, in its original form ready for further development.
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link to the relevant version on WP


What if we applied CZ:CZ4WP#Get_ready_to_rethink_how_to_write_encyclopedia_articles.21 (and the links that points to) to this? ---Stephen Ewen 14:57, 9 April 2007 (CDT)

Maybe I'm just tired, but I'm not sure exactly which style issues in those articles you are most concerned about here. Is one of them voice/register? If so, I find this prose at a level appropriate for university readers, as called for in the articles you mention. Also, the narrative structure of the article is built sensibly on the chronological trajectory of the discipline, highlighting how it emerged and then can be seen to fall within three discernible paradigms (a useful way of characterizing that history, in my opinion), highlighting the key *kinds* of contributions of the subdiscipline and the names of scholars associated with those concepts. I think most of the initial wikifying process (links, referencing & typeface conventions) will help make it more readable to those outside the (sub)discipline. Do you have other particular style concerns that should be addressed before approval? ---Richard J. Senghas 00:33, 10 April 2007 (CDT)

There is some really great stuff here, so don't get me wrong -- this is a wonderful starting point that Dr. Wilce has given. The "meat" of it is just great. My issue is that I find the article to be too inaccessible for the university level person. It is quite jargon-laden, lacks adequate elucidation, is not really a narrative (which often show more than they tell) but is written in dense prose that exhibits erudition more than really introducing a topic to someone who needs one. It reads to me like a summary of the field written for graduate students who are already familiar with other anthropological sub-disciplines. One illustrative quote is, "It is the ideology that people should "really" be monoglot and effeciently targeted toward referential clarity rather than diverting themselves with the messiness of multiple codes in play at a single time." Most readers (assuming they keep reading that far) will probably think, Translation please? -- and I venture to say that will probably not be the first time they will have asked themselves that question during the reading.

By narrative, I have something like this in mind, which is similar in pattern to the intro I wrote for anthropology, although this was done as just a quick sketch for illustration:

Linguistic anthropology is the study of the relationship between language and culture. As one of the four primary fields within American anthropology, it developed during the 19X0s as anthropologists studied how the languages and thought processes of North American native people groups transmitted their culture to the succeeding generations. While such study remains an important focus of linguistic anthropologists today, many have applied their perspective to the study of kinship patterns and naming categories among diverse people groups. [Show several examples]. Throughout all their work, lingusitc anthropologists are guided by a fundamental question: Do differing people groups understand the world differently from one another because of cultural and structural differences in their languages? They seek to understand how peoples' understandings of the world may be encoded in their talk and texts.

I see no reason to rush this to approval -- or perhaps you can share the reason if there is one?

Stephen Ewen 02:14, 10 April 2007 (CDT)

Hey Stephen, thanks for the quick response, and for opening up what seems to me to be a useful discussion.
Well, I suspect we have different expectations on reading levels associated that would be tagged as "university level." (Of course, that's an age-old debate among both educators and students!) I see Jim's register as what I would expect to be accessible to upper division undergraduates, and the register you used above in your example as upper high-school or entry-level university. I know I push to the high end. But perhaps the level you used may be where CZ is most effective. If that is indeed the target level, it seems to me that the intro and first two paradigm subsections aren't all that problematic; the language seems relatively close to the level you have used, even if the voice is a little different (perhaps a little more formal). I do think some of the material in the third paradigm subsection might be tinkered with to increase accessibility. I think the third to last (or antepenultimate --I haven't had the chance to use that term in a long time, and I won't get to in any CZ article!) and last paragraphs are the most difficult and dense, and maybe we could do something to make those easier for the reader. Actual examples are always good, and data can be fun! (Note, though, that Jim has given specific examples, but how much data can be put in an encyclopedic article?)
If possible, though, I'd like to see the terminology of the field maintained, but "scaffolded" a bit more to make such terminology more easily understood for readers naive to linguistic anthropology. I think avoiding disciplinary terminology altogether eviscerates much of the core contributions made by a field. (I'm avoiding the term "jargon" because it has come to connote derogatory associations when used outside of academia.) The precision of such terms, and the types of categories and relationships used by practitioners are both the means and results of the discipline's insights. "Common sense" and "plain language" that reinforce habitual ways of (not) thinking about things are exactly what scientific disciplines and the arts are meant to transcend. (Why does Whorf come to mind?) Don't articles about subfields of disciplines (rather than the encompassing disciplines themselves) tend to be of interest to those already a little familiar with the mother disciplines, and therefore we can't assume a slightly more informed audience?
About the "rush" to approve. Maybe it's just eagerness, but maybe I am also a bit concerned that while CZ still enjoys some of the "novelty" factor, we need to encourage the approval of as many articles as can be made ready. We need a corpus that draws people into CZ. It's a critical mass sort of thing. If we can't get enough (approved) CZ mass gathered, we won't gather even more. The approved articles are our stock in trade here at CZ. There's a part of me that thinks tweaking the register shouldn't hold something back from approval if there's meat, there's accuracy/validity, some good sources that people can chase further, and good links and other wiki features. Better versions can be approved as they come along, why wait for perfection?
BTW: I don't think I'm staking out any fixed positions. Make a counter-argument, and I'll be open to reconsidering my positions.
Richard J. Senghas 16:04, 10 April 2007 (CDT)

I'll try to offer a more extensive reply later. For now:

I completely agree that avoiding disciplinary terminology altogether eviscerates much of the core contributions made by a field. I think what we need to do is explain disciplinary terminology in the article body, though, and not just let such terms be. I think the main reason people use encyclopedias for an intro on disciplinary subjects is because they are new, even brand new to the topic. For example, I recall when thinking about taking the class Social Psychology, although having taken Intro to Psychology, that I looked it up in an encyclopedia beforehand, wondering, Okay, so what is this really all about?. Encyclopedias are people's "first stop", we might say. I think we need to keep that in mind and write for that audience -- an actually very enjoyable albeit challenging task, I think, but one that causes us to ourselves have to expand very beneficially along the way and that is pride-evoking in the end.

One thing I always do when I write curriculum (part of my "day job" :D ) is run my writing through some software (MS Word and some other word processors actually have this function if you turn it on in the spellcheck options) that determines its Flesch-Kincaid reading level. Flesch-Kincaid is a widely used "standard" tool among educationalists for measuring readability, and it has a great record of proving useful. Of my above intro, Flesch-Kincaid says it is written at grade-level 15.4 -- the second semester of the junior year of college -- about right when most would be thinking about the subject or considering or actually taking the class. As the article currently stands, however, Flesch-Kincaid says it is written at grade-level 19.2! 20 is the Flesch-Kincaid maximum. —–Stephen Ewen 21:37, 10 April 2007 (CDT)

The explaining of disciplinary terminology as it is introduced, and then reinforcing that introduction by actual use within the ensuing text, is exactly what I referred to (or intended to refer to) when I used the term "scaffolded" above. I guess that was too-short a shorthand. So I think we have agreement there.
On the Flesch-Kinkaid scale, I have sometimes had disagreements with how that scale is often interpreted and used. As an athropologist who studies language use and how it changes over time, I have a keen appreciation for the description/prescription distinctions. Perhaps the F-K scale reasonably accurately describes a piece of writing's equivalent level based on contemporary statistical comparisons. However I find that, in general, the "expected level" (i.e. the prescriptive evaluation) for secondary and post-secondary levels has descended as the descriptive level has been used repeatedly to justify simplification of vocabulary and sentence complexity used in formal writing (whether academic, nonfiction, or even literary). A simple example can illustrate nicely. Take any first edition Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew novel, and compare it with the same novel from a recent edition (less than 10 years old). The target age-level has remained roughly the same, these are all "juvenile" novels, but the publishers have chosen (primarily for the sake of increased sales) to "simplify" the language. The writing has, over time, become less rich, less precise, less nuanced, and ultimately less evocative. (I'm not worried about register or sociolect or "correct" English; I'm all for questioning the hegemony of so-called Standard English.) Furthermore, this continuing simplification, constantly repeated, reinforces a tendency for emerging readers to avoid developing critical reading skills and nuanced language. Drawing on Vygotsky's notions of Zones of Proximal Development, I'd like CZ's approved articles to model the use of more advanced language than what appears in typical journalism, something more along the lines of what appears in extended New Yorker pieces, or the kind of writing Stephen Jay Gould would produce (both his formal and informal pieces). His writings are marvelous. I like writing that valorizes BOTH erudition and elegance. (Not valorizes elegance at the expense of erudition.)
A follow-up to the "rush-to-approve" thread: Sanger's recent post to the Citizendium-L ("Life affirmed," 4/11/2007) resonates with our respective concerns. He calls for both nice prose and good materials, while his urgings for more articles are consistent with why I feel eagerness to move pieces along through approval where possible!
Richard J. Senghas 07:12, 11 April 2007 (CDT)


I think I got all of the sources. Feel free to re-adjust the format. --Joe Quick (Talk) 19:35, 9 April 2007 (CDT)

Second Workgroup - Linguistics?

I think it might be a good idea to add the Linguistics Workgroup to the workgroup list and categories for this article. Does anyone know of any reasons I shouldn't?

--Richard J. Senghas 04:31, 12 April 2007 (CDT)

External links, &c.

In light of the discussion on Talk:anthropology regarding formatting text that refers to external links to online documents, what do we want as a convention for external links to things like journals, professional society websites, and other websites of linguistic and anthropological interest? Do we want to show the URL's in the text, or will that just get ugly and distracting?

Richard J. Senghas 05:34, 12 April 2007 (CDT)

I'm not sure that I understand the question. Do you mean in the "External Links" section? Or the references? Everwhere?
For references to articles that are available online, see what I did with the Hendrickson paper (#5) in the references section of Tecum Umam. For the "external links" section, what we have for this page looks good. --Joe Quick (Talk) 12:09, 13 April 2007 (CDT)

I did indeed mean in the External links section. I do think what you did in the references for Tecum Umam looks quite nice, and I think we should adopt (er, continue to use) that format.

Richard J. Senghas 14:10, 13 April 2007 (CDT)

In that case, I'll just repeat what I wrote above: I think the current format for the External Links section is the right one. ;) --Joe Quick (Talk) 16:33, 13 April 2007 (CDT)
URLs should be visible! People print this stuff out. Stephen Ewen 17:40, 13 April 2007 (CDT)
That was my concern with my much shortened version of citations for archived webpages. There is no longer any way to see where the link leads after you've printed the article.
As long as the links are relatively short, it might be best to leave the URL intact, but long addresses get extremely unwieldy and we should keep in mind that in order for someone to visit those sites, they'll need to be at a computer which would also allow them to return to the CZ page and click on the link. --Joe Quick (Talk) 18:18, 13 April 2007 (CDT)

Multimedia examples

I'd sure love to see some figures, diagrams, or pictures added. I think it would draw readers in a bit more. For example, Don Kulick doing fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, Elinor Ochs or Bambi Schieffelin working with locals in Samoa and with the Kaluli, among others. Perhaps even a bit of transcription tied to audio (even video? Have we such resources for CZ?). --Richard J. Senghas 02:16, 14 September 2007 (CDT)

I'll place that in my work plan.  —Stephen Ewen (Talk) 04:18, 14 September 2007 (CDT)
I've found audio and video, but it will require permission.  —Stephen Ewen (Talk) 01:32, 17 September 2007 (CDT)