Academic Catalog


Foothill College Course Outline of Record

Foothill College Course Outline of Record
Heading Value
Effective Term: Summer 2024
Units: 4
Hours: 4 lecture per week (48 total per quarter)
Degree & Credit Status: Degree-Applicable Credit Course
Foothill GE: Area IV: Social & Behavioral Sciences
Transferable: CSU/UC
Grade Type: Letter Grade (Request for Pass/No Pass)
Repeatability: Not Repeatable

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Students will practice and apply understandings of linguistic anthropology, especially as it applies to cultural relativism.
  • Students will learn how to critically analyze and interpret linguistic data.
  • Students will apply anthropological principles for solving human problems on the local, regional and world scales.


A cross-cultural investigation into the relationship between language and culture. An exploration into the origins and structure of language as a human phenomenon, including a historical and comparative analysis and classification of world languages, as well as how language works to produce social realities, construct us as individuals, and mark us as members of groups, and how language is used in processes of globalization and domination. Topics covered include theories of language, linguistic relativity, language diversity and inequality, gendered language, code-switching, and the creative use of language in the information age.

Course Objectives

The student will be able to:

  1. Recognize the scope of the multi-faceted discipline of anthropology and explain the relationships between the four fields and applied anthropology.
  2. Critically reflect on the discipline of anthropology as a Western academic tradition with historical roots in colonialism, and identify the contributions of women and BIPOC scholars and indigenous communities to the discipline today.
  3. Describe the conceptual framework of an anthropological study, with particular emphasis on utilizing a holistic perspective in the study of culture and identifying the crucial distinction between ethnocentrism and the practice of cultural relativism, particularly as applied to the study of language and communication.
  4. Identify the core components of the field of linguistic anthropology, including the various fieldwork methods used by linguistic anthropologists, and identify career opportunities in the field.
  5. Evaluate the evidence for the origins of language from an evolutionary and biocultural perspective.
  6. Compare and contrast human and animal communication systems.
  7. Interpret the origin and evolution of language families.
  8. Examine the historical origins and development of writing, and how and why literacy has become a marker of civilization, and the importance of writing in the hierarchy of state societies.
  9. Identify the different theories that explain language acquisition.
  10. Analyze theoretical models describing the relationship between language and culture, including the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (linguistic determinism) vs. language as a reflection of culture.
  11. Recognize how kinesics, proxemics, gestures, and other aspects of nonverbal communication are products of enculturation.
  12. Critically reflect on how language and communication are correlated with socio-cultural factors such as gender, race and ethnicity, and class, and the characteristics and significance of code-switching.
  13. Evaluate cultural, historical, and political factors, including globalization, that lead to language change and linguistic diversity, including an awareness of the differences between dialects, hybrid languages, slang, pidgin and creole, and the interplay of social stratification and language.
  14. Evaluate factors leading to language loss, the effect of the loss of linguistic diversity on a local, national, and global scale, and place in this context preservation efforts applied to languages targeted for extinction.
  15. Evaluate the effect of computers, the internet, and artificial intelligence in the information age on language and communication.

Course Content

  1. Introduction to anthropology as a discipline
    1. Anthropology and the four field approach
    2. Anthropology as a science and social science: the biocultural perspective
    3. History and evolution of the discipline
    4. Contributions to the discipline made by indigenous communities, women, and BIPOC scholars
    5. The guiding principles of anthropology: holism, avoiding ethnocentrism, and practicing cultural relativism
    6. Applied anthropology
  2. Introduction to linguistic anthropology
    1. Scope of the field and the relationship to the other three fields
    2. Research questions linguistic anthropologists ask
    3. Data collection methodologies: participant observation
    4. Products and applications of linguistic anthropology
    5. Ethical considerations
    6. Key scholars: Franz Boas, Edward Sapir, Benjamin Lee Whorf, Ruth Benedict, Clifford Geertz
  3. The origin of language
    1. Overview of human evolution
    2. The biology of language
    3. Animal call systems vs. human language
    4. Primate communication (lab vs. field)
    5. Neanderthals and language ability
    6. The evolution of linguistic diversity: diffusion, contact and borrowing
  4. The structure and features of human language and communication
    1. Phonemes, morphemes, lexicon, syntax
    2. Etics and emics
    3. Displacement, arbitrariness, multivocality
    4. Nonverbal language, gestures, kinesics, and proxemics
  5. The origins of writing and writing systems
    1. Writing and symbolism
    2. Decoding a writing system
    3. Literacy and literacies
    4. The effect of literacy on the hierarchy of societies and state systems
  6. Language and culture
    1. Language acquisition: the enculturation process
    2. Linguistic determinism (Sapir-Whorf hypothesis) vs. language as a reflection of culture
    3. Language and socialization
      1. Gender
      2. Race and ethnicity
      3. Power
      4. Identity
    4. Language ideology and power
      1. Stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination, and the role of language in preserving social stratification
      2. Code-switching
  7. Linguistic diversity
    1. Language families and classification of world languages
    2. Language change: diffusion, contact, borrowing
    3. Dialects, hybrid languages, pidgin, creole, slang
    4. Globalization, urbanization, and language loss/language extinction
    5. Effects of language loss on the local, national, and global scale
    6. Preservation of dying languages
  8. Language in the Information Age
    1. Effect of the invention of computers, the internet, and artificial intelligence on language and communication
    2. Language and communication on social media
    3. The future of human language

Lab Content

Not applicable.

Special Facilities and/or Equipment

When taught as an online or hybrid distance learning section, students and faculty need ongoing and continuous internet and email access.

Method(s) of Evaluation

Methods of Evaluation may include but are not limited to the following:

Reflection papers on course themes
Mid-term and final exams covering key concepts
Classroom presentations
Short write-ups of field-based projects
Research papers
Group discussions where students share thoughts and ideas about course material

Method(s) of Instruction

Methods of Instruction may include but are not limited to the following:

Classroom lectures and discussion using language of anthropology
Laboratory and field supervision of methodologies
Instructor-guided interpretation and analysis
Individual or group presentations of major projects followed by in-class discussion and evaluation
Collaborative learning and small group exercises

Representative Text(s) and Other Materials

Salzman, Zdenek, James Stanlaw, and Nabuko Adachi. Language, Culture, and Society: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology, 7th ed.. 2018.

Ottenheimer, Harriet J.. The Anthropology of Language: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology, 4th ed.. 2019.

Duranti, A.. Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader. 2009.

The Duranti text is still the most comprehensive edition at the appropriate reading level for our students despite the publication date.

Types and/or Examples of Required Reading, Writing, and Outside of Class Assignments

  1. Reading assigned texts, articles, or handouts, and studying class notes.
  2. Doing various homework, including personal name etymologies, analysis of fictional languages in pop culture, reading response essays, and short papers.
  3. Preparing oral presentations and/or written research paper based on individual or group fieldwork.
  4. Conducting research based on secondary sources.