Academic Catalog


Foothill College Course Outline of Record

Foothill College Course Outline of Record
Heading Value
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.


Introduces students to the anthropological study of language and non-verbal human communication. Using a cross-cultural perspective, students will examine the relationship between culture and the ways in which humans communicate. Topics include language structure, acquisition, diversity, and change.

Course Objectives

The student will be able to:
A. Identify and discuss the key differences between the fields of linguistic anthropology and linguistics.
B. Differentiate the various fieldwork methods used by linguistic anthropologists.
C. Compare and contrast human and animal communication systems.
D. Explain the biological basis for speech and origins of language in humans.
E. Identify and describe the branches of linguistics dealing with sound, meaning and structure of language.
F. Differentiate between the cultural and biological factors contributing to language acquisition.
G. Describe the premise behind the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and assess the criticisms against it.
H. Analyze and compare cognates (words historically derived from the same source) from various related languages using techniques of lexical reconstruction.
I. Assess and discuss how language is correlated with social factors such as gender, ethnicity and class.
J. Compare and contrast dialects, hybrid languages, slang, pidgins and creoles, and identify the cultural significance of each.
K. Identify and contrast among the cultural, historical and political factors that lead to language change in a society.
L. Assess the components of Hymes' model.
M. Compare and contrast kinesics, proxemics and other aspects of nonverbal communication in various societies.
N. Relate language to the development of writing systems.
O. Examine the various cultural factors that contribute to language loss and evaluate the preservation efforts applied to languages targeted for extinction.
P. Compare the role of linguistic anthropologists to that of the roles of state and government agencies in dealing with a society's language use problems.

Course Content

A. Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology
1. Linguistic Anthropology vs. Linguistics
a. Differences in Methodology
b. Differences in Perspective
2. History and Paradigm Shifts
3. Field Methodologies
a. Methods of Studying Language Variation, such as the Prescriptivist Approach and the Descriptivist Approach
b. Data Collecting Techniques, such as Direct Eliciting and Collection of Texts
B. Animal and Human Communication Systems
1. Features Unique to Human Language
a. Productivity
b. Displacement
c. Arbitrariness
d. Discreteness
e. Cultural Transmission
2. Ethological Research on Animal Communication
a. Honeybees (Von Frisch)
b. Dogs and Wolves
c. Vervet Monkeys (Seyfarth and Cheney)
d. Chimpanzees (Mitani)
3. Ape Language Studies
a. Nim Chimpsky, Sign Language (Terrace)
b. Washoe, Sign Language (Gardners, Fouts)
c. Kanzi, Symbol Board (Savage-Rumbaugh)
C. Biology and Origins of Language
1. The Human Biological Basis for Speech
2. Language and the Brain
3. Human Language Development
a. Continuity Theory
b. Discontinuity Theory
4. Speaking Ability of Early Hominids
a. Anatomical Evidence in Neanderthal Remains
b. Anatomical Evidence in Homo Erectus Remains
D. Descriptive Linguistics
1. Phonology: Units of Sound
2. Morphology: Units of Meaning
3. Syntax: Word Order
4. Semantics: Classifying Reality
a. Kinship Terms
b. Color Terms
E. Language Acquisition and Socialization
1. Nature vs. Nurture
a. Descartes
b. Chomsky
c. Locke
d. Skinner and Watson
2. Language Acquisition in English-Speaking Children
3. Effects of Social Isolation on Language Acquisition
F. Language, Thought, and Culture
1. Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
a. Linguistic Determinism
b. Linguistic Relativism
c. Language and the Concept of Time (SAE/Standard Average European vs. Hopi)
d. Criticisms of Sapir-Whorf
2. Cultural Universals in Language
3. Cultural Particulars in Language
G. Historical Linguistics
1. Monogenesis View
2. Glottochronology
3. Lexical Reconstruction
4. Language Classification
a. Family Tree Model
b. mtDNA Analysis
H. Sociolinguistics
1. Dialects vs. Slang
2. Language and Gender
3. Language and Class/Status
4. Language and Ethnicity
5. Honorifics
6. Language Change
a. Pidgins and Creoles
b. Hybrid Languages
7. Ethnography of Speaking
I. Nonverbal Communication
1. Silence
2. Cross-Cultural Analysis
a. Kinesics
b. Proxemics
c. Body Adornment and Alteration
3. Sign Languages
J. Writing Systems
1. Pictorial Writing
a. Pictographs
b. Logographs
c. Hieroglyphs
2. Syllabic Writing
3. Alphabets
K. Language Loss and Revitalization
1. Causes of Language Loss
a. Assimilation
b. Culture Change
2. Native American Languages as Case Studies
3. Language Preservation Efforts
L. Applied Linguistics
1. Role of Linguistic Anthropologist in Dealing with Language Use Issues and Problems
2. Language Planning
a. Achieving National Unity
b. Enhancing Literacy Programs
c. Designating Official Language (in Multilingual Nations)
M. Impact of Globalization on World Languages: Globalization as Englishization
1. Examine the impact of English as an international lingua franca, marginalization of national languages, and coping with the dilemma of language as a symbol of national identity.
2. Assess the rise of global languages and their impact on minority and endangered languages.
3. Discuss the development of medialects via chat rooms, text messaging, and so forth.
4. Assess media as an instrument of standardization and Englishization.
5. Communication in the digital age, the impact of the internet and YouTube.

Lab Content

Not applicable.

Special Facilities and/or Equipment

A. When taught via Foothill Global Access, on-going access to computer with email software and hardware; email address.

Method(s) of Evaluation

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

Methods of evaluation may include but are not limited to:
A. In-class quizzes
B. Mid-term and final exams consisting of a combination of multiple choice and short essay questions
C. Oral presentations
D. Short write-ups of field-based projects
E. Research papers

Method(s) of Instruction

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

Methods of instruction may include but are not limited to:
A. Classroom lectures and discussion using language of anthropology.
B. Laboratory and field supervision of methodologies.
C. Instructor-guided interpretation and analysis.
D. Individual or group presentations of major projects followed by in-class discussion and evaluation.

Representative Text(s) and Other Materials

Salzman, Zdenek, James Stanlaw, and Nabuko Adachi. Language, Culture, and Society: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2015.

Ottenheimer, Harriet J. The Anthropology of Language: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2012.

Duranti, A. Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers, 2009.*

*Note that the 2009 reader 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

Two hours of work outside of class are required for each hour of lecture or the equivalent. Representative out-of-class reading, writing and other assignments can include but are not limited to:

A. Reading assigned texts, articles or handouts and studying class notes.

B. Doing various homework, including personal name etymologies, analysis of fictional languages in pop culture, reading response essays and short papers.

C. Preparing oral presentations and/or written research paper based on individual or group fieldwork.

D. Conducting research based on secondary sources.