Anthropology | Bad Language
A200 | 15891 | Suslak
Above class approved for Intensive Writing Credit
Clearly we have much to learn by studying the classic works of
literature, most eloquent speeches and greatest wits. But what can we
learn about our society by investigating its dark linguistic
underbelly? How is it possible that certain strings of sounds, uttered
in just the right social context, have the power to offend, hurt
feelings, ruin careers and even spark wars?
This course provides a broad introduction to the field of linguistic
anthropology, its key concepts, and its methods through an exploration
of “bad language.” In it we investigate a range of speech types --
curses, oaths, insults, gossip, argument, taboo words, obscenities,
blasphemy, slang -- and the essential roles they play in our lives. At
the same time, we develop a cross-cultural perspective by comparing
our own notions of what counts as bad language with ways of speaking
that others cultural groups consider rude, vulgar, and even dangerous.
We will also explore how different societies set standards for
pronunciation, word choice, spelling, speaking and writing, how those
standards are enforced, and how/why they sometimes get contested or
resisted. Under this heading we consider such issues as plagiarism,
libel, hate speech, and the policing of bad grammar.