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LINGUIST 55N: Language in the City

Language communicates a great deal more than the meaning of our words. Our regional accents, for example, offer clues about where we grew up. And even though accents are usually labeled in geographical terms, their symbolic meanings extend far beyond mere coordinates on a map. When we hear a New Yorker, we not only wonder whether they¿re from Brooklyn, but also conjecture about the kind of person they are: they might prefer to walk down the street quickly over strolling, they might enjoy lively conversations where people talk over one another, and they might tend to express their opinions bluntly. This seminar explores the linguistic practices and social meaning of accents spoken in San Francisco. nClass participants will collectively choose a neighborhood in San Francisco for in-depth examination. Through a series of field trips (once every two or three weeks), students will document the varieties of English spoken by lifelong residents of the neighborhood. Field assignments will cons more »
Language communicates a great deal more than the meaning of our words. Our regional accents, for example, offer clues about where we grew up. And even though accents are usually labeled in geographical terms, their symbolic meanings extend far beyond mere coordinates on a map. When we hear a New Yorker, we not only wonder whether they¿re from Brooklyn, but also conjecture about the kind of person they are: they might prefer to walk down the street quickly over strolling, they might enjoy lively conversations where people talk over one another, and they might tend to express their opinions bluntly. This seminar explores the linguistic practices and social meaning of accents spoken in San Francisco. nClass participants will collectively choose a neighborhood in San Francisco for in-depth examination. Through a series of field trips (once every two or three weeks), students will document the varieties of English spoken by lifelong residents of the neighborhood. Field assignments will consist primarily of observation and audio-recorded interviews. Interviews will serve as data for linguistic analysis (transcription, quantitative analysis of a linguistic feature of interest) throughout the term. Linguistic patterns will be analyzed in relation to salient social issues in the community, which will be identified in both interview content and historical records.nUpon completing the seminar, students will have (a) learned how to treat language as an object of scientific analysis, (b) developed an understanding of the social ramifications of linguistic practice, (c) gained fieldwork skills in general and interviewing skills in particular, and (d) come to appreciate the diversity of experiences in an urban community near Stanford.
Last offered: Spring 2019
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