Unit Six – Communication and Language Use


What to Post for Unit Six

1) Ethnographic Notes – Valentine’s 

Discuss the Valentine’s Day ritual for your audience  by focusing on the communicational aspects of the ritual. Rely on a holistic and non-essentialist perspective. Discuss  communication around you choice of  various historical, gender, generation, economic, socio-economic class, learning, political/power, and global aspects of the ritual. As part of your study of the communicational aspects of romantic love in the US, focus on how people perform to be in love publicly (Performative/Communicative aspects of the ritual).

Remember that there is  NO LOVE  ins in your society (no ideas about love and practices around it), so an introductory note is required to introduce love and its various forms and then focus on romantic love in the US.

Minimum of two pieces of visual data per group member

Helen Fisher – The Brain In Love – A biological anthropological take on love


Helen Fisher – Home Page


Helen Fisher telling the French about love


Valentine’s Day Images – Sociological Images


Puritans and Victorian Beliefs about Procreation, Marriage, and Love


The Food of Love – The Economist


Today is Valen…


2) Ethnographic Notes – Do You Speak American

Choose minimum of one of article per group member from the site titled “Do You Speak American?” and summarize it for your audience.  Add at least one research question per article  if you were to do ethnographic research on a topic discussed in the article.


C) Research Project – Linguistic, Symbolic or Communicative Aspects.
Please do some research and thinking about the linguistic, symbolic or communicative aspects of your topic and post the results with proper citation.


Unit Six Notes

Language is a uniquely human faculty that both permits us to communicate and sets up barriers to communication.

Language is a part of culture that human beings use to encode their experience, structure their understanding of the world and of themselves, and to interact with each other.

There are many ways to communicate our experiences, and there are no absolute standards  favoring one way to communicate over another.

Like in so many other aspects of society, one can point to a dialectic of structure and agency. Individual efforts to create a unique voice are countered by pressures to impose or negotiate a common code within the larger social group.

Formal linguistic analysis is usually subdivided into five specialties: phonology, the study of the sounds of language; morphology, the study of minimal units of meaning in language; syntax, the study of sentence structure; semantics, the study of meaning patterns; and pragmatics, the study of language in context of use.

These formal analyses, however, often more closely resemble formal logic than patterns of everyday language use.

Ethnopragmatics pays attention both to the immediate context of speech and to broader contexts that are shaped by unequal social relationships and rooted in history.

Anthropological linguists study meaning, for instance, in routine practical activities. They look at how people turn grammatical features of language into resources they can make use of in their interactions with others.

Because linguistic meaning is rooted in practical activity, which carries meaning, the activity and the linguistic usage together shape communicative practices.

Different social groups generate different communicative practices.

The linguistic habits that are part of each set of communicative practices constitute discourse genres.

People normally command a range of discourse genres, which means that each person’s linguistic knowledge is characterized by heteroglossia.

Studies of African American English illustrate the historical circumstances that can give rise to creoles, and also provide evidence of the ways in which speech is always embedded in a social world of power differences.

Linguists and anthropologists have described differences in the gender-based communicative practices of women and men.

Language ideologies are (usually unwritten) rules shared by members of a speech community concerning what kinds of language are valued in what circumstances.

Language ideologies develop out of the cultural, social, and political histories of the groups to which they belong.

Knowing the language ideology of a particular community can help listeners make sense of speech that otherwise would seem inappropriate or incomprehensible to them.




Framing, in communication studies, refers to conceptual structures (semantic networks) and communicative processes that produce selective control over production of meanings attributed to events, individuals, groups, words or phrases.

Framing creates schemata of interpretation that enable individuals to perceive, identify, locate and label events, individuals, and groups of people they have encountered directly or indirectly.

Framing defines how an element of rhetoric is packaged so as to allow certain interpretations and rule out others.

In communication, use of words, symbols, and meanings do not occur in isolation from each other. Rather, semantic networks, networks of meanings, or conceptual structures are created in communicative processes by combining various meanings. Framing takes shape through reliance on semantic networks.

Ethnographic  Case Study — Framing of Pigeon Shoots

Pigeon Shoots are considered to be examples of “contested traditions” in America. In this sense they could be  compared with other controversial spectacles of killing animals, such as cockfights and dogfights.

When: During the late twentieth century, mass protests of America’s largest public pigeon shoot occurred in Hegins, Pennsylvania.

The Two Groups:

(a)   animal rights protestors and

(b)   supporters of the shoot

Their conflict and encounters became a moral drama based on a clash of rural and cosmopolitan values in modern America that derives from fundamentally different views of human dominion over the land and its animals.

The interpretation of the event hinges on a semiotic layering that takes into ethnographic consideration the different meanings of symbols for various participants in the event.

Compromise became impossible in controversies over pigeon shoots because the two sides perceived symbols pertaining to the shoots so differently.

For protestors, the shooters represented predatory, phallocentric men who would rape the nature and who promoted violence for its own sake.

For protestors, the process of the ritualized shoot perpetuated cycles of abuse and patriarchy.

For protestors, it acted to regenerate the land, confirming the wholesomeness of agrarianism.

For supporters, they symbolized a pioneer and biblical heritage based on human dominion over the bountiful land.

The pigeons could be symbolized as profane, dirty pests or sacred doves of peace.

The widely publicized controversy and the ritualized shoots and protest events implied larger questions about the role of tradition in modernity.

 The protestors rhetorically represented tradition (of the shoot) as a “problem” in the ethical modernization of society.

Bronner, Simon J.

Contesting Tradition The Deep Play and Protest of Pigeon Shoots.

 Journal of American Folklore. Washington: Fall 2005. Vol. 118, Iss. 470: 409-454.

Discussion Topic/Question

Could you think about another case of a controversial practice in the U.S. where the two sides perceive symbols pertaining to the practice very differently? Try to discuss and analyze the case.


RSA Animate – Language as a Window into Human Nature


Language and Culture



Non-verbal Communication Examples



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