The Anthropology of Language
In the Field, Comoro Islands, September 1967
"Table," we had said. "We'll need a table. For writing. For eating."
We figured one table could do for both tasks, much as kitchen tables serve both purposes in the United States.
"Okay," our young translator had said, "the landlord says he will provide a table."
But now, here we were, exploring our new apartment, and we couldn't find the table. We searched the two rooms thoroughly and explored the outdoor kitchen and bathroom areas as well, but there was no table. Just a large flat metal tray, leaning up against the wall.
"Table," we said when our translator stopped by to see how we were doing." You said the landlord would provide a table."
The translator looked around the apartment. "Here it is," he said brightly, picking up the metal tray.
"Ah," we said, "but we meant a table with legs, so we can use it as a writing desk."
"Okay," he said. "I'll explain it to the landlord and we'll see if we can find a desk for you."
The next day our monolingual landlord brought us a wooden table with legs. We smiled and tried to remember how to say "Thank you," and felt like our fieldwork was finally beginning. We also knew that to fit into this new culture and do good anthropology we were going to have to learn the language. We were going to need linguistic anthropology.
The Anthropology of Language is a unique package consisting of a textbook and a workbook/reader, designed to make the intersection of linguistics and anthropology accessible and interesting to undergraduate students. The workbook/reader provides classic and contemporary exercises and readings--carefully chosen to illuminate or expand on basic concepts introduced in the textbook--as well as information on how to complete two semester-long guided projects.