chapter  1
Introduction: Intertwined Traditions
ByBruce Mannheim
Pages 10

As a research tradition, linguistic anthropology emerged in the United States and Canada under the aegis of Boasian “four-field” anthropology. The name itself predates Boas, and was used for the collection of texts and other linguistic materials among Native North Americans (Gal 2006: 171), but within the Boasian program, carried through by such anthropologists as Sapir, Reichard, Haas, and Voegelin, it came to denote a set of research practices in which language in all its aspects provided an opening into culture, social relations, history, and prehistory. Though located intellectually and institutionally within the field of anthropology, it draws on several intertwined traditions of anthropological and linguistic research, North American and European, beginning in the middle of the nineteenth century. These traditions can be characterized by six intellectual revolutions, each of which reshaped the way we understand language and its social, cultural, and historical reach. These are 1) the discovery of time and of regularity in change; 2) the discovery of structure; 3) the cognitive revolution; 4) understanding language as fully socially embedded; 5) language as a transindividual, interactional phenomenon; 6) a population (or populace) centered view of language. While each of these intellectual movements took place at a specific moment in time, in no sense did they supplant earlier movements; rather, the insights that have come with each transformation have been incorporated into succeeding ones.