chapter  36
Linguistic ethnography
ByJanet Maybin, Karin Tusting
Pages 14

The term ‘linguistic anthropology’ was first used in the 1880s in north America when Franz Boas and his students Alfred Kroeber and Edward Sapir established linguistics as an important tool for the analysis of culture (e.g. Boas 1940). During this period, linguistic anthropologists were principally focused on documenting and describing the indigenous languages of the fast disappearing North American aboriginal societies, and their encoding of different world views (linguistic relativity). Duranti (1997, 2003) offers a useful and comprehensive overview of the historical development of linguistic anthropology. He claims that this focus on American Indian languages can be seen as the first of three paradigms co-existing in the field. Duranti identifies the second wave or paradigm, which emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, as a

more socially constituted linguistic anthropology, part of the reaction against the formalism of structural linguistics and Chomskian cognitivism. Defined by Hymes as ‘the study of language within the context of anthropology’ (1964: xxiii), linguistic anthropology, as conceived in the mid-twentieth century, foregrounds language use rather than the language system (although knowledge of the system is still important for the analyst), emphasising the situated and culturally constituted experience of language users in diverse communities.