language links, ling-anth links

Language links 6/19: endangered languages and bad linguistics journalism

Every Monday, I share some of what I’ve been reading in the past week.


Yet another example of how language matters: using person-centered language to talk about addiction improves treatment and policy: “clinicians — from the least educated up through doctoral-level professionals — take a more punitive stance when patients are described as ‘substance abusers’ rather than ‘people with substance use disorder.'”

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linguistic anthropology

Another reason we hope there are tapes

Guest blogger Joshua Raclaw is a linguist and conversation analyst who works on the use of language in meetings and everyday conversation.


As a linguist who specializes in discourse analysis, my research forces me to pay attention to some of the smallest details of how language unfolds during our everyday conversations. I lovingly obsess over every like and um, every pause and silence, and all of the intricate ways that our speech aligns with how we gesture or laugh or shrug our shoulders, because all of these small pieces of the interaction fit together to help give meaning to language. And so I am one hundred percent with former FBI director James Comey when he says, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.” Continue reading

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linguistic anthropology

On “hope” and indirection

A few days ago, about 20 million people watched James Comey testify in front of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The questioning leaned heavily on why, precisely, Comey interpreted the president’s words the way he did. Since linguistic anthropologists study language in social context, seeing this much explicit discussion about how language works was both a dream come true — and a frustration, since so many people insisted on getting it so terribly wrong.

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