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ANT 103, “Culture and Communication,” Fall 2012


Ethnographic Writing Assignment #1: Language Ideologies



·         You need not consult any other publications for this assignment.  However, you must cite any sources you do use (including specific page numbers, name of author, year, and web addresses).

·         Please give your essay a title.


Write a two to three (no more!) page essay (double-spaced, 12 point font, one inch margins) in response to one of the questions below.  Your essay should be cohesive from beginning to end and advance an argument.  It should go beyond description to analyze the social phenomena you present.  I’m more interested in your ideas than the facts you present, although the two must be related.


1.  Spend ten to thirty minutes eavesdropping on a conversation between people you do not know off the NAU campus (on the bus, in a coffee shop, in a Laundromat, on the street, etc.).  Take notes on the conversation and the speakers.  Very briefly describe the conversation and its social context (this should take less than one paragraph).  Then analyze 1) what the speakers’ use of language reveals about their identities and relationship to one other (think about issues of gender, class, race, ethnicity, age, nationality, culture, and profession) and 2) what they are accomplishing socially through the conversation (is the conversation reinforcing or changing the mental states or statuses of the speakers or their relationship to one another, their social distance or intimacy?).  You should consider not just the referential content of the conversation (what they are talking about) but also the kind of language they are using (vocabulary, tone, etc.), the dynamics of the conversation (volume, turn taking, etc.), and how their bodies are positioned and their use of gestures.  Be careful not to draw conclusions about these strangers and their lives beyond the conversation without evidence, and give specific examples to support your argument. 


Grading Rubric

Emphasizes analysis (your ideas) over description

3: Essay is driven by ideas, and they are integrated into an overarching and sustained argument

2: Essay includes ideas throughout, but they are not integrated into an overarching argument

1: Essay includes a few ideas but is mostly descriptive

0: Essay is purely descriptive


2: Strong introduction and conclusion; cohesive paragraphs; logical relationship between paragraphs

1: Paper is basically well organized, but introduction or conclusion is weak or logical flow is not always clear

0: Paper is disorganized; weak introduction and conclusion

Relationship between evidence and interpretation

1: There is strong empirical evidence supporting interpretations

0: The empirical evidence supporting interpretations is weak or missing; there may be a disjuncture between evidence and interpretations


1: The essay’s topics, descriptions, or ideas are fresh, original, or unusual

0: Essay mostly includes ideas or descriptions we read about or discussed in class or that would be immediately apparent to most observers


1: Citations, when needed, are specific and accurate

0: Citations are needed and inadequate

Error free

1: Essay has no more than three grammatical and mechanical errors

0: There are more than three errors in the essay

Addresses multiple aspects of language use (not just content)

2: Pays significant attention to non-referential aspects of language use

1: Addresses non-referential aspects but mostly focuses on the content of the conversation

0: Focuses exclusively on the content of the conversation

Addresses what speakers are accomplishing socially through their conversation

1: Yes

0: No

Addresses what language reveals about speakers’ identities and relationship

1: Yes

0: No


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