Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Language and Societies abstracts, vol. 6 (2014)

The abstracts below are summaries of papers by junior scholars from the 2014 edition of my course, Language and Societies. The authors are undergraduate and graduate students in anthropology and linguistics at Wayne State University. Over the next few weeks, some students will be posting links to PDF versions of their final papers below their abstracts. Comments and questions are extremely welcome, especially at this critical juncture over the next week, when the authors are making final revisions to their papers.

Alex B. Hill: A critical discourse on Detroit’s ‘Food Desert’ metaphor

Maya Stovall: How Ballet Terminology is Disputed and Employed as the Language of Dance

Roba Hrisseh: Social Stigmas Attached to Dialectal Differences: Lebanese and Yemeni Dialects in Dearborn City, Michigan

Suzanne Walsh: The Car Becomes Me

Kyrene Collins: Color Terminology in English and French

Srinawati: Sundanese Speech Levels

Eric Boulis: Klingon as Reviewed by the Fans

Taylor Monday: Sustainability: Defining Something that Deals with Everything

Zeina Lubus: English and French code-switching – an index to Christianity and Islam in modern Lebanon

Kaitlyn Ahlers: “Bold, Brash” Brews: Sensory Description among Craft Beer Consumers

Rachel Willhite: Gender Perspectives and Prediction in Online Communication

C. Lorin Brace VI: Together Forever: Gendered Language Use in Gravestone Epitaphs

Michael Elster: Transmitting “Realness”: Linguistic and Economic Tension in Drag Queen Speech

Andrew Bray: Wheel, Snipe, Celly: Understanding the Creation, Expansion, and Evolution of the Ice Hockey Anti-Language

Amber Aschwanden: Roman obelisks and the convergence of historical and contemporary linguistic landscapes – A pilot study

Madelyn Gutkoski: Discourse of Fitness and Sport in the CrossFit Community of Practice

Stanislava Chavez: Language and Warfare: Prehispanic Pukaras and Scholars’ Battle Over Andean Militarism

Daniel Mora: Profanity in social settings

April 9, 2014 Posted by | Editor | Leave a comment

A critical discourse on Detroit’s ‘Food Desert’ metaphor

A critical discourse on Detroit’s ‘Food Desert’ metaphor

Alex B. Hill

Differences in the use of the “food desert” term in reference to Detroit show strong linguistic divisions between local and national Detroit media coverage as well as structural power relations between local activists and more dominant national organizations. Over the last decade, understandings and applications of the “food desert” term have changed, and with it the culture around food in Detroit. The term is widely used in national media as a negative metaphorical label applied to Detroit, but is largely rejected by those living and working on food advocacy in Detroit. The juxtaposition of the national media’s focused narrative of a declining Detroit clashes with the efforts of local food advocates and activists. While locally the term is regularly rejected, the “food access” problems associated with “food deserts” are very much accepted and efforts continue to address the inequitable access to food experienced by a large majority of people in Detroit.

Keywords: Detroit, critical analysis, food access, food desert, food oasis, metaphor

April 9, 2014 Posted by | abstract | 2 Comments

How Ballet Terminology is Disputed and Employed as the Language of Dance

How Ballet Terminology is Disputed and Employed as the Language of Dance

Maya Stovall

Ballet terminology is often referred to in the dance world as ‘the language of dance’. Although ballet terminology is a useful tool for cross-cultural communication among dancers, the idea of ballet as the language of dance may cause people within the world of dance, as well as within society generally, to conflate this concept with the idea of ballet as the foundation of all dance techniques. Scholars including Dixon Gottschild (1996), Jackson (2005), Monroe (2011), and Spohn and Spickard Prettyman (2012), have problematized the history of ballet and its implications with respect to the world of dance. Here I build on this work by analyzing the limitations and strengths of the language of ballet (alternatively, ballet terminology), and the multi-faceted impact that the ubiquitous language of ballet may have on the dance world in general. Drawing upon ethnographic interviews and literature review I investigate multiple issues associated with ballet in relation to society and the dance world through the lens of the ways in which ballet terminology impacts and shapes the dance world generally. Ballet terminology is a rich tool available to dance speech communities; however, the problems and limitations associated with the historical and socio-cultural context of ballet must be considered in order to maximize both use of the language of ballet, as well as the continuation and expansion of ballet as an embodied, dynamic, and contemporary dance technique.

April 9, 2014 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment

Social Stigmas Attached to Dialectal Differences: Lebanese and Yemeni Dialects in Dearborn City, Michigan

Social Stigmas Attached to Dialectal Differences: Lebanese and Yemeni Dialects in Dearborn City, Michigan

Roba Hrisseh

This research paper discusses social stigmas attached to dialectal differences between two Arab nationalities residing in Dearborn, Michigan: Lebanese Arabic speakers and Yemeni Arabic speakers. This research aims to distinguish which of these dialects is accompanied with the stigmas in the community of Arabic speakers, including those outside of both nationalities. Relevant factors to these existent stigmas are cultural assimilation to the American lifestyle, migration history and reasons, social distinction barriers, and phonetic and phonological dissimilarities between the two dialects of Arabic. Through convenience sampling of Dearborn resident opinions via interviews and electronic surveys, data is collected to support the claim that the Lebanese dialect is associated with a more amiable and prestigious importance in these social groups as opposed to that of the Yemeni dialect. This claim is verified in the findings, and elicits a huge gap between both members of the community based on the dialectal variations of the Arabic language, which thereby signifies national identification division.

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The Car Becomes Me

The Car Becomes Me

Suzanne Walsh

The eternal search for brand connection to consumers has perplexed organizations for many years. Frequently characterized as a psychological connection of self-to-brand (finding identifiable personality traits within a brand), recent attempts can better be described as creating an embodied experience. This is most typically seen in providing “experience” so the consumer can internalize a brand. Inherent within this co-creation is the consumer’s imaginary process of belonging – to brand, to self, to brand community and to the world at large. The automobile can be equally conceived as a mode of transport, a rite of passage, a problem solver, a showpiece, a weekend hobby, a polluter, and an object representative of the self/family/position within society. This complicated and problematic relationship to the automobile has informed everything from public policy, transportation planning and taxation programs to personal financial decisions, family planning and ability to be a free agent in the employment marketplace. In the American context, and especially in Michigan, car culture has literally driven decision-making at every level. An automobile is intrinsically linked to the idea of freedom and in this context is particularly linked to freedom of the body – freedom to move through time and space whenever the body wishes, or whenever the body is required. Moving from Point A to Point B becomes an imaginary process of representation, dream fulfillment, and community engagement. This paper explores proposes a model of relationship between brand, consumer and car culture that inter-relates the imaginary process of the consumer as well as the brand, and the process of co-creation at their intersection, bringing together these imaginaries as a phenomenological expression of embodiment.

April 9, 2014 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment

Color Terminology in English and French

Color Terminology in English and French

Kyrene Collins

Both English and French have large vocabularies of secondary color terms. Many of these words were borrowed from French into Middle English. Given the variety that can be found in the secondary color terminology of all languages, and even within the history of these two languages, these two systems of color naming are remarkably similar. Both are based on hue, rather than on saturation or brightness, although each language has an ancestor which went through a shift from brightness to hue. These hues are named after objects such as foods, metals, animals, and plants which the hue resembles, although the earliest terms were named after dyes.

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Sundanese Speech Levels

Sundanese Speech Levels


This paper aims to provide a perspective that demonstrates speech levels are governed by social status. Sundanese grammar highlights that speech levels as linguistic forms impose relative social differences. It has been assumed that social structure and language use have a static relationship. However, in actual conversation as well as in structured conversation, the use of speech levels appears to be far more dynamic than previously thought, and people strategically make use of speech to regulate and negotiate their interpersonal relationships, not always merely follow social conventions. From the view of linguistic as a status maker (e.g. Agha 2007; Brown and Gilman 1961), this study is concerned with how to relate linguistic forms to social interaction. Thus, this paper examines what each speech level means socially and how it relates to social meanings within given conversational contexts. This paper also explores historically how many levels Sundanese has, how they have become a part in Sundanese linguistic form, how they are used, and what has happened to them in relation to the Indonesian language. This paper examines material from previous studies of speech levels (e.g. Wessing (1974) and Anderson (2009)) as well as new materials that are proposed by others, typically by Adang (1988) and Locher (1996). The analysis will further demonstrate the use of speech levels in various social contexts.

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Klingon as Reviewed by the Fans

Klingon as Reviewed by the Fans

Eric Boulis

Klingon is arguably one of the most recognized and successful constructed languages developed for a fictional universe. Originally an audio prop for the Star Trek movies, it was developed by Marc Okrand into a full language. Separating the Star Trek universe into three distinct phases and examining materials from each of these three phases, the fans’ reactions and reviews of the varying materials are studied and discussed to create an image of how the language is viewed by the fans. Mining the reviews section of for several books dealing with either the Klingon language or the culture, as well as the comments section for several YouTube videos dealing with the Klingons, a cross section is analyzed of how the language is viewed by fans of Star Trek and also people who either do not like or are unfamiliar with the program. Deeper than just being about the Klingon language, this paper is also about constructed languages as a whole, what it takes to be considered a language by the public at large, and what directions constructed languages can possibly take in the future. Drawing on the works of several linguists in the field of constructed languages (Okrand, Okrent),the basics of the Klingon language and what signifies this language as constructed are discussed. The background of the creator of the language and its largest teaching center help the reader to understand what kind of thought went into creating the language and what is being done to keep it moving forward. Discussion and evidence provide the value of constructed languages as mental exercises that places them in the same category as natural languages for that purpose.

April 9, 2014 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment

Sustainability: Defining Something that Deals with Everything

Sustainability: Defining Something that Deals with Everything

Taylor Monday

Depending on the context in which the word sustainability is used, it has various definitions. These contexts are often conflicting, leaving the true definition of sustainability to be interpreted in many different ways, contributing to its overuse. Currently, the popularity of describing anything as ‘sustainable’ is high, and this phenomenon is shifting overuse to misuse in certain contexts. Through the examination of scholarly literature, the question of how to create a definition of sustainability which encompasses aspects of multiple contexts of use is explored. This paper also examines ways in which sustainability could be measured in order to help create a finite way of classifying whether something is or is not considered sustainable. By creating a precise definition of the word, its overuse and ambiguousness can be minimized. This paper concludes that social, environmental and economic contextual definitions of sustainability, which have been in an evolving formation since the 1980s, are the direct cause of the term’s buzzword status. These multiple contextual definitions of sustainability must be combined in order to create a singular, whole definition that is balanced, inclusive and contemporary.

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English and French code-switching – an index to Christianity and Islam in modern Lebanon

English and French code-switching – an index to Christianity and Islam in modern Lebanon

Zeina Lubus

Code-switching examined in sociolinguistics aims to show the relation between individuals’ speech and their identity, social class, or bilingualism, for example. In contrast, different interests will be presented in this research by discussing code-switching relative to Arabic sociolinguistics, focusing on how this linguistic alternation indexes religion in Lebanon today. In particular, the emphasis will be on French and English code-switching as they are integrated within common Lebanese-Arabic speech and on their comparison relative to Christianity and Islam in Lebanon and the United States. Furthermore, I aim to highlight and study three causes that have been largely contributing to this phenomenon. A major influential source is the country’s unique trilingual education and the linguistic methodologies employed in Christian and Muslim school systems. A brief investigation into Lebanon’s history illustrates why Christian schools have incorporated a trilingual methodology into their academic systems and why Muslim schools preferred adhering to Arabic as their primary – if not the only – educational medium. Second, another very powerful contributor to code-switching is the linguistic enforcement apparent in media and broadcasting of both religious beliefs. Here, I will talk in details about two of the country’s most popular stations – LBC and Al Manar – and how their contrasting religious-political backgrounds are not only reflected in their use of broadcasted language but might as well be affecting code-switching on both sides. Third, norms of Christian-Muslim child-upbringing are discussed, too, where on one side teaching linguistic varieties since early childhood is favored, compared to the other side which shows more preference to strict Arabic speech and usage. To examine the matter further, I have conducted two interviews and prepared surveys to be filled out by Lebanese in Lebanon and the United States to show that code-switching indexing religious affiliation among Lebanese is significantly connected to the dominant religious-political Lebanese reality today.

Keywords: Christianity, Islam, code-switching, language, Lebanon, United–States, Lebanese discourse

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“Bold, Brash” Brews: Sensory Description among Craft Beer Consumers

“Bold, Brash” Brews: Sensory Description among Craft Beer Consumers

Kaitlyn Ahlers

The craft beer industry has seen incredible growth since the 1980s, indicating a shift in the values that consumers look for in beer selections. While there is a large body of literature regarding sensory description and expertise in wine, coffee, and other food products, there is little literature on beer despite this recent revitalization. The state of Michigan has a unique sense of pride surrounding its craft beer products; there are 122 breweries currently in “The Great Beer State” and a large community of beer enthusiasts. In this paper, the sensory descriptors used to depict 11 Michigan craft beers are analyzed. Descriptors were analyzed from reviews that were posted by non-expert consumers on two popular websites, Rate Beer and Beer Advocate. The author demonstrates how the reviews adhere or depart from the standardized terminology established by certified beer experts. While non-experts use the same categories of description as experts, non-experts have devised alternative description strategies that are more easily understood by other non-expert consumers. This contributes to a better understanding of the perceived value of craft beer, but also refines a larger body of literature concerning food, taste, and expertise.

Keywords: beer, wine, taste, sensory description, expertise

April 9, 2014 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment

Gender Perspectives and Prediction in Online Communication

Gender Perspectives and Prediction in Online Communication

Rachel Willhite

It was thought that the anonymous nature of communication on the internet would allow for an advantage for otherwise disadvantaged groups. In practice, however, it has been documented that this is not always the case. The anonymous nature of the World Wide Web serves to shelter, not only otherwise disadvantaged groups, but those who would seek to discredit or silence them as well. Indeed, the belief that certain fundamental features leak through the standardization of the written word in casual environments and allow an individual’s gender to be identified is rather common. Though it is difficult to determine how common instances such as these are, it does bring to question whether people can determine the determine the gender of an individual online with any notable accuracy, and what strategies or features they believe help them to do this. A series of surveys and brief, informal interviews were conducted in order to determine what these perceived differences may be, and how useful they are in identifying the gender of a user online. This paper further seeks to compare this information with other studies done on gender and computer-mediated communication. Despite the overall lack of reliability in their cited strategies, participants were able to identify the gender of a poster with some accuracy.

April 9, 2014 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment

Together Forever: Gendered Language Use in Gravestone Epitaphs

Together Forever: Gendered Language Use in Gravestone Epitaphs

C. Lorin Brace VI

The way in which individuals have been memorialized after death has often been seen as a reflection of the cultural beliefs of a society in life. Cemeteries and gravestones can provide historical archaeologists with a unique type of material culture that can offer insight into various social and cultural trends. This paper analyzes changes in gendered language used in gravestone epitaphs in Detroit over a 160-year period. Comparing the language used in epitaphs of spouses who were interred together demonstrates that linguistic representations of gender and gender roles were closely related to how those gender roles were actually manifested within a society. Overall, women were far more likely than men to be identified in terms of their relationship to their spouses, and often were identified without a surname. These trends decreased over time, reflecting a decrease in gender bias and a shift in how gender roles were represented within the society.

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Transmitting “Realness”: Linguistic and Economic Tension in Drag Queen Speech

Transmitting “Realness”: Linguistic and Economic Tension in Drag Queen Speech

Michael Elster

In the last few decades, drag queens have grown as a topic of interest for linguistic anthropologists because their speech and performances provide a point of study for gender, sexuality, and race in non-binary terms. Drawing from the theoretical framework of anthropologists such as Rusty Barrett, Mary Bucholtz, and Kira Hall, this paper explores the transmission of drag queen speech on the internet, with the bulk of the data coming from YouTube videos. While most anthropological studies of drag queens have been ethnographically based, and other fields have taken a media studies approach, this paper uses an anthropological perspective to study a new medium for linguistic exchanges. The present argument is centered on the idea that queerness is a relative category that comes into being in certain sociocultural settings, rather than a binary or static category. Speech that takes place on YouTube, or the internet generally, results in new understandings of drag performance in three ways. It decenters drag performance as a community act by making information and speech publicly available rather than in subcultural counterhegemonic spaces. This opens the opportunity for a larger group of people to speak authoritatively on metalinguistic beliefs about what it means to be (or speak like) a drag queen. This recasts the sociocultural meanings of drag performance, leading to an analysis beyond gender performativity and toward considerations of race and class. Finally, it commodifies some speech for mass consumption, which in turn strips some language of its contextual meaning and presents it as archetypical drag queen speech.

Keywords: queer, drag queen speech, performativity, linguistic exchange on the internet

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Wheel, Snipe, Celly: Understanding the Creation, Expansion, and Evolution of the Ice Hockey Anti-Language

Wheel, Snipe, Celly: Understanding the Creation, Expansion, and Evolution of the Ice Hockey Anti-Language

Andrew Bray

This study utilizes M. A. K. Halliday’s theory of anti-language to analyze the lexicon creation, expansion, and linguistic rules that have developed within the ice hockey community, establishing a hockey anti-language. Interviews conducted with hockey players from the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League and also the Central Michigan University Women’s Club Hockey team, ranging in age, nationality, and gender, allow the compilation of a list of basic terminology within the hockey community along with the rules that dictate creation and usage. Analysis of the interviews shows that there are three basic routes through which terminology is created: association, clipping and addition, and random assignment. The social hierarchy that has developed within the hockey community closely mirrors the incarcerated criminal anti-society Halliday studied, which offers insight into which players have the ability to create new terminology based on individual popularity establishing two different social levels, popular and unpopular. This study explains how the hockey community functions as an anti-society with a vast anti-language that is rapidly expanding and evolving.

Keywords: anti-language; anti-society; ice hockey; sports language

April 9, 2014 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment

Roman obelisks and the convergence of historical and contemporary linguistic landscapes – A pilot study

Roman obelisks and the convergence of historical and contemporary linguistic landscapes – A pilot study

Amber Aschwanden

This pilot study examines two of central Rome’s thirteen obelisks as elements of their contemporary linguistic landscape and as elements of various historical linguistic landscapes. Linguistic landscape studies traditionally consider all textual elements in a defined space, such as every sign posted on a street in an urban area. Gorter, Landry and Bourhis, and Dal Negro, among others, use such information to discuss issues like language visibility and its relation to community vitality. This study considers texts that occur in specifically public spheres and which have various historical contexts in order to investigate their changing roles through time. Borrowing methods from Gorter, who has written extensively on the linguistic landscapes of Rome; Coulmas, who discusses historical linguistic landscapes; and Kallen, who outlines linguistic considerations in tourist areas, this study develops a new method through which historical elements, their histories, and their contemporary contexts are considered. To this literary data are added photographs of the obelisks and their contemporary linguistic contexts. This information provides context for their current function within the contemporary linguistic landscape, while historical considerations open up a new level of analytical richness for linguistic landscape studies that include historical texts. This study also shows that a future study considering all thirteen obelisks in central Rome would be fruitful, and that the methods applied here could lend themselves to studies in cities with similar juxtapositions of ancient and modern signage, such as Athens, Istanbul, and Jerusalem.

Keywords: linguistic landscape, obelisk, Rome, historical linguistic landscape, historical inscriptions, Egyptian artifacts, hieroglyphics

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Discourse of Fitness and Sport in the CrossFit Community of Practice

Discourse of Fitness and Sport in the CrossFit Community of Practice

Madelyn Gutkoski

CrossFit is an exercise movement and corporation that combines two distinct concepts into one; fitness and sport. This paper investigates whether CrossFit is viewed as a fitness movement or a competitive sport and how the language used on online forums has created a sense of identity for members. Previous literature on distinguishing fitness from sport is rare, and even more rare are academic articles concerning CrossFit. The systematic analysis of CrossFit as a fitness or sport is still in its infancy, and this article pioneers the way for similar studies. A literature review of sports and fitness linguistics and communities of practice is a supplement to a discourse analysis of online forums and blogs by CrossFit athletes, coaches, corporation, and “haters”. The analysis of the data shows that CrossFit has produced a group of loyal like-minded individuals that have strong relationships, which are fostered through online communities of practice. Members of CrossFit are both competitive and goal oriented, characteristic of both sport and fitness. Further research on this topic could have positive implications for duplicating the success of CrossFit as a corporation and a brand.

Keywords: CrossFit, fitness, sport, online communities of practice, linguistics of sport and fitness, discourse analysis

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Language and Warfare: Prehispanic Pukaras and Scholars’ Battle Over Andean Militarism

Language and Warfare: Prehispanic Pukaras and Scholars’ Battle Over Andean Militarism

Stanislava Chavez

The word pukara has always been translated from Quechua into Spanish as fortaleza (English fortress), including in the early 16th and 17th century dictionaries. However, pukara seems to be an unrecognized polysemic word, resulting from different meanings of warfare in European and Andean traditions. Today, the word pukara is used by Andean archaeologists to describe structures which they perceive as fortresses – however, there are disagreements about the true nature of many of such sites, whether they are in fact military or ceremonial. In this study, I have analyzed several of the 16th and early 17th century documents written by people of Inca descent (including the works of Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, Juan Santa Cruz Pachacuti Yamqui Salcamayhua, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega), as well as by Spaniards in the same era (such as Cieza de León, Sarmiento de Gamboa, Joseph de Acosta, and Bernabé Cobo). I examined these texts looking for contexts in which the word pukara is used, and I have determined that while this word is used more frequently in military contexts, there are also instances which show a ceremonial meaning.

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Profanity in social settings

Profanity in social settings

Daniel Mora

The use of profanity or swearing has been a topic of discussion among scholars, concerning its use in different settings and contexts. This paper will discuss the role of profanity in its use by individuals in different contexts and for different purposes, as well as social attitudes towards the use of profanity and perceptions of those who hear and use it. The use of profanity or swearing by individuals in multiple aspects of their speech and in different settings which are socially deemed as being more appropriate for profanity to be employed in. In touching on the social attitudes and perceptions of profanity, this paper will attempt to juxtapose the attitudes and perceptions of children and profanity. Profanity, or swear words, form part of any individual’s lexicon, regardless of their use of profanity. Children are taught, by institutions ranging from the basic one of family to educational institutions as well as religious, that profane words are basically taboo, and should be treated as such—to be eschewed. Attitudes towards profanity change, however. As adults, the use of profanity is considered harmless and employed regularly for different purposes in social settings. This poses the question which this paper will attempt to address, which is, why does the difference exist in use of profanity? Why don’t people adhere to earlier expectations in regards to profanity? How can there seem to be a contradiction between social expectations on the use of profanity, and why?

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