Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Symbolic Meanings of the “Rune Poems”

Symbolic Meanings of the “Rune Poems”

John Anderson

The word “rune” describes the letters of a variety of related Germanic alphabets, including the Anglo-Saxon futhorc and the Viking-Age “younger futhark.” Such letters have a reputation for playing a magical, divinatory, or at least symbolic role in these cultures. One of the best-known sources of symbolic information on runes are the Anglo-Saxon, Norwegian, and Icelandic “Rune Poems,” dating from the eighth to fifteenth centuries. To what extent do these poems represent traditional, pre-Christian beliefs about runes? This paper uses ethnopoetic analysis in the tradition of Dell Hymes and Joel Sherzer to understand the cultural context of the Rune Poems, and employs the comparative method to compare the Rune Poems to each other and to older related texts, such as the mythological poems of the Elder Edda. Similarities found in this way suggest that there was a set of common traditions that the rune poets drew from, rather than an original rune poem that inspired all three, which attributed sets of commonly agreed meanings to each of the runes individually. The practice of making rune poems likely began as an instructional tool for teaching beginners the sounds, shapes, names, or symbolism of the runes. Future research into this topic may inquire after the meanings of the symbols, riddles, and proverbs contained in the individual stanzas of the Rune Poems.

April 6, 2017 Posted by | abstract | 5 Comments

Critical Discourse Analysis of Media: A Systematic Approach to Analyzing Child Welfare Representation in the Media

Critical Discourse Analysis of Media: A Systematic Approach to Analyzing Child Welfare Representation in the Media

Michael Henson

The relationship between the child welfare system and the media has been generally a rocky one.  Media coverage often focuses on extreme cases, such as child fatalities, and attributes the blame to the failure of the child welfare system.  Such coverage often has a negative impact not the child welfare system and the families it serves, causing advocates to call for strategies to improve the relationship between the media and the child welfare system.  By taking a case study approach, this article demonstrates how Norman Fairclough’s (1995) critical discourse analysis (CDA) can provide a theoretical framework and methodology to be used by researchers, practitioners, and students to develop evidence-based strategies to improve the relationship between the child welfare system and the media.   In order to establish the current context of this topic, existing literature and previously proposed strategies for the child welfare system engagement with the media are described.   Fairclough’s theoretical framework for CDA is then presented with discussion of how it allows for an in-depth understanding of the complex processes of news production.  To demonstrate how the theoretical framework can be turned into practice, Fairclough’s methodology for CDA is outlined and then applied to analyze three news articles from CBS news following the case of Cesar Gonzalez-Mugaburu.  By referencing the results of the case study, the article concludes with a discussion of how CDA can be used to develop media engagement strategies for researchers, practitioners, and students.

April 6, 2017 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment

Anishinaabe Toponyms in Michigan: A History of Colonized Folk Etymology and Anishinaabe Cultural Renaissance

Anishinaabe Toponyms in Michigan: A History of Colonized Folk Etymology and Anishinaabe Cultural Renaissance

Josh Wolford

A specific name given to a geographic location is referred to as a ‘toponym’, there are numerous places across North America whose toponyms were given to them by their indigenous inhabitants. This is most certainly true in Michigan, a region that has been inhabited by the Anishinaabe peoples for thousands of years and has thus received numerous toponyms with Anishinaabe origins. These toponyms elucidate the cosmological, environmental, and practical positions these places hold for the Anishinaabe. While there are numerous toponyms indigenous in origin, there’s a multitude of toponyms and folk etymologies that were fabricated by Euro-Americans. By examining the historical and cultural literature I attempt to illuminate the historical contexts of colonization of Anishinaabe culture and language told by European and American scholarly invaders. Then shed light on the resurgence and renaissance of Anishinaabe culture and language from their own words, taking this knowledge to task against some folk etymologies of Michigan that persist today. I rely heavily on modern Anishinaabe scholars, such as Basil Johnston, for much of my cultural and linguistic analysis of the Anishinaabe, as well as ethnographic analysis from anthropologists and ethnologists. I analyze folk etymologies and fabricated words made primarily by Henry R. Schoolcraft and Henry W. Longfellow from their works and find that many of the toponyms and stories in Michigan we now think as holding Native American origins are, in many cases, not true. But they are instead the product of colonized Anishinaabe language and culture mixed with foreign lexicon, creating entirely fabricated stories and terms far from indigenous origins.

April 6, 2017 Posted by | abstract | 5 Comments

Lexical and Performative Cues for the Provocation of an Altered State of Consciousness in the American Evangelical Church

Lexical and Performative Cues for the Provocation of an Altered State of Consciousness in the American Evangelical Church

Jasmine Walker

The charismatic preaching style synonymous with several denominations within the Evangelical church is known for inducing physical responses with a perceived supernatural origin from pious congregants known as “Spiritual Gifts.” This article focuses on lexical and performative cues for the provocation of an altered state of consciousness (ASC) in the American Evangelical church, specifically members of the Pentecostal denomination. The research aims to determine whether preachers in the church use institutionalized homiletical devises to guide members of their congregation into two forms of invocation of spirit known as “Catching the Holy Ghost” and Glossolalia or “speaking in tongues,” which often happens in conjunction with one another. Preachers’ motivations come into question in terms of whether they are actively trying to induce the reception of Spiritual Gifts to legitimize their claims as mediums between god and their congregants to use as empirical proof of being “anointed” (officially chosen by god to be a representative on earth). Aspects of Jon Bialecki and Niko Besnier’s Language and Affect theories are used as a framework of analysis to understand how a preacher’s words can cause a desired response. Ralph Locke and Edward Kelly’s research on altered states of consciousness help to understand exactly what happens when one enters an ASC. Online videos of church services, participant-observation, as well as informant interviews were used to collect the ethnographic data needed for this research. The resulting data suggests that there is, in fact, a prescribed manner of delivery that incorporates specific word choice and stylized performance tools that “build-up” within a congregant, causing them to enter an ASC. This research can be useful in a number of anthropological contexts including semiotics, power and agency, ontology, and discussions on American race and gender.

April 6, 2017 Posted by | abstract | 4 Comments

Identity at 70 MPH: The crafting, meaning, and importance of personalized license plates

Identity at 70 MPH: The crafting, meaning, and importance of personalized license plates

Rebecca Cornejo

Personalized license plates allow the owner of a vehicle to express themselves in creative ways.  While some work has been done on the variety of plate names out there, little work has been done on ascribing meaning to the combination of letters on a personalized plate. How can identity be conveyed in the constraints of such few spaces, and why is this kind of language use important? This original research looks at 334 personalized license plate found in Detroit and the surrounding suburbs.  The collection will be analyzed to show methods used by vehicle owners to express themselves using very few spaces. Additionally, this article will discuss the semiotic nature of personalized plates, and the importance of this kind of language play and creativity. The literature review will show that this type of language use promotes healthy literacy habits and abilities, demonstrates the evolution of language as we use it, and shows us creative ways to express one’s identity in a confined space.

April 6, 2017 Posted by | abstract | 2 Comments