ANTH 388 Syllabus – Language and Culture

Everyone communicates to express needs, wants, and more.  The manner in which we do so reflects our culture, which is acquired over time through enculturation.  Within a social context, words can mean much more.

The topics chosen for this course stem from how language has increasingly been weaponized over the past few years.  Communication has also been impacted by technology.  We are experiencing this now—in this moment.

Instruction is through online delivery (zoom and VIULearn).  BE PREPARED TO PARTICIPATE VIRTUALLY!  Your grade will be based on participation (20%), opinion piece (5%), name story (15%), newspaper analysis (20%), and restaurant project (20%). There will be one exam (20%).  Written assignments will be submitted online through VIULearn.  There is no final exam.

Not attending an exam or submitting an assignment will result in an “F”;
your final grade is based on completing ALL course work.

Learning Objectives:

  • Examine the relationship between language and culture
  • Compare and contrast language use
  • Analyze the impact of government policy and language
  • Recognize that language, like culture, is constantly evolving, including the meaning of words

Required Text:

Jain, Lochlann.  2019.  Things That Art: A Graphic Menagerie of Enchanting Curiosity. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.  (eBook)

NOTE:  Although one book is listed, there are additional readings available online for which you will be responsible.

Lectures and Readings

Jan 14Introduction: Ask Me Anything (AMA)
READ: Brown et al 2020, 56-57 and Ch4, Language.
Jan 21Language in Context
READ: Jain, “Introduction,” and “Various Things”
Jan 28What’s in a Name?
READ: Jain, “Which Things Mean When”; Barton 2020; Gikino’amaagewinini 2017
Begin Name Assignment
Feb4Naming as Identity
READ:  CBC Ideas 2020; Lim 2017; Weir 2017
Feb 11Language Weaponized
DUE: Name Story
Begin Newspaper Analysis Assignment
Study Days – No Classes, Feb 15-19
Feb 25Bias
Mar 4Words have History
READ: Gross 2021
Mar 11Words Matter
DUE: Newspaper Analysis
Begin Restaurant Assignment
Mar 18Language of Food
Mar 25Literally and Figuratively
Apr 1Take-home EXAM (submit through VIULearn)
Apr 8Student Presentations
Zoom discussion
Apr 15Student Presentations
Zoom discussion


  • Use of technology:  Zoom meetings are not recorded.  While in a zoom meeting, please identify yourself with name and pronouns used.  Have your video-cam ON, if possible, as this helps with knowing your peers.  Recording is only permitted by request as authorized by Disability Services. Please contact Disability Services if you need academic support and accommodation.
  • If there are exceptional and/or extenuating circumstances, such as illness or a death in the family, that prevents you from meeting an assignment or an exam deadline, please notify me as soon as possible so that other arrangements can be made.  (See VIU General Regulations.)
  • Should you need counselling at any time during the semester, contact Student Affairs.  Counselling is available by telephone or zoom.  If immediate support is needed after hours, call the Crisis & Information Line: 1-888-494-3888.  As well, you can contact Cowichan Valley Mental Health and Substance Use Services Intake, 3088 Gibbins Road, Duncan: 250.709.3040.  In Nanaimo, there is a Walk-in Counselling Clinic, Brooks Landing (203-2000 Island Highway North), Nanaimo: 250-739-5710.  For general health and wellness queries, go to bc211 or dial 211; it is free and confidential.
  • If you appear to be experiencing difficulties, you might be identified to VIU Student Affairs through the Early Alert System (EAS).  EAS is a campus-wide program to connect students with resources that may help their success.
  • Withdrawing from any VIU course MUST be done formally, that is, by applying at the Registration Centre.
  • When emailing, please identify yourself or the course number in the subject line.  All incoming mail to VIU is spam filtered.  Include my email address in your ‘approved’ list of contacts.  I will generally respond within 24-hours.

Final grade assignment:

Grades will be assigned according to the following scale:


“All words are pegs to hang ideas on.”

Created 2021-01-13; last updated 2021-01-13