Linguistic anthropology is one of American anthropology's subfields. In the Department of Anthropology at Western Michigan University, linguistic anthropology examines language as a universal medium of human interaction and thus of social life.
Rather than focusing on language as an abstract and decontextualizable system of grammatical (lexical, phonological, etc.) rules, contemporary linguistic anthropologists consider discourse as a situated, highly contextualized form of social action through which people negotiate identities, experiences and relationships.
Linguistic anthropology offers tools ranging from close analysis of unfolding communicative events to examinations of broad ideologies and historical shifts that allow us to address all areas of inquiry in anthropology more broadly. The department's courses in this subfield consider the cross-fertilizing relationship between concepts of language and culture, as well as what a semiotic focus on language can tell us about social processes of identity-making, power and performance.