Language, Culture and Society


The focus of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Group in Language, Culture and Society is on the analysis of the ways that language is used in cultural and social settings. All study of language consists of the study of language biology, language structure, and language use. The third of these is the principal concern of this group. Specifically the Group is engaged with the ways that language shapes and is shaped by social interaction and culture. Although formal linguistic analysis plays an important role in this work, emphasis is directed toward the investigation of embodied language use, language ideology and patterns of inter-personal and cross-cultural communication.The Group recognizes that language is not lodged solely within a single speaker, but rather is used together with multimodal semiotic resources in dynamic temporally unfolding multi-party interactions. The practices that emerge create cultural meanings and participation frameworks that form our social life and social worlds.

The Group consists of members with primary affiliations in a large number of different Departments and Colleges across the University campus, but who share a common research focus on embodied language use both within groups of language speakers and in cross-cultural comparison. Approximately thirty University of Minnesota faculty members are actively engaged in this field. Aside from its importance as an academic research topic, the investigation of structures of social and cultural communication that shape and are shaped by language use, is crucial to our understanding of the nature of diverse social communities. The Group plans to sponsor four workshops per semester involving up to 30 faculty members and graduate students. Two of these meetings each semester will involve outside experts interacting with the group to discuss their experience with their own successful collaborative research and graduate training programs in Language, Culture and Society elsewhere. One primary goal of the group by the end of the first year will be to organize and propose a cross-College graduate minor for the University of Minnesota in this important area. These workshops will be aimed to facilitate this planning. They will also involve organizing graduate students for mentoring and advising opportunities pursuant to their research, taking advantage of the full spectrum of cross-disciplinary faculty expertise at the University of Minnesota.


The primary contact for this group is William Beeman (Anthropology; Additional members of the leadership team are Carol Klee (Spanish and Portugese Studies; and David Valentine (Anthropology;


View the membership list.