Introduction: My Language, My Life

Hello, my name is Cate and this blog was made for the purpose of my language autobiography final project for undergraduate Linguistic Anthropology. I am studying History and Anthropology under the umbrella of an Integrative Studies degree at my university and otherwise take high interest in gender studies, genealogy, and sociology. I have previously taken other courses such as Literacy and Identity, Psychology of Language, and Teaching Writing which have brought me to where I am today.

I am originally from the north United States, and moved to the South around age six. In elementary school, once I moved to the South, I was actually placed into speech therapy to reduce and eventually get rid of my Boston accent. During middle school and high school, I studied the French language and even visited France to apply my studies with real-world concepts. In college so far, I have studied German and am looking forward to learning Japanese or Russian next.

Culturally, my mother’s ancestry is mostly English and Irish, while my step-father was born in Germany along with the rest of his family. My husband’s family is Irish and Latvian, giving our daughters a lovely combination for their cultural background. I do study genealogy, especially my own family’s past, and have researched all the way back to the ninth century in particular branches.

Linguistic anthropology allows us to study social interaction more closely and more dynamically. According to Laura Ahearn, “to use language, therefore, is to engage in a form of social action laden with cultural values” (2012:12). Linguistic anthropology studies everyday conversation as it pairs with everyday action and cultural values as they pair with societal constructs.


I will be studying four themes of linguistic anthropology for this autobiography, which brush on topics such as gender, sexuality, assertiveness, bilingualism, and language communities. The central concepts for this autobiography evolved from our textbook this semester, Laura Ahearn’s 2012 publication Living Language: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology, for which I am grateful.

The first theme discussed is “On the Word ‘No,’” centered around language and female sexual assertiveness, referencing Kira Hall’s “Lip Service on the Fantasy Lines,” a chapter included in Gender Articulated: Language and the Socially Constructed Self, published in 1995, and Don Kulick’s “No,” published in Language and Communication in 2003. Both Hall’s chapter and Kulick’s article center around the concept of sexual assertiveness as related to female empowerment and femininity.

The next theme is “The Lavender Lexicon,” referencing Tom Boellstorff’s Annual Review of Anthropology article “Queer Studies in the House of Anthropology,” published in 2007, in addition to an article written by Don Kulick, “Gay and Lesbian Language,” published in the Annual Review of Anthropology in 2000, and Language and Sexuality, written by Deborah Cameron and Don Kulick in 2003.

Thirdly, “What the Frak is a Sephiroth?,” a topic very close to my heart about the ‘social phenomenon’ of nerd girls described in Mary Bucholtz’s “Geek the Girl: Language, Femininity, and Female Nerds,” published by the Berkeley Women and Language Group in 1998 and “‘Why Be Normal?’: Language and Identity Practices in a Community of Nerd Girls,” published in Language in Society in 1999. Supplementing Bucholtz’s articles will be Chad Wertley’s “You Are Not a True Geek, I Am’: The Role of Communicative Aggression in Geek Culture,” an unpublished manuscript from 2013.

And lastly, I have decided on “At the Late Night Double Feature Picture Show” to focus on the role of the audience in the performance of the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Supplementing my personal experiences of midnight showings are Liz Locke’s “‘Don’t Dream It, Be It’: The Rocky Horror Picture Show as Cultural Performance,” published in New Directions in Folklore in 1999, Jihan Mourad’s “Phantasmagorical Cult Movies: A Rocky Horror Case Study,” published in 2017 in The Medium: Concordia University’s Undergraduate Journal of Communication and Cultural Studies, and Jill Novak’s “Contextualising the Performance” from her publication Live Poetry: An Integrated Approach to Poetry in Performance, published in 2011.


Works Cited

Ahearn, L.M. (2012) The socially charged life of language. In Living Language: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 3-30.

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