ANTH 208: Unit 4 Activity

1.   Introduction and OBJECTIVE:

While we may expect newscasters to use “standard” (formal, unmarked) linguistic forms, characters in movies or television shows often use regional varieties, or varieties associated with particular social categories, such as different age groups, social classes or ethnic groups.  

In this activity you will be looking at how different language varieties are used in a movie or television show to help portray characters, settings and themes.  You will be applying what you have learned about language variationin your analysis.  This will help you come to a deeper understanding of the concepts and terminology in this unit of the course.


2.   Data Collection:

  • Preparation: Read over the questions in section 3 below, and think of a television show or movie that you enjoy and that you think could be analyzed in terms of these questions because a noticeable linguistic varietyis used.  
  • Fieldwork”: Watch at least 30 minutes of the show, and note any marked language forms you hear and which character(s) use(s) them.  Be sure to look for examples of pronunciation (use the IPA to represent this), grammar and vocabulary, as well as rules of politeness if relevant.  You should have at least 15 examples in your list, and they should represent more than onetype of variation.  (e.g. notonlyexamples of vocabulary variation.)
  • Data recording: Enter your examples into the data table on page 3, and classify them by filling out the information in each column.



Analysis: After you complete your data collection, write up an analysis of your findings by answering the questions in section 3.  Also include any other information you think is relevant even if it is not covered by these questions.   Write at least 600 words, include at least 5 examples of linguistic forms from your notes and 4 technical terms in the write-up.   Your write-up should be divided into four sections as outlined below.


    1. Provide the name of the show and a BRIEF (2-3 sentences) overview of the plot.   DO NOT COPY THIS FROM A WEBSITE!!  You will get zero on this section if I detect any plagiarism.  Just use your own words. 
    2. Explain briefly why you chose this movie/show to analyze.


    1. What variety/ies of language is/are used?  Describe which characters use “non-standard” forms, and which (if any) characters use “standard” forms. Can you identify the particular regional or social dialect/register which is used? How?  Give examples of the forms of language used. 
    2. Were there ever times when the variety was difficult for you to understand?  If so, give examples.
    3. Were you able to judge whether the forms used were authentic or just stereotypes of a particular variety?  If relevant, give examples.


    1. Why are these forms used?  How does the use of this variety contribute to plot, setting, themes, character development/identity, mood, etc.?    Give specific language examples from your notes.  
    2. Do the characters code-switch or do they consistently use the same language variety?  If some characters use Standard English, what does this show about those characters?



Overall, is the use of the particular language variety/ies important?  Could the show or movie have worked just as well using standard language forms or a different variety?   

Your write-up must include:

  • At least five direct quotes from your data table.
  • At least four of the following technical terms, in boldface, and any other technical terms you think are relevant:
  • Be organized into the four sections outlined above.

Overt/covert prestige, symbolic capital, social meaning, affective meaning, linguistic security, linguistic insecurity, indexical, slang, jargon, taboo language, multifunctional, stigmatized,  language ideology, variation, register, code-switching

Checklist before you turn in your project:

¨  Did you fill out the table with at least 15 relevant utterances from your observation?

¨  Did you write an analysis organized into four sections which answers the questions in section 3?

¨  Is your analysis at least 600 words, with word count included?

¨  Does your analysis include at least 5 quotes/examples from your notes about the show?

¨  Does your analysis include at least 4 technical terms from the above list?

**You may use a show or movie in a language other than English, as long as you provide translations and background information about the dialect/variety.


Stuck for ideas?  Last quarter students analyzed various movies and shows including the following. I’m not endorsing any of these shows or movies, or recommending that you choose from this list, but just hoping that this list might spark some ideas for you.

Hart of Dixie, Star Wars, Snatch, Big Bang Theory, Adventure Time, Grease, The Blind Side, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones, Do the Right Thing, The Sopranos, Castle, Ripper Street, That ‘70s Show


Title of Movie or Show: ________________________




This form is an example of (choose from the list):

  • Pronunciation
  • Vocabulary/Lexicon
  • Grammar or morphology
  • Rules of politeness
  • Other (specify)


Character speaking is:

What is interesting about this form?  State what it indicates about the character’s:

–       Age

–       Gender

–       Ethnicity

–       Social class

–       Regional origin

–       Education

–       Areas of Expertise

–       Other (specify)


Other relevant information (if any):

The next row gives an example of what your entries might look like.  My example is taken from the movie “Clueless”.  Note that I underlined the relevant usage in the first column.

“But some people are all‘What about the strain

on our resources?’”

Lexicon: “are all” instead of “say”


Use of “are all” to precede quoted speech is associated with young (female) speakers.

This is part of Cher’s class presentation about Haitian refugees, so this informal usage is not right for a formal presentation on a serious topic.  (She gets a low grade!)



















































































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