Distinguished Lecture

The Plenary Lecture for the 91st Annual Meetings, titled “”Standards, Styles, and the Semiotic Work of Culture”, will be given by Michael Silverstein, one of the most eminent anthropologists and linguists working today. He is the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology, Linguistics, and Psychology at the University of Chicago, and is also in their Committee on Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities. Dr. Silverstein received his Ph.D. from Harvard 1972, and was also a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” in 1982. His many interests include the study of language structure and functional context, linguistic relativity, language history and prehistory, the anthropology of language use, sociolinguistics, semiotics, language and cognition, and the history of linguistics and anthropology. He has conducted linguistic and ethnographic fieldwork in northwestern North America and northwestern Australia, but is also known as an astute analyst of cultural values and politics of contemporary American society. Critics have said that Michael Silverstein’s work has caused a major theoretical and conceptual shift in anthropology and linguistics, offering a robust alternative to the currently fashionable kinds of formalist paradigms and conceptions of language held by Noam Chomsky and others. He is also sensitive to language-in-use, and the politics of language, commenting widely on topics from presidential metaphors to the history of English.

His various publications—literally too many to count—include the books Creatures of Politics: Media, Message, and the American Presidency with Michael Lempert (2012); Talking Politics: The Substance of Style from Abe to “W.” (2003); and Natural Histories of Discourse, edited with Greg Urban (1996). A sampling of recent articles and chapters—e.g., “From Baffin Island to Boasian Induction: How Anthropology and Linguistics Got into the Interlinear Groove” (2013), “The Race from Place: Dialect Eradication vs. the Linguistic ‘Authenticity’ of ‘Terror’” (2013), and “The Eucharistic Chiastic Trope in American ‘Civil Religion’: Ritual Interdiscursivity and the Production of Cultural Intertexts” (2012)—show the breathe and depth of Dr. Silverstein’s work.