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Language, Culture, and Memory

It is said of Franz Boas (surely the seminal ancestor in four-field American anthropology) that heworried a small number of ideas throughout his career”, and these were race, language, and culture (Darnell, 2001, p. 37).  My own triad of worries includes language, culture, and memory, or more specifically over the last several years: discourse, cross-cultural comparison, and dementia.  In practice, I find that every project tends to pair at least two of these.  In Mixed Methods: Interviews, Surveys, and Cross-Cultural Comparisons (Cambridge, 2016), my aim has been to integrate the discourse analysis of cross-cultural interviews and the quantitative mappings of social and cultural discourses, for the purpose of making cross-cultural comparisons.  Another pairing has involved discursive interaction and Alzheimer’s, and I’ve found a wonderful community of sociolinguists, conversation analysts, and clinical linguists with similar interests.  Two edited volumes include: Dialogue and Dementia (with Nicole Müller; Taylor and Francis, 2014) and the forthcoming Multilingual Interaction and Dementia (with Charlotta Plejert and Camilla Lindholm; Multingual Matters, 2017). I’ve also paired cognition and language in a number of studies on bilingual autobiographical memory among older adults using lab-based, experimental techniques from cognitive psychology.   These efforts have involved many methods and techniques, and hence my triad of worries rests squarely on mixed methods.

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