Students studying linguistic anthropology learn to understand the role of language in society. They learn about the three paradigms concerning the subdiscipline: the documentation of languages, theoretical studies of language use, and the use of linguistics to answer other questions related to other subfields of anthropology. Although students are exposed to a broad range of languages, they can specialize in the study of a single language or group of languages.
Students examine topics such as phonetics, which provides a study of the sounds of language and human articulatory capabilities. They also study phonology, which is a study of the patterns of distinctive sounds in the world's languages; as well as semantics, in which patterns of meaning of language are examined. Students learn about the interplay of pronunciation, grammar, semantics, and discourse with rituals, ideologies, and the construction of social meaning.
Students also study the theoretical and empirical roles of language in the reproduction and transformation of ideology, hegemony and political economy. áTopics studied include language and colonialism, imperialism, globalization, nationalism, racism, sexism, bureaucratic interactions, environmentalism, and migration.á Finally, students also study the history of various languages and how they have evolved over time, with the disappearance of certain languages, the endangerment of losing other languages, and the emergence of new languages.
Students complement their classroom studies with ethnographic field studies, where they learn various data gathering techniques. This includes interviewing, census taking, questionnaire construction, and the use of computers.