Alessandro Duranti

Alessandro Duranti (born September 17, 1950)[1] is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and served as Dean of Social Sciences at UCLA from 2009 to 2016.[2] He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Alessandro Duranti
Rome, Italy
TitleDistinguished Professor of Anthropology
AwardsJohn Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation
Academic background
EducationUniversity of Southern California
Academic work
DisciplineLinguistic Anthropology
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Los Angeles


Duranti was trained in linguistics at the Sapienza University of Rome (laurea, 1974), where he studied general linguistics and ethnolinguistics with Giorgio Raimondo Cardona [it] (1943–1988), and at the University of Southern California (PhD, 1981), where he specialized in Bantu languages under Larry Hyman while working with Elinor Ochs on the conversational foundations of Italian word order patterns.[3] His dissertation, The Fono: A Samoan Speech Event, based on 13 months of fieldwork in Falefā, on the island of 'Upolu in Samoa, focused on the language and social organization of the meeting of the local 'council' (fono) that he analyzed by extending Dell Hymes' Speech Event Model to include speechmaking across speakers and situations.


Duranti fully embraced an anthropological perspective on language through his collaboration with Elinor Ochs during and after their fieldwork in (then Western) Samoa in 1978–79 and 1981. In 1980–81, Duranti was a postdoctoral fellow at the Australian National University where he was part of a Working Group on Language and Context under the direction of Roger Keesing. In 1980–81, the core group, which met regularly throughout the year, included Elinor Ochs, John B. Haviland, Penelope Brown, Steven Levinson, and Robert Van Valin, Jr. In 1983–84, Duranti was a postdoctoral fellow at the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition (LCHC) at the University of California, San Diego, directed by Michael Cole. After teaching at the University of Rome, Pitzer College, and the University of California at San Diego, Duranti joined the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1988. In the 1990s, he carried out fieldwork among Samoan immigrants in Southern California to study, in collaboration with Elinor Ochs, how second generation Samoan children were being socialized in the context of a bicultural, bilingual environment.

In 1987 Duranti (in collaboration with Bambi Schieffelin) founded the journal IPrA Papers in Pragmatics, later renamed Pragmatics. In 1992, he co-edited with Charles Goodwin Rethinking Context: Language as an Interactive Phenomenon, a collection of essays that continues to be widely read and cited as one of the key references on the study of the relationship between language and context. In 1994, Duranti published From Grammar to Politics: Linguistic Anthropology in a Western Samoan Village (University of California Press), an ethnography of Samoan ways of speaking that integrates the analysis of the spatio-temporal dimensions of speech events with the detailed analysis of the grammatical patterns used in political arenas and in more informal interaction to manage what Duranti called "the moral flow of discourse." This was the beginning of his interest in how agency is expressed and enacted through language, a topic that he has since explored in a number of publications. In 1995–96, using a combination of participant-observation and videography, Duranti documented the political campaign for the U.S. Congress of Walter Capps, then Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In support of this project, in 1999 he received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. After completing a treatise on the field of linguistic anthropology for the Cambridge University Press series in linguistics (Duranti 1997), he dedicated himself to editing a number of collections to make recent research on language and culture accessible to a wider range of students and scholars (Duranti 2001a, 2001b, 2004).

In 2002, Duranti started a collaboration with legendary jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell, with the goal of documenting jazz culture and teaching jazz aesthetics to students in the social sciences. One product of their collaboration is a course on the culture of jazz aesthetics, where jazz musicians are invited to play and talk about their music. The video recording of their class, student concerts, and other events in which jazz is taught, played, and discussed at the university and elsewhere has produced hundreds of hours of audio visual documentation of the contemporary jazz scene in Los Angeles.

Since the late 1980s, Duranti has also had an active role in editing journals and books. In 1990–1994, he was an associate editor of American Ethnologist and in 1999–2001 he was editor of the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology.

Duranti's most recent work, The Anthropology of Intentions: Language in a World of Others,[4] investigates his long-held interests on the limits of focusing on speakers' intentions for understanding language as action. His earlier critique of speech act theory is here expanded to a broader discussion of intentionality and intersubjectivity inspired by Edmund Husserl's writings and supported by examples drawn from three of his research projects: his ethnographic study of Samoan ways of speaking, the audio-visual documentation of the 1995–96 political campaign of Walter Capps for the U.S. Congress, and a study of the culture of jazz aesthetics and improvisation. Duranti demonstrates how "cognitive, emotional, and embodied dispositions [are] always embedded in an intersubjective world of experience."[5] Duranti introduces into anthropological theory the novel concept of the intentional continuum to describe "a range of graded ways of being disposed or mentally (and sensorially) connected with some entity in the world."[6] In his review of the book, the developmental psychologist Martin J. Packer demonstrates how the intentional continuum is a necessary expansion to the standard theory of mind found in John Searle:

The standard components of theory of mind—beliefs, desires, and goals—capture only a small part of this continuum. Searle's (1983) attempt to reduce all points on the continuum to the fundamental Intentional states of belief and desire seems less than satisfying…When we understand another person's actions, or grasp the meaning of their words, we are paying attention to one part or another of this continuum, "seeing as" in ways that have been shaped by the culture in which we live.[7]

In her review of the book, the anthropologist and linguist Jane H. Hill writes that "Duranti aims here to move away from homogeneous characterizations of whole cultures as inattentive or attentive to mens rea toward richer and more deeply contextualized accounts of exactly when, by whom, and how such attention is given or withheld."[8] Duranti's book is the subject of a 2017 Book Symposium in HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory,[9] which includes response from Eve Danziger, Shaun Gallagher and the authors of the other featured book, The Concept of Action,[10] N.J Enfield and Jack Sidnell.

Selected publicationsEdit


  • 1979 – (with E. Byarushengo and L.M. Hyman) Haya Grammatical Structure. Los Angeles: Department of Linguistics, University of Southern California.
  • 1981 – The Samoan Fono: a sociolinguistic study – Canberra: The Australian National University, Pacific Linguistics Monograph B80
  • 1992a – Etnografia del parlare quotidiano – Rome: La Nuova Italia Scientifica/Carocci Editore.
  • 1992b – (Ed. with Charles Goodwin) Rethinking Context: Language as an Interactive Phenomenon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • 1994 – From Grammar to Politics: Linguistic Anthropology in a Western Samoan Village – Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.[11]
  • 1997 – Linguistic Anthropology. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press [Italian translation: Antropologia del Linguaggio. Roma: Meltemi; Spanish translation: Antropología Lingüistica. Madrid: Cambridge University Press][12]
  • 2001 – (Ed.) Key Terms in Language and Culture. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell[13]
  • 2001 – (Ed.) Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader – Malden, Mass: Blackwell.[14]
  • 2004 – (Ed.) A Companion to Linguistic anthropology – Malden, Mass: Blackwell[15]
  • 2007 – Etnopragmatica. La forza nel parlare. Rome: Carocci Editore
  • 2009 – (Ed.) Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader. Second Edition – Malden, Mass: Wiley-Blackwell.[16]
  • 2012 – (with E. Ochs and B.B. Schieffelin) (Eds.) Handbook of Language Socialization. – Malden, Mass: Wiley-Blackwell.[17]
  • 2015 – The Anthropology of Intentions: Language in a World of Others – Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.[4]

Articles and ChaptersEdit

  • 1979 – (with E. Ochs) "Left-dislocation in Italian Conversation." In Syntax and Semantics, vol. 12: Discourse and Syntax, ed by T. Givon, 377–416. New York: Academic Press.
  • 1981 – "Speechmaking and the Organization of Discourse in a Samoan Fono." Journal of the Polynesian Society 90: 357–400.
  • 1983 – "Samoan Speechmaking Across Social Events: One Genre in and out of a Fono." Language in Society 12: 1-30.
  • 1984 – "The Social Meaning of Subject Pronouns in Italian Conversation." Text 6: 277–311.
  • 1985 – "Sociocultural Dimensions of Discourse." Handbook of Discourse Analysis, Vol. 1, ed. by T.A. van Dijk. London: Academic Press, pp. 193–230.
  • 1986 – (with E. Ochs) "Literacy Instruction in a Samoan Village." In Acquisition of Literacy: Ethnographic Perspectives, ed. by B.B. Schieffelin & P. Galimore, pp. 213–232, Ablex.
  • 1988 – "Ethnography of Speaking: Toward a Linguistics of the Praxis." In Linguistics: The Cambridge Survey, vol. VI. Language: The Socio-cultural Context, ed. by F. J. Newmyer. Cambridge: Cambridge U Press, pp. 210–228.
  • 1990a – (with E. Ochs) "Genitive Constructions and Agency in Samoan Discourse." Studies in Language 14-1: 1-23.
  • 1990b – "Doing Things With Words: Conflict, Understanding, and Change in a Samoan Fono." In Disentangling: Conflict Discourse in Pacific Societies, ed. by K. Watson-Gegeo & G. White. Stanford: Stanford University Press, pp. 459–89.
  • 1990c – "Code Switching and Conflict Management in Samoan Multiparty Interaction." Pacific Studies 14:1, 1-23.
  • 1990d – "Politics and Grammar: Agency in Samoan Political Discourse." American Ethnologist 17, 4: 36–56.
  • 1992 – "Language and Bodies in Social Space: Samoan Ceremonial Greetings." American Anthropologist 94: 657–91.
  • 1993a – "Truth and Intentionality: Towards an Ethnographic Critique." Cultural Anthropology 8 (2): 214–245.
  • 1993b – "Beyond Bakhtin or the Dialogic Imagination in Academia." Pragmatics 3 (3): 333-340
  • 1995 – (with E. Ochs & E. K. Ta`ase) "Change and Tradition in Literacy Instruction in a Samoan American Community." Educational Foundations, 9:57-74.
  • 1996 – "Mediated Encounters with Pacific Cultures: Three Samoan Dinners." In P. Reill and D. Miller (Eds.) Visions of Empire: Voyages, Botany, and Representation of Nature, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 326–34.
  • 1997a – "Indexical Speech Across Samoan Communities". American Anthropologist 99: 342–54.
  • 1997b – (with E. Ochs). "Syncretic Literacy in a Samoan American Family." In Lauren B. Resnick, Roger Säljö, Clotilde Pontecorvo and Barbara Burge (Eds.) Discourse, Tools, and Reasoning: Essays on Situated Cognition. Berlin: Springer, pp. 169–202.
  • 1997c – "Universal and Culture-Specific Properties of Greetings." Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 7: 63–97.
  • 1997d – (with E. Ochs) "Syncretic Literacy in a Samoan American Family." In Discourse, Tools, and Reasoning: Essays on Situated Cognition. Eds. L.B. Resnick, R. Säljö, C. Pontecorvo and B. Burge. Berlin: Springer, pp. 169–202.
  • 1997e – "Indexical Speech Across Samoan Communities." American Anthropologist 99: 342–54.
  • 1997f – "Polyphonic Discourse: Overlapping in Samoan Ceremonial Greetings." Text 17:349-81.
  • 2004 – "Jazz Improvisation: A Search for Hidden Harmonies and a Unique Self." Ricerche di Psicologia. 3, pp. 71–101.
  • 2005 – "On Theories and Models." Discourse Studies 7:409-429.
  • 2006a – "Narrating the Political Self in a Campaign for the U.S. Congress." Language in Society 35(4): 467–97.
  • 2006b – "The Social Ontology of Intentions." Discourse Studies 8 (1):31-40.
  • 2008 – "Further Reflections on Reading Other Minds." Anthropological Quarterly 81(2):pp. 483–494.
  • 2009a – "The Relevance of Husserl's Theory to Language Socialization." Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 19(2):205-226.
  • 2009b – "The Force of Language and its Temporal Unfolding." Language in Life and a Life in Language: Jacob Mey – A Festschrift Ed. By Kenneth Turner and Bruce Fraser. Emerald Group Publishers, pp. 63–71.
  • 2010 – "Husserl, Intersubjectivity and Anthropology." Anthropological Theory 10(1):1-20.
  • 2011 – "Linguistic Anthropology: Language as a Non-Neutral Medium." The Cambridge Handbook of Sociolinguistics Ed. By Raj Mesthrie. Cambridge University Press.
  • 2012a – "Anthropology and Linguistics." In ASA Handbook of Social Anthropology, ed. by Richard Fandon, O. Harris, T. H.J. Marchand, M. Nuttall, C. Shore, V. Strang, and R.A. Wilson. Los Angeles & London: Sage, pp. 12–23.
  • 2012b – (with S. Black) "Socialization and Improvisation." In A. Duranti, E. Ochs, and B.B. Schieffelin (Eds.) Handbook of Language Socialization. Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • 2013 – "Husserl." In Encyclopedia of Theory in Social and Cultural Anthropology, edited by R. J. McGee and R. L. Warms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • 2014 – (with J. Throop) "Attention, Ritual Glitches, and Attentional Pull: The President and the Queen." Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences. November Issue, pp. 1–28.


  1. ^ "Professor Alessandro Duranti". Retrieved 2017-10-15.
  2. ^ "A new dean in the College".
  3. ^ Duranti, Alessandro; Ochs, Elinor (1979). "Left-Dislocation in Italian Conversation" (PDF). Syntax and Semantics. 12: 377–416. ISBN 978-0-12-613512-1.
  4. ^ a b Duranti, Alessandro (2015). The Anthropology of Intentions. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-02639-1.
  5. ^ Duranti 2015, p. 16.
  6. ^ Duranti 2015, p. 290.
  7. ^ Packer, Martin J. (2016-09-27). "Promises, Promises". Mind, Culture, and Activity. 24 (1): 81–84. doi:10.1080/10749039.2016.1232736. ISSN 1074-9039. S2CID 220378491.
  8. ^ Hill, Jane H. (2016). "Alessandro Duranti, the anthropology of intentions: Language in a world of others. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. pp. xii, 297. Pb $34.99". Language in Society. 45 (4): 609–612. doi:10.1017/S004740451600052X. S2CID 151565393.
  9. ^ "The HAU App". Retrieved 2017-11-09.
  10. ^ Enfield, N. J.; Sidnell, Jack (2017). The Concept of Action. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-89528-6.
  11. ^ Duranti, Alessandro (1994-08-22). From Grammar to Politics: Linguistic Anthropology in a Western Samoan Village. ISBN 0-520-08385-7.
  12. ^ Duranti, Alessandro (1997-09-04). Linguistic Anthropology. ISBN 0-521-44993-6.
  13. ^ Duranti, Alessandro (2001-01-19). Key Terms in Language & Culture. ISBN 0-631-22666-4.
  14. ^ Duranti, Alessandro (2001-02-22). Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader. ISBN 0-631-22111-5.
  15. ^ Duranti, Alessandro (2005-12-23). A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology. ISBN 1-4051-4430-0.
  16. ^ Duranti, Alessandro (2009-05-04). Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader. ISBN 978-1-4051-2632-8.
  17. ^ Duranti, Alessandro; Ochs, Elinor; Schieffelin, Bambi B. (2011). The Handbook of Language Socialization. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-4443-4288-8.

External linksEdit