John J. Gumperz (*1922)

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Research Interests

  • sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, linguistic anthropology, urban anthropology

Notable Ideas


John Joseph Gumperz was, for most of his career, a professor at the University of California in Berkeley. He is currently affiliated with the University of California, Santa Barbara. His research on the languages of India, on code-switching in Norway, and on conversational interaction, has benefitted the study of sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, linguistic anthropology, and urban anthropology.

Contribution to Linguistics

John Gumperz developed a new way of looking at sociolinguistics with Dell Hymes, also a scholar of sociolinguistics. Their contribution was a new method called the "ethnography of communication." Gumperz' own approach has been called Interactional Sociolinguistics.

Gumperz was interested in how the order of situations and the culture of the speaker affect the way in which they make conversational inferences and interpret verbal or non-verbal signs known as contextualisation cues.

Main Publications

  • Conversational Analysis of Social Meaning (with E. Herasimchuk). In: M. Sanches and B. Blount (eds.), Sociocultural Dimensions Of Language Use. New York: Academic Press. 1975.

  • Sprache, Lokale Kultur and Soziale Identität. Düsseldorf: Schwann. 1975.

  • The Sociolinguistic Significance of Conversational Code-Switching. In: J. Cook Gumperz and JJ. Gumperz (eds.), Papers on Language and Context, Working Paper no. 46. Berkeley: Language Behavior Research Laboratory, University of California. (Also published in: 1977, Deutsch im Kontakt mit Anderen Sprachen. Germany: Skriptor Kronberg and by Regional English Language Centre, Singapore.) 1976.

  • The Conversational Analysis of Interethnic Communication. In: E. L. Ross (ed.), Interethnic Communication, Proceedings of the Southern Anthropological Society. University of Georgia Press. 1978.

  • Discourse Strategies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1982.

  • Language and Social Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1982.

  • Rethinking Linguistic Relativity (edited with Stephen C. Levinson) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1996.

Categories: People