In Ryerson Lecture, Michael Silverstein to explore effectiveness of communication

Oct. 24 event at Mandel Hall to feature work of leading anthropologist and linguist

Prof. Michael Silverstein, a leading anthropologist who helped define the field of sociolinguistics, has been selected to give this year’s Nora and Edward Ryerson Lecture.

A prestigious tradition celebrating the scholarly work of a UChicago faculty member, the Ryerson Lecture will take place at 5 p.m. Oct. 24 in Mandel Hall. Entitled “Getting—and Getting Across—the Message,” Silverstein said the lecture will explore “the ways in which verbal messages, among other modes of communication, do sociocultural work, structuring our worlds of quotidian experience and cosmic belief, from interpersonal interaction to political messaging and beyond.”

The Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology, Linguistics and Psychology, Silverstein is known for his interdisciplinary research on language-in-use as a social and cultural practice—conducted over nearly five decades at the University of Chicago. He also has done fieldwork on Native language speakers of the Pacific Northwest and of Aboriginal Australia.

More recently, Silverstein has examined the effects of globalization, nationalism and other social forces on local speech communities. He is the author of Talking Politics: The Substance of Style from Abe to “W” (2003) and the co-author of Creatures of Politics: Media, Message and the American Presidency (2012).

Silverstein was part of the second class of MacArthur Fellows in 1982, and also won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1979.

The Ryerson Lectures grew out of a 1972 bequest to UChicago by Nora and Edward L. Ryerson, the latter a former Board of Trustees chairman. A faculty committee selects the Ryerson Lecturer based on research contributions of lasting significance. Recent lecturers have included Nobel Prize-winning economist Richard Thaler, psychologist Susan Goldin-Meadow, physicist Sidney Nagel and legal scholar Geoffrey Stone.