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How Humans Construct Meaning and Other Big Questions


Eliana Zupcich ’18 enrolled in Language and Sociolinguistics with Bonnie Urciuoli just because she needed to take one of Hamilton’s quantitative and symbolic reasoning courses. “I had never even heard of linguistics before, but as soon as I saw Professor Urciuoli's passion and learned what the discipline was about, I was sold on the major,” she says. (Urciuoli is the Leonard C. Ferguson Professor of Anthropology.)

Actually, linguistics is offered only as a minor at Hamilton, but Zupcich liked the subject so much she used Hamilton’s interdisciplinary studies option to build her own major. So far she’s taken four more linguistics courses, plus other anthropology courses that focus on communication and the construction of meaning within speech communities.

“I am deeply interested to learn how humans construct meaning and conceptualize identity,” Zupcich says.  “I am also consistently amazed by the power of linguistic practices ­– speech patterns, body language, code switching – to enact real changes in relationships and in the world, as well as the amount of information that a simple social interaction can reveal about the identity and personal culture of each participant.”

Linguistics is her top pursuit but not her only one. Before she discovered linguistics, Zupich’s plan was to major in creative writing. She won a prestigious Hamilton poetry prize as a first-year student. And Zupcich is studying Italian. She is spending a semester in Italy and after that will study abroad in New Zealand.

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