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William Cotter

About William Cotter

I am a doctoral candidate in the joint PhD program in Anthropology & Linguistics. Prior to joining the Department of Linguistics and School of Anthropology, I completed a Master’s of Arts in Sociolinguistics of the Arab World at the University of Essex. As part of my work, I have conducted linguistic and anthropological fieldwork in the Gaza Strip, as well as multiple different locations throughout Jordan.

Dissertation Research
Building on earlier research conducted in 2015, throughout 2018-2019 I conducted ethnographic and linguistic fieldwork in Amman, Jordan. This work received support from the U.S. Student Fulbright Program, National Science Foundation, and the Bilinski Educational Foundation, as well as internal funding from the Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Institute and Graduate and Professional Student Council at the University of Arizona. This dissertation explores the relationship between language, both at the level of individual semiotic practices and broader state-level discourse, and ideologies of development. In this work, I show not only how language use in Jordan is influenced by the state's adoption of particular economic ideologies, but also how language is central to furthering market transformation.
Other Research
In addition to my dissertation research, since 2013 I have been conducting variationist sociolinguistic and phonetic analyses of contact between different varieties of Palestinian Arabic. This work stems from fieldwork conducted in the Gaza Strip, as well as more recent fieldwork conducted with Palestinian refugees in Northern Jordan. This work has examined sociolinguistic change in a number of different phonetic features of Arabic. I am beginning additional phonetic work to examine the Gaza realization of the voiced post-alveolar affricate /d͡ʒ/, which shows evidence of actually being realized as a palatalized voiced velar stop, [gj]. This realization of /d͡ʒ/ is to my knowledge undocumented in Palestinian Arabic varieties, and is different than the realization noted in all of the previous literature on Gazan Arabic. This fieldwork has also contributed to my ongoing work to provide an up to date description of Gaza City Arabic, an understudied Arabic variety whose most reliable documentation took place in 1915. Outcomes of this research have been published in the Journal of SociolinguisticsJournal of Arabic and Islamic StudiesPerspectives on Arabic LinguisticsCanadian Journal of Linguistics, and the Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics, with additional work accepted pending revisions to the Journal of the International Phonetic Association
Beyond my interest in how speakers use Arabic in their day to day lives, I have investigated how states use Arabic in conflict areas. I have been particularly interested in how state militaries deploy Arabic in leaflets, phone calls, and SMS messages as one of component of conducting military conflict. In doing so, this work examines how state uses of language play a role in creating social and political imaginaries of what the state is and does, the relationship between the state and its literal or figurative margins, and the practical role that language plays in shifting responsibility in conflict zones. The outcomes of this work have been published in Sapiens and the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology.
Finally, as a result of my previous experience working in the specialty coffee industry I have conducted work exploring the sensory discourse of coffee in the United States. This interest has resulted in two areas of research. The first, conducted with my colleague Mary-Caitlyn Valentinsson, investigates the relationship between the language of specialty coffee tasting events, public facing media discourses within specialty coffee, and issues of class at a national level in the United States. We examine how consumer uptake of and interaction with these different forms of language speak to broader class-based anxieties and their connection to consumption practices. Second, beyond consumer interaction with specialty coffee discourses, I have conducted additional work that investigates the narratives of professional barista competitions. This project investigates how voicing is used as a discursive tool by baristas in competition narratives, and its role in validating the authenticity and legitimacy of the product that they serve and their status in a rapidly evolving craft industry. Outcomes of this work have been published in the Journal of Sociolinguisticswith additional work accepted pending revisions to Signs and Society.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles
Peer-Reviewed Book Chapters
  • Hall-Lew, Lauren, Mirjam Eiswirth, Mary-Caitlyn Valentinsson, and William M. Cotter. 2017. Northern Arizona VowelsAmerican Speech 92, Supplement (102)1: 59-82. (Publication of the American Dialect Society - Speech in the Western States, Volume 2: Inland West).
  • Cotter, William M. 2016. (q) as a sociolinguistic variable in the Arabic of Gaza City, in Haddad, Youssef and Eric Potsdam (eds.). Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics XXVIII: Papers from the Annual Symposium on Arabic Linguistics, Gainesville, Florida, 2014. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 229-246. 

Editor-Reviewed Articles: 

Editor-Reviewed Book Chapters: 

  • Cotter, William M. (to appear). Dialect Contact and Phonological Change, in Lucas, Chris and Stefano Manfredi (eds). Arabic and contact-induced change: A handbook. Berlin: Language Science Press.
  • Cotter, William M. and de Jong, Rudolf. 2019. Lexical and Regional Variation, in Al-Wer, Enam and Uri Horesh (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Arabic Sociolinguistics. London: Routledge. 47-62.
  • Haeri, Niloofar and Cotter, William M. 2019.. Form and Ideology Revisited, in Al-Wer, Enam and Uri Horesh (eds.). The Routledge Handbook of Arabic Sociolinguistics. London: Routledge. 243-268.

Editor-Reviewed Conference Proceedings:

Encyclopedia Entries:

  • Cotter, William M. (to appear). Linguistic diversity and plurality in the Middle East and North Africa. In James Stanlaw (ed). The International Encyclopedia of Linguistic Anthropology. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Horesh, Uri. and Cotter, William M. 2015. Sociolinguistics of Palestinian Arabic, in Edzard, Lutz and Rudolf de Jong (eds.) Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Lingusitics Online. Leiden: BRILL.

Published Book Reviews:

Outreach, Public Scholarship, Poetry, and Media: 

Courses Taught

As Instructor of Record:

S' 18: Anth 383 - Varieties of English (Online)

Summer 2018: Anth 150B1 - Many Ways of Being Human

Summer 2017: Anth 150B1 - Many Ways of Being Human (Online)

Summer 2017: Ling 322 - The Structure and Meaning of Words (Online)

S' 17: Anth 383 - Varieties of English (Online)

Summer' 16: Anth 150B1 - Many Ways of Being Human

F '15: Ling 320 - Language and Social Issues (w/ Mary-Caitlyn Valentinsson)


S' 16 / F '17: Anth 150B1 - Many Ways of Being Human

F' 14 / S '15 / F '16: Anth 150A1 - Race, Ethnicity, and the American Dream

F' 15: Anth 303 - Gender and Language


Research Interests

Linguistic anthropology, sociolinguistics, political economy, urban anthropology, Arabic dialects, Palestinian Arabic, Jordan, the Gaza Strip

William Cotter's picture


2018 - M.A. in Linguistics, University of Arizona, Tucson AZ
2013 - M.A. in Sociolinguistics of the Arab World, University of Essex, Colchester UK
2012 - B.I.S in Middle Eastern Studies, Georgia State University, Atlanta GA