William M. Cotter

Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology & Linguistics

The University of Arizona


I am a doctoral candidate in the joint Anthropology & Linguistics program at the University of Arizona. In 2018-2019 I will be conducting my doctoral dissertation research in Amman, Jordan. In addition to my academic interests, I am a coffee snob and a bike nerd. Chemex is my favorite brew method and I have an affinity for unreasonably long bike rides. Over the past few years I have done a handful of centuries and I’m always looking for an excuse to get in a 50+mi ride. Outside of work I spend most of my time riding my bike, exploring new hiking trails across southern Arizona, running, occupying one of Tucson's specialty coffee shops, or hanging out with my lab mix, Carl.

Language change and verbal art

My dissertation work examines language change, stylistic language practices, and verbal art in communities of Palestinian refugees in Jordan. This work aims to connect micro-level analyses of language variation and change as a result of refugee migration with broader analyses of how language serves as a stylistic resource for Palestinian refugees in articulating forms of citizenship and belonging to both the broader Palestinian community and their localized communities in Jordan. In addition, this project works to connect variationist approaches to language change with anthropological understandings of language use in performative contexts to examine how language and performance play a role in articulating senses of community among Palestinian refugees. I will be conducting fieldwork in Amman, Jordan beginning in September 2018. My dissertation fieldwork and write up is being supported by a 2018 - 2019 Fulbright U.S. Student Program Research Grant, 2018 - 2019 National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, the Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Institute (SBSRI) & Graduate and Professional Student Council (GPSC) at the University of Arizona, and a 2019 -2020 Bilinski Educational Foundation Fellowship.

Other Research

In addition to my dissertation research, since 2013 I have been conducting variationist sociolinguistic 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 the realization of the Arabic voiceless uvular stop [q], as well as the feminine gender marking morpheme. In addition to its sociolinguistic focus, this fieldwork has also contributed to my ongoing attempt to provide an up to date description of Gaza City Arabic, an understudied Arabic variety whose most reliable documentation took place in 1915. Results of these studies have been published in the Journal of Sociolinguistics, Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics, Canadian Journal of Linguistics, and the Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics.

Beyond my interests in how speakers use Arabic in their day to day lives, I have also investigated the ways in which state apparatuses utilize Arabic in conflict areas. Within this body of work, I have been particularly interested in how state militaries deploy Arabic in leaflets, phone calls, and SMS message 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 primary 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 social class in North America. In this work, 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 professional identities in a rapidly evolving craft industry. The study emerging from the first strand of this work is currently accepted pending revisions in the Journal of Sociolinguistics, with an additional study currently under review at Food, Culture, & Society.

(Where available, titles are linked to final published versions. Pre-publication versions are often available on Humanities Commons.)

Peer Reviewed Articles & Chapters

Cotter, William M. (under review). Refugee migration as a motivator of morphophonemic change in Palestinian Arabic. Language Variation and Change

Cotter, William M. (under review). The Arabic dialect of Gaza City. Journal of the International Phonetic Association.

Cotter, William M. and Mary-Caitlyn Valentinsson. (to appear). Bivalent class indexing in the sociolinguistics of specialty coffee talk. Journal of Sociolinguistics.

Hall-Lew, Lauren, Mirjam Eiswirth, Mary-Caitlyn Valentinsson, and William M. Cotter. 2017. Northern Arizona Vowels. In Valerie Fridland, Alicia Wassink, Tyler Kendall, and Betsy Evans (eds.) Speech in the Western States, Volume 2: The Mountain West, Chapter 4, 59-82. Publication of the American Dialect Society. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Cotter, William M. 2017. Not-so-strange bedfellows: Documentation, description, and sociolinguistics in Gaza. Canadian Journal of Linguistics 62(4): 596-613. (PDF)

Cotter, William M. 2017. Gaza at the margins? Legibility and indeterminacy in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 27(1): 54-70. (PDF)

Horesh, Uri. and Cotter, William M. 2016. Current research on linguistic variation in the Arabic speaking world. Language and Linguistics Compass 10(8): 370-381. (PDF)

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. (PDF)

Cotter, William M. 2016. One piece of the puzzle: Notes on the historic interdental fricatives /θ, ð, ðʕ/ in the Arabic dialect of Gaza City. Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies 16: 149-162. (PDF)

Cotter, William M. and Horesh, Uri. 2015. Social integration and dialect divergence in coastal Palestine. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 19(4): 460-483. (PDF)

Book Chapters & Encyclopedia Entries

Cotter, William M. (under review). 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. (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.

Cotter, William M. and de Jong, Rudolf E. (to appear). Lexical and Regional Variation. In Al-Wer, Enam and Uri Horesh (eds). The Routledge Handbook of Arabic Sociolinguistics. London: Routledge.

Haeri, Niloofar and Cotter, William M. (to appear). Form and Ideology Revisited. In Al-Wer, Enam and Uri Horesh (eds). The Routledge Handbook of Arabic Sociolinguistics. London: Routledge.

Horesh, Uri and Cotter, William M. 2015. Sociolinguistics of Palestinian Arabic. In Edzard, Lutz and Rudolf de Jong (eds) Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics. Leiden: BRILL. (PDF)

Editor Reviewed Articles & Proceedings Papers

Cotter, William M. (to appear). Spring in Gaza. Anthropology & Humanism. (PDF)

Cotter, William M. 2017. Burying Tariq Aziz. Arizona Anthropologist 28: 27-36.(PDF)

Cotter, William M. 2016. sociophonetic account of morphophonemic variation in Palestinian Arabic. Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics 26: 060001.(PDF)

Cotter, William M. 2016. On depression, anxiety, and looking for the silver lining in short term fieldwork. Arizona Anthropologist 26: 23-35. (PDF)

Book Reviews

Cotter, William M. (to appear). Thank You for Dying for Our Country: Commemorative Texts and Performance in Jerusalem. Chaim Noy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. 274 pp. Hb(9780199398973) US105.00 / Pb(9780199398980) US$41.95. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology.

Cotter, William M. 2016. Language and Identity in Modern Egypt. Reem Bassiouney. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014. 416 pp. Hb(9780748689644) US$120.00 / Pb(9780748699940) US \$40.00. Al-’Arabiyya 49: 163-166. (PDF)

Cotter, William M. 2016. Making Waves: the Story of Variationist Sociolnguistics. Sali Tagliamonte. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015. 224 pp. Hb(9781118455166) US$99.95 / Pb(9781118455166) US$54.95. LINGUIST List. (PDF)

Cotter, William M. 2015. Language, Migration, and Identity: Neighborhood talk in Indonesia. Zane Goebel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. 240 pp. Hb(9780521519915) US$103.00 / Pb(9780521519915) US$45.99. LINGUIST List. (PDF)

Public Scholarship, Media & Engagement

Cotter, William M. 2018 - Present. Illustrating Anthropology.

Cotter, William M. 2018 - Present. Contributor to Footnotes..

Cotter, William M. 2018. Author interview with Alex E. Chávez about Sounds of Crossing: Music, Migration, and the Aural Poetics of Huapango Arribeño. Durham: Duke University Press. CaMP Anthropology. (Link)

Cotter, William M. 2017. Do Military Leaflets Save Lives or Just Instill Fear? SAPIENS Magazine. (PDF)

Cotter, William M. and Valentinsson, Mary-Caitlyn. 2016. A seat at the bar: Issues of race and class in the world of specialty coffee, Article for Anthropologies 22: thoughts on food, animals, and anthropology as part of Savage Minds. (PDF)

Cotter, William M. 2016. Political conflict as a catalyst for language change: The case of Palestinian Arabic, Babel - The Language Magazine 14: 38-44. (PDF)

Cotter, William M. 2014. Navigating the Ph.D. Application Season, GradHacker - Inside Higher Education. (Link)

Unpublished Manuscripts

Cotter, William. M. 2016. Morphophonemic convergence and divergence in Palestinian Arabic. Qualifying paper: University of Arizona, Tucson AZ. (revised and submitted to Language Variation and Change)

Cotter, William. M. 2013. Dialect contact and change in Gaza City. MA Dissertation: University of Essex, Colchester UK. (outcomes of this work appear in Cotter and Horesh 2015, Cotter 2016)

Refereed Presentations

Investigating negative marking in Palestinian Arabic as a site of contact-induced syntactic change, Paper: 32nd Annual Symposium on Arabic Linguistics, Tempe AZ, February 2018

Voicing the farmer: moral economies and enduring inequality in the world of specialty coffee. Paper: Society for Linguistic Anthropology Graduate Paper Prize Panel, 116th American Anthropological Association annual meeting, Washington DC, November 2017

Sugar, we're going down: Vowel lowering in Gaza City Arabic, Paper as part of the workshop on Arabic and Contact-Induced Change: International Conference on Historical Linguistics, San Antonio TX, August 2017 (PDF)

Refugee migration, dialect contact, and morphophonemic change in Palestinian Arabic, Paper: Linguistic Society of America annual meeting, Austin TX, January 2017 (PDF)

The voice of this coffee: Negotiating the moral economy of specialty coffee in professional barista competitions, Paper: 115th American Anthropological Association annual meeting, Minneapolis MN, November 16-20, 2016

Morphophonemic convergence and divergence in Palestinian Arabic, Poster: New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) 45, Vancouver, Canada, November 2016

A sociophonetic account of morphophonemic variation in Palestinian Arabic, Poster: Acoustical Society of America, Salt Lake City UT, May 2016

w/Mary-Caitlyn Valentinsson, Materiality in and Through the Lens of Food, Panel: 114th American Anthropological Association annual meeting, Denver CO, November 2015

w/Mary-Caitlyn Valentinsson, Indexicalities of Class in the Materiality of Coffee Talk, Paper: 114th American Anthropological Association annual meeting, Denver CO, November 2015

w/Uri Horesh, Not-so-strange bedfellows: Language documentation and sociolinguistics in Gaza, Paper: New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) 44, Toronto, Canada, October 2015

w/Lauren Hall Lew, Mirjam Elswirth, and Mary-Caitlyn Valentinsson, Northern Arizona: Sound Change and Dialect Contact, Poster: New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) 44 , Toronto, Canada, October 2015

A heavy workload: (Q) as a marker of (supra) local identity in Gaza City, Paper: Forum for Arabic Linguistics, University of Essex, Colchester, United Kingdom, July 2015

w/Uri Horesh, Social integration and dialect divergence in coastal Palestine, Paper: Association Internationale de Dialectologie Arabe 11th Annual Meeting, Bucharest, Romania, May 2015

On the status of the interdental fricatives [ṯ], [ḏ], and [ḍ] in Gaza City, Paper: Association Internationale de Dialectologie Arabe 11th Annual Meeting, Bucharest, Romania, May 2015

Recollective Performativity and Embedded Violence in Gazan Collective Memory, Paper: 15th Annual Southwest Graduate Conference in Middle Eastern and North African Studies, Tucson AZ, Mar 2015

The Embedding of Violence in Gazan Collective Memory, Paper: Sandrizona VIII - Linguistic Anthropology Exchange, Tucson AZ, Feb 2015

Gaza City: Language variation, lesser evil, and the spatiality of violence, Paper: Discourses on Death: Conceptualizing Grief, Loss, and Transformative Interaction, Tucson AZ, Nov 2014

Examining the results of dialect contact among Palestinian communities in Gaza, Poster: New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) 43, Chicago IL, Oct 2014

w/ Uri Horesh, Jaffa Palestinian Arabic: A contemporary and diasporic sociolinguistic analysis, Paper: Arabic Linguistics Symposium 28, University of Florida, Gainesville FL, March 2014

[gahwa] - ['ahwa]: Examining the uvular stop (q) in the Arabic of Gaza City, Paper: Arabic Linguistics Symposium 28, University of Florida, Gainesville FL, March 2014


As Instructor of Record

ANTH 150B1: Many Ways of Being Human (Summer 2016, 2018) (PDF)

ANTH 383: Varieties of English (Spring 2018, Online) (PDF)

LING 322: The Structure and Meaning of Words (Summer 2017, Online)

ANTH 150B1: Many Ways of Being Human (Summer 2017, Online)

ANTH 383: Varieties of English (Spring 2017, Online) (PDF)

LING 320: Language and Social Issues (Fall 2015) (PDF)


ANTH 150B1: Many Ways of Being Human (Spring 2016, Fall 2017)

ANTH 150A1: Race, Ethnicity, and the American Dream (Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2016)

ANTH 303: Gender and Language (Fall 2015)


(Updated 6/4/18) (PDF)