William M. Cotter

About William M. 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. My Master’s research examined Arabic dialect contact in the Gaza Strip between indigenous Gaza Palestinians and Palestinian refugees originally from the city of Jaffa. More recently, in the summer of 2015 I conducted a three month pilot fieldwork project examining dialect contact in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Jordan. I will conducting dissertation fieldwork in Amman, Jordan from August 2018 - September 2019. This work has been supported by the U.S. Student Fulbright Program and the National Science Foundation. 

Dissertation Research
My dissertation work examines language change and verbal artistic practices among communities of Palestinian refugees in Jordan. This work aims to connect micro-level analyses of language 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.
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 SociolinguisticsJournal of Arabic and Islamic StudiesPerspectives on Arabic LinguisticsCanadian 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 race and class at a national level in the United States. 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. This work is currently being prepared for submission. 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. Outcomes of this work have been published in the Journal of Sociolinguistics, with additional work having been submitted to Signs and Society
Outside of academic pursuits, I'm an avid cyclist, coffee snob, and dog dad. 

Peer-Reviewed Publications

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. (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 Lingusitics Online. Leiden: BRILL.

Editor-Reviewed Articles & Proceedings Papers: 

Book Reviews:

Public Scholarship, Media, & Engagement: 

Related News

Research Interests

Language variation and change, dialect contact, verbal art, sociophonetics, Arabic dialectology, linguistic anthropology, Arabic phonology, structural violence, migration, citizenship 

William M. Cotter's picture

Contact Information


2017 - 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

Courses Taught

As Instructor of Record:

S' 17, 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)

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