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Duranti was trained in linguistics at the University of Rome "La Sapienza" (laurea, 1974), where he studied general linguistics and ethnolinguistics with Giorgio Raimondo Cardona (1943-1988), and at the University of Southern California (PhD, 1981), where he specialized in Bantu languages under Larry M. Hyman.
Duranti fully embraced an anthropological perspective on language through his collaboration with Elinor Ochs during and after their fieldwork in (then Western) Samoa in 1978-79 and 1981. His dissertation at the University of Southern California provided a detailed ethnographic account of the role of traditional Samoan speechmaking in conflict management during the meetings of the village council (fono), which he analyzed following Dell Hymes' model of speech events. After teaching at the University of Rome, Pitzer College, and the University of California at San Diego, in 1988 Duranti joined the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Los Angeles. In the 1990s, he carried out fieldwork among Samoan immigrants in Southern California to study, in collaboration with Elinor Ochs, how second generation Samoan children were being socialized in the context of a bicultural, bilingual environment.
In 1995-96, using a combination of participant-observation and videography, Duranti documented the political campaign for the U.S. Congress of Walter Capps, then Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In support of this project, in 1999 he received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.
After completing a treatise on the field of linguistic anthropology for the Cambridge University Press series in linguistics (Duranti 1997), he dedicated himself to editing a number of collections to make recent research on language and culture accessible to a wider range of students and scholars (Duranti 2001a, 2001b, 2004).
In 2002, Duranti started a collaboration with legendary jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell, with the goal of documenting jazz culture and teaching jazz aesthetics to students in the social sciences. One product of their collaboration is a course on the culture of jazz aesthetics, where jazz musicians are invited to play and talk about their music. The video recording of their class, student concerts, and other events in which jazz is taught, played, and discussed at the university and elsewhere has produced hundreds of hours of audio visual documentation of the contemporary jazz scene in Los Angeles.
- 1979 - (with E. Byarushengo and L.M. Hyman) Haya Grammatical Structure. Los Angeles: Department of Linguistics, University of Southern California.
- 1981 - The Samoan Fono: a sociolinguistic study - Canberra: The Australian National University, Pacific Linguistics Monograph B80
- 1992 - Etnografia del parlare quotidiano - Rome: La Nuova Italia Scientifica/Carocci Editore.
- 1994 - From Grammar to Politics: Linguistic Anthropology in a Western Samoan Village - Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.
- 1997 - Linguistic Anthropology - Cambridge:Cambridge University Press [Italian translation: Antropologia del Linguaggio. Roma: Meltemi; Spanish translation: Antropología Lingüistica. Madrid: Cambridge University Press]
- 2001 -(Ed.) Key Terms in Language and Culture. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell
- 2001 - (Ed.) Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader - Malden, Mass: Blackwell.
- 2004 - (Ed.) A Companion to Linguistic anthropology - Malden, Mass: Blackwell
- 2007 - Etnopragmatica. La forza nel parlare. Rome: Carocci Editore
- 2009 - (Ed.) Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader. Second Edition - Malden, Mass: Wiley-Blackwell.
- 2012 - (with E. Ochs and B.B. Schieffelin) (Eds.) Handbook of Language Socialization. - Malden, Mass: Wiley-Blackwell.
- Alessandro Duranti biography, Minnesota State University, Mankato
^ Keating E. 2013. Alessandro Duranti In The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics, ed. CA Chapelle. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.