WELCOME TO ANTH 28 INTRODUCTION TO LINGUISTIC ANTHROPOLOGY What is this class about? How is language distinctly human? How diverse are human languages? How do humans use language? How are language and culture related? What does language do for us socially?
INTRODUCTION TO LINGUISTIC ANTHROPOLOGY
How is language distinctly human?
How diverse are human languages?
How do humans use language?
How are language and culture related?
What does language do for us socially?
How does culture shape language?
How are language and social difference interrelated?
Language is a really really important part of being human.
Therefore: Studying language can give us greater insight into human cultures.
Human language and human culture are very difficult to separate.
linguistic anthropology, Eastern Europe, economic and social change, anthropology of work, conversation and storytelling, visual anthropology (advertising/geosemiotics), nationalism and language policy
Also available through: http://www.uvm.edu/~jadickin/28reading.html
Exams may include multiple choice, short answer, and short essay
PowerPoint slides, assignments, links to online readings, resources, link to textbook website.
Language is a human universal.
All languages serve their speakers equally well, from the point of view of achieving communication.
Language involves, but is not limited to, the range of animal communication methods.
Every language is dynamic, in other words, it keeps changing, either in response to the needs of its speakers, or just as the natural effect of many people using it every day.
Here it is.
How do I get to Waterman?
He’s a last-minute Louie.
That’s immoral and disgusting.
It’s such an honor to finally meet you.
That outfit is flame.
Ain’t nobody gonna give you stuff for free.
I’d like a creamee.
Dude! What’s up!
I feel blue.
Anger came to her head with a click (Japanese)
Often we think of language as following “correct” formulas and functioning primarily to communicate referential information about the world. In fact, language is also:
(as in phonETIC)
(as in phonEMIC)
“..Native speakers of a language generally think about the units of their language in terms of phonemics, while outsiders/nonspeakers of a language often fin themselves noticing phonetic distinctions in that language rather than phonemic ones.”
Ottenheimer pp. 53-54
Early linguistic anthropologists (like Boas) studied unwritten languages with linguistic structures dramatically different from Indo-European languages like English, French, Spanish, Russian and Greek.
These languages included different Native American, Polynesian languages and African languages.
- biological structures: structures associated with the apparatus of language production and perception: what sounds humans are capable of producing, hearing, and differentiating between
- cognitive (brain) structures: there appears to be a limited range of structures that all languages use in different ways, and this may be related to the way the human brain works
As Agar points out, we tend to think of “culture” as some thing that we have. Then we can imagine all of those different “cultures” lined up like distinct items.
Culture, like language, is not something you have, it’s a set of things that you do, and more importantly a set of frames of reference you use in everyday life.
Culture is a set of things we do (“practices”) that allow us to make sense of the day to day world
Culture is a set of rules that allows us to understand and interpret what is going on around us; since these rules are shared (more or less) people in the same culture often have similar interpretations.
Agar argues that we need to be more interested in what is outside the circle – cultural elements, ways of interpreting words, actions, and intonations that you can only learn through experience.
Semantics is the study of word meanings, not just the meanings of individual words, but how meaning is structured in a particular language.
Example: count nouns vs. mass nouns
Three apples *three sugars
A count noun is something you can count – three apples.
A mass noun is something that can’t be counted individually:
sand, not “three sands” [3 grains of sand]
butter, not “three butters” [3 sticks of butter]