Overview • Language and thought • Linguistic determinism • Language and equality • Linguistic taboos • Language and relationships • Language and identity • Ethnoscience • Ethnography of communication
What is anthropology? • The scientific study of culture • Linguistic anthropology is concerned with the relationship between language and culture
Language and thought • Much discussion of this topic has ben influenced by the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: The way our grammar works directly shapes the way we conceive of reality, and therefore differences in our languages result in differences in our worldviews • The first half is known as linguistic determinism, and the second as linguistic relativity • Based on studies of Hopi • What do you think of this at first glance?
Some caveats • Some people interpret this to include all parts of language, words and grammar alike, but Whorf was more interested in what grammars REQUIRE you to say rather than what they allow you to say • There is a weak version: Language and thought mutually influence each other
Language, thought, and color • Color is broken down in roughly similar ways in the world’s languages • If there are two color words: black & white • 3 words: add red • 4 words: add green or yellow • 5 words: add the other one of those • 6 words: add blue • 7 words: add brown • 8-11: add purple, gray, pink or orange
Language and equality • If language can affect thought, then what happens when men and women are treated differently linguistically? • Consider: fireman, mailman, policeman, mankind, man the battle stations, man-made, woman doctor, woman driver, male nurse, male nanny • What do you notice about the first 6 words? The last 4? • More references to gender does not mean less social equality • Persian and Chinese both lack different words for he and she, but their societies are not known for gender equality
Non-gender-neutral terms do affect the perception of concepts • In languages with masculine and feminine gender, the masculine is default and therefore often assumed to be neutral • When Italian children hear ildottore (‘the.MASC doctor’) they are surprised if they see an accompanying picture of a doctor who is a woman (Cacciari & Padovani 2007)
Linguistic taboos • Some words are considered inappropriate to utter, because of their connotation or their denotation • Swear words • Ethnic slurs • Terms for sexual activities • Words can refer to things directly or in a roundabout way • Euphemism: a nice way of saying something, e.g. ‘My Aunt Flo is in town’ • Orthophemism: a neutral way of saying something e.g. ‘I’m menstruating; I’m on my period’ • Dysphemism: a pejorative way of saying something e.g. ‘I’m riding the red rag’ • Taboo avoidance can lead to language change • What is the dominant word for a male chicken?
The word homosexual • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AYRtC_AC6o • What do you think? Is homosexual a pejorative term? • Do you think the reasoning of each presenter was sound?
Language and relationships • We can use language differently in order to show relationships with people • Honorifics, terms of address for people with whom one maintains a particular social distance, are one way of doing this • In many languages this is the ‘T/V’ distinction, where T (informal) pronouns are used to express solidarity, familiarity and closeness, while V (formal) pronouns are for distance and respect
Politeness can be very important • There’s a difference between “Would it bother me if we work in silence for a little bit?” and “Shut your face.” • What is the proper way to greet a friend? A teacher? A parent? • We will often say things in a way that will keep us from being seen in a poor light, that helps us save face
Linguistic construction of identity • As we discussed, structured variation is affected by many different social (and linguistic) factors • As a result no single variant points to one linguistic identity instead of another • Forms have multiple indexicality – point to numerous possible levels of meaning, connotation and identity • People judge others and make assumptions about them by how they speak • We can use these assumptions to influence our speech and therefore how we are viewed and how we view ourselves
Ethnoscience • Science done using categories of each culture • Much of the knowledge of a group is encoded in the vocabulary of a language • Scientists learn a great deal about the species that populate a certain area by learning the language of a local group and how they refer to them • The Creole population of French Guiana has hundreds of words for different plants found in the Amazon that are used for medicinal purposes, as well as their own theory of medicine that attributes sicknesses to hot and cold humors
Kinship terminology • Ways of viewing genealogy is another sort of science • Different societies have different family structures • Italian nieta can be ‘granddaughter’ or ‘niece’ • In Lwitakho, a Bantu language of Kenya, amwavu is ‘same-sex sibling’ while votso is ‘opposite-sex sibling’ • In Quechua, sons belong to fathers and daughters to mothers • Brother of a boy: wauqi; brother of a girl: tura • Sister of a boy: pana; sister of a girl: ñaña
Ethnography of communication • Developed early on by IU graduate Dell Hymes • Revolves around notion of communicative competence – knowledge of what the appropriate way to speak in a given situation is • We can describe how language interaction proceeds by using tools of ethnography, the documentation of a culture
The SPEAKING model • Setting – physical, temporal, social context • Participants – who is talking? listening? watching? • Ends – what do the participants hope to get? • Act sequences – how do things play out? • Key – what is the tenor of the interaction? • Instrumentalities – written? standard? • Norms – what are the conventions used? • Genres – what kind of speech event is it?