Language and culture
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Language and Culture. Language : . System of human communication utilizing arbitrary vocal (or visual) symbols for the exchange of information. Minimal linguistic event involves : two human beings with healthy auditory (or visual) systems (receiver),

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Language l.jpg

  • System of human communication utilizing arbitrary vocal (or visual) symbols for the exchange of information.

  • Minimal linguistic event involves:

    • two human beings with

    • healthy auditory (or visual) systems (receiver),

    • healthy vocal (or visual) systems (transmitter), and

    • healthy nervous systems connecting 2 and 3 to

    • healthy brains;

    • a physical link between the two humans

    • a shared grammar (encoder/decoder), located in the left hemispheres of their brains.

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    • Allows the communication of complex and abstract concepts.

    • Provides a means by which customs, norms, and important information can be passed between generations and preserved.

    • The process of language acquisition forms the way we think

    • Language is the vehicle of culture.

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    Linguistic Anthropology

    • Devoted to the study of human communication

    • Study of non-Western languages

    • Relationship between nationalism and language

    • Role of language in mass media

    • Applying research to improved language learning

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    Origins of Language

    • Many primates communicate using calls, body postures and gestures

    • Modern verbal language developed by 50,000 years ago, perhaps earlier

    • Emergence of writing associated with emergence of the state.

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    • Humans are able to convey information relevant to all aspects of experience and thought.

    • All human languages share the same fundamental properties.

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    Semantic Universality is achieved due to three basic aspects of language:


      • The capacity to create an infinite number of new messages with any level of detail.


      • The ability to send or receive a message without direct sensory contact with the conditions or events to which the message refers. (Abstract concepts)


      • The symbols of language can be completely arbitrary. They do not have to resemble or mimic any aspect of what they are representing. This allows for the great diversity of languages and symbols.

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    Linguistics: of language:The discipline which studies language structure (grammar).

    • Linguistics is descriptive, and describes the way people talk not the way they should talk.

    • Structural linguistics breaks down language into hierarchical levels of structure, from broader to smaller categories.

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    • All human languages are composed of, or can be described in terms of, the same basic elements.

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    Grammar: of language:

    • The rules that govern the structure of a language.

    • OR A system located in human brains that specifies the relationship between sound and meaning in language.

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    Basic structure of grammars of language:

    • A system of elements and rules:

      • basic sounds

      • rules for putting them together into minimal, basic sound-meaning pairs ("words")

      • rules for putting minimal sound-meaning pairs into larger entities (phrases, sentences).

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    Types of Grammar of language:

    • Descriptive grammar:

      • an objective description model of the grammar of a natural spoken language (the product of linguistic analysis); description of how people actually speak.

    • Prescriptive grammar:

      • statements regarding how people should speak (or write) in order to be considered "correct" or "educated" (social prescriptions, norms).

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    Phonetics of language:

    • PHONETICS: The study of the phones or “individual” sounds that native speakers make.

    • PHONES: The basic, etic sounds that make up phonemes

    • PHONEMES: The basic sound units of the grammar, used to make different minimal sound-meaning pairs. The smallest sound contrasts that distinguish meaning.

    • PHONEMIC SYSTEM: All the phonemes in a given language; the set of phones that are arbitrarily but habitually perceived by the speakers as contrastive.

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    Phonemes of language:

    • Minimal pair

      • two words (or other sound-meaning units) distinguished from one another by a single phonetic contrast.

    • Free variation

      • alternation of sounds with no change in meaning.

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    Phonetic Alphabet of language:

    • A system for phonetic transcription (i.e., a written record) of sounds of spoken language.

    • Sounds are classified according to the origin of the sound, state of the vocal chords, and the position of the articulators.

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    Phonetic alphabet of language:

    • Vocal cord states:

      • maximally tense : stopped : glottal stop

      • minimally tense : voiceless : voiceless glottal fricative

      • intermediate : voiced : voiced glottal fricative

    • Articulators: movable speech organs in the oral cavity

      • lips

      • tongue

      • velum (soft palate)

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    Places of Articulation of language:

    • Labials: Sounds made by changing the position of the lips

      • Bilabial: bringing two lips together [b] [p] [m]

      • Labiodental: touching one lip to the teeth [f] [v] in fine and vine

    • Alveolars: Sounds made by raising the tongue to the alveolar ridge

      • Voiced : [d] do [z] zoo

      • Nasal: [n] new

      • Voiceless: [t] two [s] sue

    • Interdental: Sounds make by placing the tip of the tongue between the teeth

      • Voiceless : [t] thin and ether

      • Voiced: [t] in then and either

    • Velars: Sounds made by placing the back of the tongue onto the soft palate or velum.

      • The endings of the words back, bag, and band

    • Palatals: The front part of the tongue is raised to the hard palatte.

      • Shoe, shut,sure, and sugar

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    Manners of articulation of language:

    • Stops

    • Aspirated vs. Unaspirated Sounds

    • Fricatives

    • Afficates

    • Sibilants

    • Obstruents

    • Liquids

    • Glides

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    Morphology of language:

    Morphology: The rules for combining phonemes into morphemes.

    • Morpheme: The smallest part of an utterance that has a definte meaning.

      • minimal sound-meaning unit.

      • Morphemes come in two varieties:

    • Bound Morpheme: a morpheme that never occurs alone (i.e., is not a word).

      • Suffixs and prefixes: ing, ed, mal, pre,

    • Free Morpheme: a morpheme that may occur alone (i.e., is a word).

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    Morphology of language:

    • Word: minimal free form.

      • The smallest part of an utterance that has a definite meaning is called a morpheme.

      • It may consist of a single phoneme or a string of phonemes.

      • A morpheme which can occur by itself is a word

  • Homonyms (homophones):

    • morphemes which sound the same but have different meanings.

  • Synonyms:

    • morphemes which sound different but have the same meanings.

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    Morphology of language:

    • Root:

      • the lexical/semantic "center" of a word; the invariant of a group of related stems.

    • Affixes:

      • morphemes which are added to other morphemes (esp. roots, stems).

        • A suffixfollows the root/stem.

        • A prefixprecedes the root/stem.

        • Aninfix is inserted into the root/stem

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    SYNTAX: of language:The rules for combining morphemes (words) into sentences

    • Syntax consists of the unconscious rules which govern sentence structure and the ways in which words are ordered within sentences.

    • The basic and universal divisions of Syntax reflects fundamental aspects of how human speakers perceive the world: nouns for things, verbs for actions and events, adjectives for qualities.

    • The rules of syntax can be extremely complex, and most native-speakers are not able to cite them, but instinctively know how to use them : ENCULTURATION

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    WHAT MAKES UP SYNTAX? of language:

    • Phrase Structure rules: How to construct proper phrases

    • Lexical Insertion rules: How to use words within those structures

    • Transformational rules: rules that apply to (delete, add, move elements in) phrase structure trees produced by Phrase Structure rules.

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    Syntactic Structure of language:

    • Deep structure:

      • the abstract, underlying syntactic representation (phrase structure) of sentence, produced by Phrase Structure and Lexical Insertion Rules.

    • Surface structure:

      • the syntactic representation produced by application of transformational rules to deep structure.

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    Symbols of language:

    • A SYMBOL is something which is used to represent something else, usually a much more complex concept.

      • We can make symbols mean anything: they are arbitrary and their complexity is essentially unlimited.

      • Human beings have the ability to think in symbols, and language is both an outgrowth of that ability and probably a necessary part of it:

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    Sapir-Whorf of language:

    language determines how we see the world and behavior

    reality is filtered through language categories


    social position determines the content and form of language

    Thought, Language and Society

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    Dialects of language:

    • “A language without an army”

    • A way of speaking in a particular place

    • e.g. Cockney

    • Speakers are sometimes considered less intelligent

    • Ebonics - dialect or language?

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    Bilingualism of language:

    Argument style is culturally learned

    “Fat talk”

    Different ways of speaking depending on age, gender, occupation and class

    Language and Culture

    Mother-Infant talk

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    “Fat Talk” of language:

    • Euro-American adolescent girl’s talk a lot about their body weight and image

    • “I’m so fat.” “No you’re not.”

    • Functions as positive reinforcement from friends

    • Functions to absolve girl from guilty feelings about eating

      • - Nichter and Vuckovic 1994

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    Paralanguage of language:

    • Silence

    • Kinesics

      • body movement, expressions

      • some cultures are more touch-oriented

      • eye-contact in some cultures is rude

    • Dress

    • Looks

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    Media anthropologists promote a more holistic approach to news reporting

    In Japan TV, 90% of staff are men, reflected in program output

    Critical media anthropologists ask to what degree access to media messages are mind-opening or controlling

    Mass Media

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    Language and Change news reporting

    • Colonialism was a major force of change

    • Pidgins

      • usually limited to trade

    • National policies of assimilation

      • Soviet Union

      • English-only movement in the US

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    The BIG news reporting Questions Revisited

    • What aspects of communication do linguistic anthropologists study?

    • How do culture, society and communication interact?

    • What are some important factors affecting language change?