Language and Communication Anthropological / sociological interest in language How is Language Related to Culture?
Mini-Exam #1 on April 9, 2014 • True/False • Multiple-choice • Short answer
Multiple Choice • Culture • is predominantly transferred through genes • is more developed in Shanghai than in Tibet • is being destroyed by globalization • None of the above
TRUE/FALSE • Research in cultural anthropology is mainly based on ethnographic fieldwork, although other methods may be used that do not involve fieldwork.
Short Answer On the basis of his experience in the Trobriand Islands during WWI, B. Malinowski is generally considered to be the “father” of the method called _________ ________
Getting Started - the structure and nature of animal communication and how it differs from human communication. • the nonverbal forms of communication like gestures, expressions, and movements. Ex. Facial expression of Bush vs. Gore’s “wooden” body language
Getting started • Language as key element in the development of culture as an attribute of human existence. In other words, without language, human culture cannot exist. • Language and worldview – Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (words & worlds) • Language as an element of cultural process - Socio-linguistics of identity • Classification of social & cultural reality - Inventories of social and cultural resources • Tools of linguistic analysis as tools for cultural analysis during field research (the way people communicate what is meaningful or what is not meaningful)
Properties of Human Language 人类语言的属性 • 13 design features (Charles Hockett 1960) • Multimedia potential - Linguistic messages transmitted through a variety of media (writing techniques; ASL; Morse code, Internet, etc.) • Discreteness • Combine discrete units according to rules. • Arbitrariness (the relationship between sounds and meanings of words) Ex: I love you (Te amo; Je tai me;)
Productivity • Speakers’ ability to create totally novel sentences and a listener’s ability to comprehend them • Displacement • Ability to talk about objects, people, things, and events that are remote in time and space (E.T., ghost, ancestors, goblins) • * Human language as the most precise and complete system of communication
Is our interpretation of stated and implied language inherent or derived from our culture? • real vs. implied meanings of hand gesture while driving. Example: Giving someone “the finger” in U.S. culture has specific connotations (road rage), but does the same gesture have similar meaning in China?
What Really Matters • The discrepancies between two systems of knowledge • The official CSL as a standardized form of linguistic communication • A form of “paralanguage” that is 1）extremely context-dependent 2）facial expression & body languages 3）flexible and improvising 4) Strong indication of “adaptive wisdom”
“participant observation” immersing oneself in the local community (long-term residence) working through the native language the goal of ethnographic fieldwork is to “grasp the native point of view, his relation to life, to realize his vision of his world” (Malinowski 1922: 25) The validity of “soft data”
Culture is SYMBOLIC • As is true of all symbols, such as flags, the association between a symbol (water) and what is symbolized (holiness) is arbitrary and conventional. • Language is based on arbitrary, learned association between words and the things for which they stand
The arbitrary relationship between the signifier and the signified • RED and GREEN Traffic light (stop / go) Christmas Fashion statement Colors of a European Flag
Objectives • Language and Context • Be familiar with the central argument of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis or the theory of linguistic relativity • Know what sociolinguists study: gender speech patterns; how social stratification manifests itself in language; how social variables influence people’s use of language)
Language and World • “The limits of our worlds are the limits of our words.” – Wittgenstein • Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: language structures the cognition of reality and contributes to cultural differences Ex. “your are what you speak/write”
Language & Thought Processes * “linguistic relativity” (as a form of cultural relativism) Example: problems of “word-for- word” translation (Eskimo words for “snow”) Strong version: “linguistic determinism” Example: patterns of thought and culture as patterns of grammar (Gender marked nouns)
Language & Thought Processes Some interesting examples: • Color terminology: number of basic/key color terms a language might have is highly variable. • Calendars (solar vs. lunar calendars) • Naming practices • English Counting Words
English terminologies: 11 African and Latin American terminologies: 2, 3, or 4 basic color terms Quantity / units used for uncountable nouns (liquid, seed, food, etc) Specific quantity/unit words used with predetermined countable nouns: a of lions, a of geese, a of pheasants, a of oxen; a of sheep; a of birds, a of cattle; a of fish; a of kittens Color Terms Counting Words
Chinese Lunar Calendar 12 animals represent a 12-year cycle based on the lunar calendar: Rat, Cattle, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Each animal has different underlying personalities that it passes to people born during that year.
What shall we make of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis? • Can it be tested? • If a language shapes the way we perceive and think about the world, we would expect a people’s worldview to change at a rate roughly comparable to the rate their language changes. • The weaker version of linguistic relativity can help us understand the relationship between language, thought, and culture.
LANGUAGE & POWER • Sociolinguistics: study of the relation between linguistic performance and the SOCIAL CONTEXT of that performance • Linguistic Diversity • Gender Speech Contrasts • - Stratification and Symbolic Domination
EX. Japanese Honorifics • A complicated set of contextual norms governs the degree of formality and politeness people normally use to show respect to those of higher social position. For instance, verbs and personal nouns have several alternative forms that speakers must choose between in addressing others. Women often address men with the honorific verb forms that symbolically express “male superiority.” • Different forms of personal nouns to reflect the relative status of the parties.
Language and Status Position • Status-linked dialects affect the economic and social prospects of the people who speak them, a situation to which Bourdieu applies the term symbolic capital (ex. a form of cultural capital).
P. BOURDIEU 1984 DISTINCTION • Two forms of capital: • Economic • Symbolic (Social & CULTURAL) The value of a dialect – its standing in a “linguistic market” – depends on the extent to which it provides access to desired positions in the labor market. EX: My Fair Lady
Professor Higgins teaches Eliza how to speak like an English aristocrat (the acquisition of “cultural capital.” “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.” Case: My Fair Lady
Language and Power 1) "A dialect is a language with a losing army.” Ex. Shanghainese & Cantonese dialects 2) Black English Vernacular (BEV) & the Great Ebonics Controversy (discussed in the Haviland Book) 3) Linguistic Nationalism (an attempt by whole countries to proclaim their independence by purging their vocabularies of “foreign” terms). Ex. Former colonial countries of Africa, French attempt to purge Americanism, revival of Hebrew as Israel’s first language (vs. Yiddish).
Words borrowed into English… Chinese: tea/chai, ketchup, ginseng, lichee, typhoon, fengshui, kowtow… Japanese: tsunami, geisha, judo, sake, kimono, karaoke, sushi, tempura, and WALKMAN! Turkish: yogurt Malay: bamboo Scots Gaelic: whisky Norwegian: ski; Finnish: sauna India: curry, punch (drink), cashmere, shampoo
NewWordsin English • Affluenza (affluence + influenza) • App • Bromance (brother + romance) • Geek • Netizen (Net + Citizen) • Selfie
Code switching • The process of changing from one level of language to another or from one dialect of a language to another. Ex. Martin Luther King’s skill at code switching between Standard English & Afro-american vernacular English.
Ex. The complexity of Navajo language and its use as code by U.S. Marines in the Pacific during WWII.