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Lecture 4: Language

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ANTH 1002
Eric Henry

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Lecture 4: Language Linguistics  The study of language  Generally concerned with the structure of language  How does a collection of sounds or letters strung together come to mean something?  What rules govern the production of meaning? Linguistic Anthropology  The study of language as a form of cultural practice  Generally concerned with the use of language  How do language use shape particular social identities (such as gender, ethnicity, nationality, class, profession, generation, etc.)?  How is language used strategically to coerce, marginalize, praise, argue, etc.? What is Language?  When linguists and anthropologists talk about “language” they mean something specific: the system of arbitrary vocal (and occasionally visual) symbols we use to encode our experiences of one another and the world. This is different from other uses of the word, such as animal “language” or computer “language.”  All language is communication, but not all communication is language Components of a Language  Phonology: the sounds used by a particular language (phonemes: /p/ and /b/) o Not all languages use the same sounds or systems of phonemes  Morphology: the smallest meaningful units of a language (morphemes: un-finish-ed is 3 morphemes)  Syntax: the rules for constructing phrases and sentences from morphemes (a technical word for a language’s “grammar”) o What people actually do, not what they should do (“To boldly go.”)  Semantics: how the language constructs meaning (through processes such as denotation, connotation, and metaphor)  Pragmatics: how the language is used (how do you request, give an order; these actions depend upon the context, i.e. who is talking to whom, where, when, and why, and on culture) o “Look out!” ”Four!” o Ethnopragmatics: so much culture involved Openness  Human languages are open in the sense that they’re not typically limited by the form of the communication  We can, in essence, talk about anything we want to  Animal communication is, in contrast, closed  We can create new words to represent something that didn’t have a word before  If something doesn’t work in English, we can borrow something from other languages Calls and Gestures  “We can show our anger, our boredom, or our playfulness, with our gesture-calls. We can show others how much we love them. But we cannot tell stories. We cannot describe the difference between a pine tree and an oak, let alone the difference between an odd and even number. We cannot agree on a time and place to meet for lunch.”  Textbook says that only humans can lie, but chimpanzees have been known to lie to each other  Paralanguage: communication system, but not language; winks and other gestures Noam Chomsky 1. Friendly young dogs seem harmless 2. Furiously sleep ideas green colourless 3. Colourless green ideas sleep furiously  1 and 2 are similar in form, but only 1 is an acceptable sentence. 2 and 3 are both nonsense, but we recognize number 3 is grammatical – it follows the rules of English syntax.  “The fact that all normal children acquire essentially comparable grammars of great complexity with remarkable rapidity suggests that human beings are somehow specially designed to do this.”  Languag
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