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Lecture 10

ANTH-101 Lecture Notes - Lecture 10: Benjamin Lee Whorf, Edward Sapir, European Colonialism


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Leslie Dawson

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Language and Communication: an Introduction to Anthropological Linguistics
Language and Linguistics
Language: the system of arbitrary vocal symbols we use to encode our experience of the
oIncluding non-verbal human communication.
Facial expression and body stance
Tone of voice
Signs and symbols (e.g. music, algebra, road signs)
Language vs. speech
Linguistics: the scientific study of language.
oHistorical linguistics – how language changes over time and why
oDescriptive linguistics – describing the structure of the language
oSociolinguistics – how we speak in certain social contexts/relationships
Nonhuman Communication
Systems of communication are not unique to humans.
oCan be produced in a variety of ways; sound, odor and body movement.
Primates use all three, but mostly rely on sound.
oCall systems (e.g. Vervet monkeys’ three calls for predator)
Studies involving chimps and gorillas and American Sign Language (ASL)
Non-human primates have the ability to ‘”symbol” – to refer to something with an
arbitrary “label”.
oE.g. Koko extended the sign for drinking straw to hoses and plastic tubing.
oE.g. Washoe (chimp) used the sign dirty (feces, dirt) for “dirty Roger” when her
trainer Roger didn’t give her what she wanted.
The Relationship between Language, Culture, and Worldview
Worldview: encompassing pictures of reality created by members of societies.
oShared assumptions, habits and material culture.
oE.g. Euro-American and Indigenous hunters views of nature.
How do Euro-Americans view animals?
What are the cultural influences on language?
oLexical context (focal vocabulary)
Are there linguistic influences on culture?
oLinguistic relativity principle (Sapir-Whorf hypothesis)
Lexical Content (Focal Vocabulary)
Words that reflect the important aspects of the culture and/or environment.
oE.g. the number of words the Inuit language has for snow.
oE.g. the number of words the Nuer language has for cattle.
Linguistic Relativity Principle
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