ANTH 100 Language.docx

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23 Apr 2012
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Language: The foundation of culture
January 23rd, 2012
- Humans are symbolized animals
A symbol is something that represents something else - the relationships between a symbol
and the thing it represents is arbitrary
Meaning is generated through relationships between symbols and the rules that govern the
relationships
Productivity: the ability to create an infinite range of understandable expressions from a
finite set of linguistic rules
Displacement: the ability to refer to events and issues beyond the immediate present (ie. In
the past and future)
Language: creativity, convey complex information, planning/education
- Humans use many times of symbol systems
1. Spoken/written language
2. Body language *kinesics
3. Symbolic domains *food
- Language is the basis of human culture:
Commination (basis of social interaction)
Symbolic reasoning (basis of planning, invention, tool-making)
Memory (storage, retrieval and communication of information the basis of passing culture
onto new generations)
- The study of language:
Phonology sounds
Morphology unites of meaning
Syntax structure of utterance
Semantics generation of meaning
1. Phonology:
Phonetics: the comparative study of sounds used in human language
Phonemics: the study of relationships between sounds and meaning
Phoneme: the smallest meaning producing unit of sound
2. Morphology:
Free: a word
Bound: little adds that change the meaning (ex. Run ING, ING changes the meaning)
Side note: English has incorporated many words from colonized peoples: squash, tomato,
raccoon, taboo, curry etc.
3. Syntax:
Examples: The cat walked into the house. The cat house walked into the. Walked into the
cat house the.*There are rules on how things can be written
Noam Chomsky: said that as much as we think we’re just talking solely from meaning –
actually we follow certain rules. Much of meaning = comes from our rules. Ex. Colourless
green ideas sleep furiously.
4. Semantics: makes everything make sense
Humans are meaning creating and meaning seeking animals
- Language is creative! The connections between a symbol and its meaning are arbitrary
- Meaning is generated through the relationships and between the rules connection them
- Language thus continually generates meaning, they are open ended and creative rather than
finite and closed
- Oceanic way finders: tuning into the language of the universe: allow people to navigate ocean
swell patterns/star positions/ islands