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October 7 Language and Culture lec notes.docx

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Victor Barac

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Language and Culture OVERVIEW • Boas • Sapir / Whorf / linguistic relativity • Body parts • Geography • Colour • Kinship terminology Boas and native North American languages  Boas did his first fieldwork with Inuit in Baffin Island  he reported that the Inuit have 5 or 6 words for snow, the story became distorted: became 10 words, became over a hundred words  Seal has more words than snow  Seals are one of the principle resources for Inuits Inuit words for “seal”: – Generic “seal” – Male / female seals – Seals of different ages – Seal basking in the sun – Seal floating on a piece of ice – Etc.  Boas was one of the great teachers of anthropology; one of his students was Edward Sapir. Language & Culture Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf  Sapir became the first expert in in Aboriginal American languages, developed the first handbook  Anthropological linguist  Sapir’s Student: Benjamin Lee Whorf  The two of them (but mainly Whorf) developed the idea of: • Linguistic relativity – Structure of language influences thought, cognition, perception, action – Language models the physical, social and supernatural  Whorf analyzed aboriginal languages and realized that many aboriginal words/ expressions cannot be translated into other languages (English)  Language models one’s entire universe  From infancy, our experiences are already categorized for us  Whorf: chemical engineer with anthropological hobby  Body parts often serve as metaphors for other things:  Zapotec: use body as metaphor to describe all sorts of objects  Heads of animate objects, as well as tops of inanimate objects (vase, box) as head  Feet, applied to the bottom of inanimate objects  Space in front of a house: face  Area around tree: foot of the tree  Face: beginning of a story (the time when), etc. Paiute Geographic Terms (Sapir) Paiute: dry plateau in USA  Has one word in English: 1. Divide / ledge / plain / desert / knoll / plateau / gulch  Requires more words than one in English: 2. Sand flat 3. Semicircular valley 4. Circular valley or hollow 5. Spot of level ground in mountains surrounded by ridges 6. Plain valley surrounded by mountains 7. Canyon without water 8. Canyon with creek, wash or gutter 9. Slope of mountain or canyon receiving sunlight 10. Shaded slope of mountain or canyon wall 11. Rolling country intersected by several small hill‐ridges Nuer Cattle Colour Terms South Sudan: Many different colour characteristics for cattle: 1. Ten principal colour terms for solid coloured animals 2. Twenty‐seven terms for white combined with another colour 3. Six horn configurations 4 .Many sex/age terms combined with above The colours of cattle are important so that you remember the gifts that were given to you: gift economy, so that you can give the same quality of gift back, also to be able to take your loans back ENGLISH and TIV Colour Classification  Tiv: agriculturalists of Nig
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