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Linguistic Anthro Lecture 1.docx

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Lindsay Bell

Linguistic Anthro Lecture 1 1/9/2013 8:06:00 AM  Language happens in context but also in action  Language was studied comparatively Language – as a warehouse of vocabulary items, a source of comparison with others  Ferdinand de Saussure said that language is like chess, its an arrangement of symbolic objects that only mean something in terms of what they do  He made a distinction between langue & parole  language & speech  He said that language is 2 systems and speech is the stuff that people develop out there in the world  Example: I _____ the floor  Now you figure out what goes in the blank, which has to be a verb so the sentence makes sense  If this is true about the world, then if I wanted to know a culture, I’d need to know about language since people believed that there was an easy relationship between language and culture  People believed that if they learned their native language, they’d get all the culture  He said that language and speech are 2 different things  Linguistic anthropologists disagreed, they said that meanings aren’t fixed, they change over time, the same symbol can have multiple meanings but signs take on meaning in social contexts  Language happens in social context  Speech variety decides on where you belong in the world  Language tells us a lot about belonging Symbol & Meaning:  What gives the symbol meaning is its context  If we want to understand a symbol, we have to understand the context  Language and context create one another back and forth  People don’t care about the symbol, its about its meaning  Symbols are a part of a bigger project  We’re always struggling over meaning  Languages and their meanings changes over time Chapter 1 The Socially Charged Life of Language 1/9/2013 8:06:00 AM  According to Bakhtin:  Language is set of socially embedded practices  Social interactions live linguistically charged lives (every social interaction is reflected by language)  Examples: o Getting Stoned in San Francisco 1. An anti drug class was run in high school by students as mentors to warn others students about the dangers of drug use 2. The mentors were told by the teacher to lie if the students asked them if they did drugs themselves since the mentor’s didn’t come to class “stoned” 3. The mentors used different terms for “stoned” when talking to the teacher o Losing a Language in Papua New Guinea 1. There are 3 national languages in this country and the adults were bilingual in 2 of them 2. No child under the age of 10 spoke of the languages and many under the age of 10 didn’t have a good knowledge of one of the others 3. The language became extinct due to the actions of the children, that they wont speak it since they big-headed o The Pounded Rice Ritual in Nepal 1. The groom addressed the bride to pour the rice in his handkerchief 3 times using 3 different forms of “you” 2. The first was to address someone of a high social states and she only poured a little 3. The second was to address someone of an equal social states and she only poured a little 4. Finally, he addressed her using a form of a low social states but it came across as a command and she complied  Language is inherently social  Language is not a means through which we act upon the social world  Speaking is itself a form of social action  We do things with words  When we speak, we write to ourselves  Our choices of words, our hidden intentions and desires are influenced by the social contexts that we have experienced  Linguistic Anthropologists say that s
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