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Lecture 4

Week 4 Lecture

Course Code
Victor Barac

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LANGUAGE one aspect of culture
1.The origins of language
Language was perceived by many to be a miracle, as a gift from God
2.The biology of language
3.Descriptive grammar
The Origins of Language
1.Divine theory Tower of Babel (Gen. 11)
Traced from Western roots, story of Tower of Babble humans tried to
build to reach God
People babbling comes from this story
2. Ding dong theory Cratylus & Socrates
With the dawn of modern philosophy, you get new theories Socrates
credited with ding dong theory in dialogue of play-dough
No natural connection between an object and a word
3. Bow wow theory Lubbock, onomatopoeia
Onomatopoeia = words imitate the sounds that the objects make
Bow wow = imitation of how dogs bark
4.Ouch theory Darwin, primate cries
Language based on natural cries (grunt, growl, hymn, sigh)
Non human language
Strong theory that was held up until fairly recently, primate
vocalization was the basis of human evolution
5.Evolutionary theory hominization
It wasnt simply primate vocalization that led to human evolution, its
more complex than that
Argues that there was evolutionary process whereby primate
differentiation involves bipedalism
Introduces tool use is central to a culture in general for at least 2
million years ago
Begin to have a manual (hand start to become important for process of
Tools manufactured and language share many similar properties (e.g.
sequence, repetition (tools become standardized))
Many aspects of tool use have linked to language
The analysis of comparative anatomy also tells us that the evolution of
tool use and the hand led to the evolution of language
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If you dont acquire language in a social context, you basically dont
become a normal person, you have to acquire this capacity in order to
become part of society (but you dont have to speak)
The Biology of Language I
The human brain
1.High index of encephalization
The ratio of our brain size to overall body size is very high
We have a big brain size in relation to our body
2.Expanded neocortex; reduced olfactory bulb
Also the structure of the brain and what is it composed of
What makes us distinct is we have a huge neocortex = providing more
sight and sound as opposed to touch
We have very tiny olfactory bulb, devotion to smell is small compared
to the other species (i.e. dogs)
Grey matter: problem solving, planning into the future, etc.
Volume: neocortex is 80% of the human brain
The parts of the brain that are associated with the hands, fingers,
mouth, and lips are huge
Much of our brain is devoted to controlling our mouths and lips
Theres a lot of folding in the neocortex
3.Lateralization of linguistic functions
Human brain also has a lateralization of linguistic functions, there are
specializations in parts of the brain
1.Brocas area (speech) left frontal lobe
Controls our mouths
When this area is damaged, their speech function is unapparent,
they can move their mouths but cannot formulate words
2.Wernickes area (syntax) left temporal lobe
When that area is damaged, language comprehension and hearing
is lost
Language Areas of the Brain
The Biology of Language 2
The human vocal apparatus consists of three functional components
Theyre involved in inspiration and expiration of the air
Provide the energy of language
When the air is moving in and out, its basically vibrating the larynx
Larynx = vocal cord
Clump of muscles
Its like the vocal cords in wind instruments like clarinet
3.Supralaryngeal vocal tract
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