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Language Culture, Prejudice

Course Code
Christopher Watts

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Anthropology January 20th, 2011
Language Culture, Prejudice
Nature vs. Nurture?
Prejudice: racism, ethnocentrism
The origins of anthropology and imperialism
Anthropology vs. ethnocentrism
Cultural relativism – opinion that it is okay for people to do anything if it is part
of their culture
Learning Resources
Book – Lavenda and Schultz available in UofT Bookstore
Kalmar notes – online
Office Hours
Tuesdays 12:30-1:30, checkcontacts web page for cancellations
Language and Culture: Nature vs. Nurture?
A false contrast?
All humans have language and all humans have culture
…so language and culture are ‘programmed’ into humans by nature
Universals and Particulars
Language and culture are human universals
…but specific languages and specific culture are human particulars
Universals (language and culture) are innate – transmitted via genes (through sex)
Particulars (languages, culture) are learned – transmitted via society (largely
through talk)
Adaptive Value of Social Transmission
Social transmission much more flexible than genetic transmission:
Major changes can occur within a generation or two
Major changes can occur without a change of species
Differentiation Within Species
Specific languages and cultures develop to cope with specific environmental
Words ‘snow,’ ‘iPhone,’ ‘love
Cultures: potlatch (traditional custom in north Western America, people would
demonstrates wealth of money by giving it away), brideswealth/dowry
Cultures (with language) change with niche itself
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