Anthropology 2245F/G Lecture Notes - Proto-Language, Body Plan, Nostratic Languages

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JANUARY 17, 2014 – WHAT IS LANGUAGE?
-What is Language?
Many different viewpoints and emphasis, each indicative of historical, theoretical
and cultural positioning
Necessary to delineate subject and boundaries of study and subsequent
methodology
Necessary to identify what is NOT language
Subject to changes
Subject to debate
As part of a system if signs, semiology (semiotics)
-De Saussure’s linguistic sign
Sign: signifier/signified, relationship between is arbitrary, certain sounds don’t
have to produce connection to certain object
Orality important
Two Primordial Characteristics:
1. Arbitrary Nature: what allows us to develop it creatively and expand forever,
different languages perceive Onomatopoeia’s differently, “liquid” sounds many
languages use these similar sounds, sound symbolic how mouth is shaped in
sounds that you use (e = small), some particular correlations but hardly basis for
all language
2. Linear Nature: physical restrictions (oral/signed), have to go in order one after
the other, sounds follow each other
Languages around the world only 10% studied, information often hard to acquire
6000-7000 different languages (only 400 in database), many disappearing without
being recorded
He is considered father of linguistics as a science
Language is cultural product that can be explained scientifically
Fights idea that language naturally evolved
Says language needs to be part of larger society, semiotics, science of signs,
signs are basic in human interaction with the world
-Charles Hockett
Language part of communication systems, says written word is unnecessary, oral
needs to be able to express through language, many of the worlds language don’t
have writing, Western world has given writing a certain status that only has
meaning in the Western world, writing as cultural tool, Incas and Aztecs didn’t
have writing, thinking in words and letters consequence of my culture not
necessary
13 Design Features: humans alone can do all 13, animals can do some though
“Traditional Transmission”: done by age 6, styles and vocabulary continue to
develop, acquisition of linguistic system complete by 6, by age 1 can exclusively
hear sounds from native language, difficult to retrain vocal apparatus to create
new sounds of a different language
After about 6 years old, VERY difficult to acquire language
No single organ developed to produce language, accident to allow us to speak
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