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Anthropology 2245F/G
Tania Granadillo

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 • Language gave humans ability to survive • Languages can have 12-60 sounds -What else does language involve? • Things are named language when linguists wouldn’t consider them • Body language cultural constructions • Many linguistic anthropologists saying that gestures are actually essential for context (interested in meaning compared to linguists), gesture hard to study • Sign language not a language of itself, way a language can be expressed -Signing and he Origins of Language • New evidence for possibility oral language in Neanderthals -Stokoe, 1991 • Neanderthals may have had a sign language, why
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