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Lecture 4

AN101 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Noam Chomsky, Heteroglossia, Universal Grammar

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Amalia Philips

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Lecture Four: Language and Communication
September 29, October 1, 3 2014
Anthropology and Language
Means of communicating (communicative tool)
Gaining insights into a culture (way to make sense of what’s happening in a culture)
Access informant’s perceptions and interpretations by using language to encode
subject’s experiences
Linguistics = the scientific study of language
Is a cultural product: diversity of languages, dialects
Are capable of communicating experience, and changes in experiences
‘Mirrors’ experiences, culture (cultural determinism?). Your experiences are
reflected in your language. Language doesn’t just mirror experiences; if you don’t
have experiences you don’t have language to explain it.
Language and Humanity
Have the capacity to learn any language
Are capable of abstract thought (we can talk and think about stuff that are not right
in front of us, we can use words in our mind) we can be creative culturally and
Have a “universal grammar”: capable with grammatical blueprint for building a
Have the predisposition to master rules of grammar linguistic competence (A term
coined by linguist Noam Chomsky to refer to the mastery of adult grammar) vs.
performance (speaking))
Language in…
Contexts of speech use (how you speak with peers, parents, teachers, setting, etc.)
Appropriate word use in different contexts
Language can limit people and expand (there are things you can and can’t say in
certain contexts. It enables you to be creative)
Meanings are explicable beyond speech and within larger contexts e.g. “I enjoyed
it” makes sense within a context of speech (out of context it doesn’t make sense)
Heteroglossia multiplicity of linguistic forms based on contexts, (each sub group
has their own speech styles that are different from the main stream language)
Metaphor: a form of thought and language that asserts a meaningful link between
two expressions from different semantic domains: “war on AIDS”; “police are pigs”
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Ethnopragmatics the study of language use in a specific culture, grounded in an
ethnographic approach, with close attention to the relation ships among language,
communication, and social interaction
- The study of language use in a specific culture, grounded in an ethnographic
approach, with close attention to the relationships among language,
communication, and social interaction
- In contexts of cultural settings, social interactions, communication
- Ethnic status, sub-cultural variations can affect language use/communication
To understand language, words become meaningful only in certain contexts
Study of structure and use of language in social settings
Influence of socioeconomic variables on language and communication
Class, gender (men & women converse differently), teenage speech
Ebonics African American dialect, class (cockney accents)
Juicing in a tattoo shop (persuasive speech to get someone to get a tattoo done)
Code switching changing from one level of language to another; social position of
speaker and person spoken to (speaking to parents vs. speaking to friends)
Discourse (Foucault)
Foucault is a French philosopher and he uses this term
Way of talking about something (any kind of thing, a way of labelling and defining
and judging something, then once you’ve done that you can manage and control it)
(In speech, a meaningful utterance or sieries of utterances united by a common
It isn’t just about having a conversation & speech, it goes beyond to a larger context
Meaningful utterances united by a common theme madness, sexuality, terrorism,
poverty identifying, labelling, defining, controlling, managing
How something is spoken about relates to contexts beyond speech
Involves power and inequality (who controls knowledge about topics and others)
people who control knowledge also control discourse (the way we talk about
gender, poor people, gender, insane people, etc.)
Control of knowledge by dominant groups, interest groups & its dissemination
The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
Sapir and Whorf were two linguists who came up with their own perspective on the
importance of language
Also known as linguistic relativity principle (the claim, that language has the power
to shape the way people see the world)
Argues that language does not merely mirror the world, if we don’t have certain
experiences it cant just show up in our language
Argues that language can shape/influence the way we think, shape the way we see
the world, directs attention to some parts of our experiences rather than others
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