Study Notes on Linguistic and Semiotic Anthropology

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Published on 16 Apr 2011
School
UTSG
Department
Anthropology
Course
ANT100Y1
Gabrielle Ciceri
Test notes 2 Semester Anthropology
Linguistics & Semiotics
Abstract concepts (time & love) are shaped by the language we speak and
lead to culture. That each language creates a different way of looking at
the world.
Whorf hypothesis: language, culture and thought
Benjamin Whorf (1897-1941)
Strong Whorf hypothesis: Language determines thought
Weak Whorf Hypothesis: Language influences thought
Suggests that language determines/influences culture
Problem: assumes that language and thought and culture can be
separated
Suggested Solution: Language, manifested as a living activity,
happens in conjunction with, inseparably from, specific cultural/social
contexts
Language as a symptom of social conditions
Ex. a) of vocabulary & culture
Note. Across languages same social context and
meaning? Sarah is hot vs. Sarah feels warm
Ex b) The Polynesian word (and concept) mana
Ex. c) The word (and concept) love
Although attraction and desire for another person are given
in many ways by nature, the way we experience love and its relation to
social life are given by nurture and history.
The history of the word love
--Ancient Greeks: eros and agape for love but both mean
differentthings
--Bourgeois love: the foundation of marriage and nuclear
familyunit, appears with the capitalist means of production --
appeared
in mid 15th century based on mobile wage labor which
reduced
the unit of reproduction to nuclear family
--Marriage had been a matter of family alliances (arranged)
but the
shift to nuclear families weakened the role of arranged
marriages
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-- people began to choose their families based on love
This is when the word love came to mean I love you
Conclusion: words like love
a) express a feature of culture (how we desire another)
b) are a symptom of social conditions
this does not mean love is not real!
Ex. d) Metaphor
Social Identity and Language
Sociolinguistics
The study of language in social behavior
Usually the focus is on language variation
Language varieties
These are popularly called languages”, dialects, and
accents, but these are not scientific concepts and cannot be distinguished
apart from language ideology
Language ideology includes ideas by the speakers about
whether a variety is a language or a dialect.
Language: varieties whose speakers have a state of their own
or a religion different from the speakers of similar varieties
Ex. Danish and Norwegian, Ukrainian and Russian
Note. Sometimes the speakers of one language
understand the other better than vice versa but
mutual understanding is easier for both sides
than between dialects.
Ex. China Cantonese vs. Mandarin
Dialects: varieties whose speakers are united in the same
state with no separatist pretensions speak dialects of the same language.
Ex. Cantonese, Fukinese, Mandaring: Chinese dialects
Ilocana, Cebuano: Filipino dialects
Foreign accents
Impossible to lose accents after 11-14 years due to loss in brain
plasticity
Exception: varieties that a relatively similar
English, German, Dutch, Swedish, Yiddish = Germanic
languages
Accents = objective language features + perception how people
imagine foreign accents -- based on linguistic and nonlinguistic clues
appearance etc.
Amazon River: tribes there do not notice accents of the women who
marry out into other societies (exogamous)
Accent Labels (Indian Accent): social constructions based on history
colonialism, Cold War and its aftermathas within regions like Indian
there are many language varieties
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North American culture (movies, media etc.) had constructed
foreignness so that it is unimaginable that a non-English speaking
person wouldnt have an accent.
The Social Construction of Self
Theory: our concept of self (ego, I) is not entirely given by nature.
It is constructed in society by signs, especially in language
Theory: like colours and races there is a continuum that language
and signs construct to separate entities the self is such a constructed
entity
How the self develops according to Lacan
Babies do not come into society with a sense of individual self
She (the baby) lives in the real: experiences the world as unbounded
With language she learns the boundaries of things:
This is a symbolic stage: world experienced as consisting of
bounded units
Each occurrence of I is a signifier, whose meaning is developed
from relations to others
Inner Conversation
We are both I and you to ourselves one coaches the other in
inner dialect
This “coach is influenced by society it represents society
Freud: superego
Double Articulation
Language consists of meaningful units such as texts and words and
of meaningless units of sound
The Levels of Language
Meaningful units: texts (discourse analysis)
Sentences (syntax)
Words (morphology)
Meaningless units: combine to make meaning
Phonemes (phonology)
Phones (phonetics)
Context
In language and semiotic systems the meaning and function
of each item depends on the context: whats outside of the actual text but
is relevant to it
Ex. agreement (Spanish)
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Document Summary

Abstract concepts (time & love) are shaped by the language we speak and lead to culture. That each language creates a different way of looking at the world. Problem: assumes that language and thought and culture can be separated. Suggested solution: language, manifested as a living activity, happens in conjunction with, inseparably from, specific cultural/social contexts. Ex b) the polynesian word (and concept) mana. Although attraction and desire for another person are given in many ways by nature, the way we experience love and it"s relation to social life are given by nurture and history. -ancient greeks: eros and agape for love but both mean different family things. - bourgeois love": the foundation of marriage and nuclear unit, appears with the capitalist means of production -- appeared in mid 15th century based on mobile wage labor which reduced the unit of reproduction to nuclear family.

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