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Chapter 4

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ANTH 1150
Hank Davis

Stephanie Oliveira 1 Chapter 4: Language and Communication Language  Language—spoken and written—is our primary means of communication.  Language is based on arbitrary, learned associations between words and the things they stand for.  Anthropologists study language in its social and cultural context.  Some linguistic anthropologists reconstruct ancient languages  Others study linguistic differences to discover patterns.  Sociolinguistics examines dialects and styles in a single language to show how speech reflects social differences. Nonhuman Primate Communication Call Systems  The natural communication systems of other primates are call systems.  These vocal systems consist of a limited number of sounds that are produced only when particular environmental stimuli are encountered.  The number of calls eventually expanded, becoming too great to be transmitted even partly through the genes.  The vocal tract of apes is not suitable for speech. Sign Language  The first chimpanzee to learn American Sign Language was Washoe, a female, who died in 2007.  Washoe revolutionized the discussion of the language-learning abilities of apes.  The chimp gradually acquired a vocabulary of more than 100 signs representing English words.  The second chimp, was Lucy. Roger Fouts came two days a week to test and improve Lucy’s knowledge of ASL. During the rest of the week lucy used ASL to converse with her foster parents.  After acquiring language, Washoe and Lucy exhibited several human traits: swearing, joking, telling lies, and trying to teach language to others.  Cultural transmission of a communication system through learning is a fundamental attribute of language.  Chimps also show that apes share still another linguistic ability with humans: productivity.  Speakers routinely use the rules of their language to produce entirely new expressions that are comprehensible to other native speakers.  Apes also have demonstrated linguistic displacement. Absent in call systems, this is a key ingredient in language. Displacement means that humans can talk about things that are not present.  No one denies the huge difference between human language and gorilla signs. There is a major gap between the ability to write a book or say a prayer and the few hundred gestures employed by a well-trained chimp. The Origin of language.  A mutated gene known as FOXP2 helps explain why humans speak and chimps don’t. The key role of FOXP2 in speech came to light in a study of a British family, identified only as KE, half of whose members had an inherited, severe deficit of speech.  Those who have the nonspeech version of the gene cannot make the fine tongue and lip movements that are necessary for clear speech, and their speech is unintelligible.  Chimps have the same genetic sequence as the KE family members with the speech deficit.  Comparing chimp and human geneomes, it appears that the speech friendly form of FOXP2 took hold in humans around 150,000 years ago.  Language offered in adaptive change to homo sapiens.  Adaptation could occur more rapidly in homo than in the other primates because our adaptive means are more flexible. Nonverbal Communication  We communicate when we transmit information about ourselves to others and recieve such information from them.  Deborah Tannen discusses differences in the communication styles of American men and women, and her comments go beyond language.  She notes that American girls and women tend to look directly aat eachother when they talk, whereas boys and men do not. Males are more likely to look straight ahead rather than turn and make eye contact.  Kinesics is the study of communication through body movements, stances, gestures, and expressions.  We use gestures for emphasis.  Culture teaches us that certain manners and styles should accompany certain types of speech.  Much of what we communicate is nonverbal and reflects our emotional states and intentions.  People use emoticons and abbreviations.  Culture always plays a role in shaping the “natural.” Ex: Americans point with their fingers; people of Madagascar point with their lips.  Body movements communicate social differences. The Structure of Language  The scientific study of a spoken language involves several inter-related areas of analysis: o Phronology- the study of speech sounds, considers which sounds are present and meaningful in a given language. o Morphology- the forms in which sounds combine to form morphemes o Lexicon- a dictionary containing all its morphemes and their meanings. Stephanie Oliveira 3 Chapter 4: Language and Communication o Syntax- the arrangement and order of words in phrases and sentences. Speech sounds  We know something about foreign accents and mispronunciations.  Phoneme- a sound contrast that makes a difference, that differentiates meaning.  We find the phonemes in a given language by comparing minimal pairs, words that resemble each other in all but one sound. The contrasting sounds are therefore phonemes in that language.  The number of phoneme’s differ from language to language.  Phonemics- studies only the significant sound contrasts of a given language. In English, like /r/ and /l/ (craw and claw).  In any language a given phoneme extends over a phonetic range. Language, Thought and Culture  Noam Chomsky argued that the human brains contains a limited set of rules for organizing language, so that all languages have a common structural basis.  That people can learn foreign languages and that words and ideas translate from one language to another supports Chomsky’s position that all humans have similar linguistic abilities and th
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