Textbook Notes for Lecture 3 - Language

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Victor Barac

Notes From Reading for Lecture 3 C HAPTERS :1.4,3.1,5.3,6.3,8.5 Lecture: Language Question 1.4: How can the Meanings that Others Find in Experience be Interpreted and Described? - Cultural Text – A way of think about culture as a text of significant symbols – words, gestures, drawings, natural objects – that carries meaning - One way to think about culture is as a text of significant symbols: words, gestures, drawing, natural objects, anything that carries meaning - In order to understand another culture, we must be able to decipher the meanings of the symbols that comprise a cultural text o Interpret meanings embedded in language, objects, gestures, and activities shared by members of a society Deciphering the Balinese Cockfight - The word sabung, the Balinese word for cock has numerous other meaning and is used metaphorically to mean hero, warrior, champion, , bachelor, lady-killer, or tough guy o Disputes are compared with cockfights - Handlers attach sharp spurs to the cock’s legs that are adjusted in a slightly disadvantageous position - Balinese contrast heaven and hell by comparing them to the mood of a man whose cock has just won and the mood of a man whose cock has just lost - Owners of the cocks, especially in important matches, are usually among the leaders of their communities - According to the Balinese, cockfight is all about status, ranking people vis-à-vis one another o Cocks represents men (their owner) and fate of cock in the ring is linked to social fate - It is meaningful to the Balinese because it tells them something real about their own lives - According to Geertz, the cockfight illustrates what status is about for the Balinese Question 3.1: How does the Use of Metaphor Affect the Meanings People Assign to Experience? Borrowing Meaning with Metaphors - Metaphor – A figure of speech in which linguistic expressions are taken from one area of experience and applied to another - Domain of Experience – An area of human experience (e.g. business, war, science, family life) from which people borrow meaning to apply to other areas o Example: the shoulder of the road or Jeff is a dog - World View – An encompassing picture of reality based on shared cultural assumptions about how the world works - When language is extended from one domain to another, meaning is also extended - In English, time is spoken of not only as if I were a distinct thing, but also as if it were a specific type of thing: o “Time is money”, “you’re wasting my time”, “is that worth your while?” o Time in N. American cultures is a valuable commodity, a scarce resource that is quantified, invested and spent - Metaphors are like theories, templates, lenses, or filters that we can use to help us understand one domain of experience in terms of another - Key Metaphors – A term to identify metaphors that dominate the meanings that people in a specific culture attribute to their experience - When a culture’s members think and speak of many domains of experience in terms of a particular domain, that culture’s meaning achieve a certain coherence Notes From Reading for Lecture 3 CHAPTERS :1.4,3.1,5.3,6.3,8.5 o A coherence of belief is thereby achieved as well Kwakwaka’wakw Metaphors of Hunger - Much of our knowledge of the traditional life of the Kwakwaka’wakw is from Franz Boas, one of the founders of American anthropology - The act of eating is a key metaphor for Kwakwaka’wakw - Kwakwaka;wakw find in their experience that the universe is a place in which some beings must die so that other beings may eat them and live o It will provide nutrition and it frees souls - The Kwakwaka’wakw believe that when a person dies, the soul leaves the body and enters the body of a salmon o The soul cannot be freed until the physical body is destroyed o When the salmon is caught and eaten by human beings, the soul is once again freed and enters the body of a newborn child o Therefore the act of eating becomes a metaphor through which much of their life understood and described - Myth – A story or narrative that portrays the meanings people give to their experience - Hunger is associated with greed, for, like unrestrained hunger, greed causes people to accumulate wealth far beyond what they need - Hunger is also associated with immortality o Believe that human desires create conflict and destruction that can quickly get out of hand o People must work together to prevent and control conflict before it threatens to destroy the group - Hunger is also associated with children, who constantly demand to be fed and who will, if allowed, devour all the family’s food - The full impact of a metaphor lies in the fact that people are trying to impose order on their lives by describing the world according to a particular domain of experience - Eating is highly ritualized and controlled where food must be carefully handled and generously given to others to avoid accusations of greed The Metaphors of Contemporary Witchcraft and Magic - Modern magic is based on the assumption that mind and thought can affect matter without the intervention of the thinker’s actions - A key metaphor embedded in modern witchcraft and magic is that of stratification of “planes” and “levels” - The magician uses the tarot cards to divine the future, but the cards also provide was for people to interpret their own lives - We constantly seem to confuse one domain with another Question 5.3: How do Societies Distinguish Individuals from One Another? - Differences and similarities among persons are the material from which we construct our social landscapes o From these similarities and differences, we construct our social identities - Language is another important identify marker - Language is often tied strongly to a national identity and many countires have established institutions to oversee the “purity” of the national language - For example, the Québécois argue that Quebec identity is not based solely on language o The conflict between Anglophones and francophones in Canada has been ongoing since both arrived on North American shores o
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