Chapter 1 – The Socially Charged Life of Language
- Language is a set of socially embedded practices
- In losing a language in Papua New Guinea, the Taiap speakers said the reason their
language is becoming extinct is because their children are too big-headed to learn them.
- Essence of language cannot be understood without reference to the particular social
contexts in which it is used.
- Language should be studied as a cultural practice rather than a mode of thinking.
- In order to acquire a comprehensive understanding of language, it must be studied in
real-life contexts. Grammar, according to linguistic anthropologists, is just one part of
language’s “socially charged life
So, What Do You Need to Know in Order to “Know” a Language?
- Langue: the language system in the abstract and Parole: everyday speech
- Chomsky and Saussure believe the abstract knowledge of a language system is of
primary interest for the science of language rather than the parole.
- So in the example of Knitting, instead of how exactly a person knits, some
anthropologists may be interested in why people knit, the practices of knitting overtime,
the gendered nature of knitting etc.
- To know a language, one must know far more than an abstract set of grammatical rules
- Five Basic Components of Language
o Phonology: study of sound in language. One must be able to recognize and
produce sounds that are meaningful in that language. (Sign language is
o Morphology: study of the internal structure of words. One must be able to use
suffixes, prefixes. (Creating plurals in words)
o Syntax: study of structure of sentences, including the construction of phrases,
clauses, and the other order of words. In order to know a language, one must be
able to combine subjects, verbs and objects in a grammatically correct way.
o Semantics: study of meaning in language, including analysis of the meanings of
words and sentences. One must know how to construct and interpret meanings.
o Pragmatics: study of language use, actual utterances, of how meanings emerge
in actual social contexts. One must be able to use language in a socially and
culturally appropriate way.
Key Terms in Linguistic Anthropology
o Expressive Asem Harun
Verbal note to self, mainly expresses speakers feelings/opinions
Ex. “Brr it’s cold” (Could also be conative)
o Conative (Addressee)
Usually questions or commands
Ex. Excuse me? Close the windows please.
o Referential (Context)
Oriented towards another person, thing, and place.
Canada has two official languages. Jane is hosting a party
o Poetic (Message)
Focus on message for its own sake
Calling attention to the sound and structure of words
Ex. No shirts no shoes no service. Horrible Harry
o Phatic (Contact)
Oriented towards the channel that carries it, social or physical
Focused on securing connection
Ex. Testing 123. Cat Talk.
Utterance focused upon the code or language
Includes comments about language use (Metapragmatics)
How do you spell Saussure? Do you