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Linguistics, culture and writing systems. Sociolinguistics Study of language and society Way social categories (age, gender, class) influence speech patterns.

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Presentation on theme: "Linguistics, culture and writing systems. Sociolinguistics Study of language and society Way social categories (age, gender, class) influence speech patterns."— Presentation transcript:

1 Linguistics, culture and writing systems

2 Sociolinguistics Study of language and society Way social categories (age, gender, class) influence speech patterns Gendered speech- distinct male and female speech patterns Dialects- regional or sub-cultural variations of language Controversial- dialect often viewed as “substandard’ form by dominant group

3 Ethnolinguistics Study of relationship between language and culture “Feedback loop” Sapir-Whorf hypothesis Language reflects what a culture thinks is most important Linguistic Relativity- the differences in the language are unique to the language (and come from culture)

4 Linguistic Determinism Related to Linguistic Relativity So…Language shapes the way we think about things and view the world BUT sometimes language reflects the cultural reality or the conditions specific to the culture’s environment etc. In other words: our world shapes our language

5 More subtle : Thought is shaped by language Way cultures think of and express past, present and future (verb tenses) How people organize space/activities in the physical world How people comprehend/think of numerical, spatial etc. relationships Way we learn affects the structure of our brains Brain is very plastic (changeable)

6 Proxemics Social space/personal space Distance people place themselves in relation to one another Use of and organization of space Micro = people in groups Macro=how cities and towns laid out

7 Mayan Proxemics Blue Creek site, Belize

8 Proxemics and the landscape Blue Creek, Belize

9 Writing Systems Writing =Systematically organized set of visible or tactile signs used to represent units of language *Often coincide w/ early nation-state Distance info must travel with no change Indicates new use, importance of recorded info *For Maya, these were not the factors that led to writing, -Legitimization of leadership, dynasty -Creation of identity centered on town, lord -Time/remembrance /deification of leader

10 Maya Writing system Legitimization of leadership, dynasty Creation of identity centered on the town and the lord Time/remembrance /deification of leader

11 Types of writing systems Alphabetic - Symbols = language sounds Phonemes- smallest units of sound (i.e. letters, b = \b\) (Relatively) small number of symbols Ex: Phoenician system upon which modern alphabet is based Logographic -Symbols = concepts/ideas, or Morphemes Morpheme = the smallest units of language that carry meaning (in English, the smallest morpheme is “s” for plurals) Hundreds, if not thousands of symbols Ex : Chinese

12 Types of writing systems Pictographic: Concepts, ideas and objects and associated meanings are visually represented Logo-phonetic- combines symbols that represent sounds and symbols representing morphemes/concepts Sometimes also called “complex” Syllabic -Symbols represent entire syllable or ‘chunk’ of sound Often “extra” symbols representing numbers, numerical concepts Japanese Kana

13 Mayan is“Logo-syllabic” 550 Logograms 150 Syllabograms 100 glyphs for place names, names of gods etc. Abt. 300 glyphs used commonly

14 Organization of Mayan writing Paired columns Read in a zig-zag 1. (A1) 2. (B1) 3. (A2) 4. (B2) A B

15 Mayan writing origin 2006-Earliest Example of Mayan writing : San Bartolo, Guatemala 2300 years BP Refers to a “ruler” or “lord”

16 San Bartolo, Guatemala

17 Mayan Region

18 What this all means One of three known systems to develop independently Sumerian cuneiform Chinese Prob. start as pictographs, then incorporated sound symbols No single “Mayan” language- many different groups and related languages

19 What this all means The written Mayan was a prestige form of the language used by elites, priests and high officials. Classic Ch'olti'an, extinct form of Eastern Ch’olti Mayan texts are religious/sacred Intertwining of political organization and religion Reveals more abt. gender, worldview Rabbit!

20 New Understanding Women had key role in religion Maintaining shrines Recording events Images of women weaving = metaphor for role in creating “fabric” of kinship Depictions of noble women as weavers A female scribe presents her work

21 The Maya Today We are not myths of the past, ruins in the jungle or zoos. We are people and we want to be respected, not to be victims of intolerance and racism. --Rigoberta Mench'u Tum, winner of the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize.

22 Mayan People Today Yucatecan Mayan is the linguistic basis to decipher the writing From “Cho’lti” Mayan spoken in Classic period Stelae w/ both forms of the language Many forms of Mayan still spoken reflect history as confederated city-states

23 Modern Maya Involvement Mayan people have helped decipher the glyphs Recognize stories Pointed out “over-translation” of ruler’s names -like calling Dr. Brian Carroll (my husband) “Climbing Stag” – (translation of his first and last name in Irish Gaelic) References to traditions that are still practiced In Mayan communities, an effort is being made to reclaim the writing system

24 < Crazy iguana Lady of Chichen Itza, from the Simpsons

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