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1 McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. O v e r v i e w Language and Communication This chapter introduces students to the study of linguistics. It discusses the differences between animal and human communication, the basic categories and definitions used to study language, and the many ways in which language, culture, and social action intersect.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 2 Introduction Language is our primary means of communication. Language is transmitted through learning, as part of enculturation. Language is based on arbitrary, learned associations between words and the things they represent. Only humans have the linguistic capacity to discuss the past and future in addition to the present. Anthropologists study language in its social and cultural context.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 3 Animal Communication: Call Systems Call systems consist of a limited number of sounds that are produced in response to specific stimuli (e.g., food or danger) –Calls cannot be combined to produce new calls. –Calls are reflexive in that they are automatic responses to specific stimuli. Although primates use call systems, their vocal tract is not suitable for speech.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 4 Sign Language A few nonhuman primates have been able to learn to use American Sign Language (ASL). –Washoe, a chimpanzee, eventually acquired a vocabulary of over 100 ASL signs. –Lucy, another chimpanzee, lived in a foster family until she was introduced to the “wild,” where she was killed by poachers. –Koko, a gorilla, regularly uses 400 ASL signs and has used 700 at least once. These nonhuman primates have displayed some “human-like” capacities with ASL. –Joking and lying. –Cultural transmission: they have tried to teach ASL to other animals. –Productivity: they have combined two or more signs to create a new expressions. –Displacement: the ability to talk about things that are not present.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 5 Sign Language (cont.) The experiments with ASL demonstrate that chimps and gorillas have a rudimentary capacity for language. It is important to remember that these animals were taught ASL by humans. There are no known instances where chimps or gorillas in the wild have developed a comparable system of signs on their own.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 6 The Origin of Language The human capacity for language developed over hundreds of thousands of years, as call systems were transformed into language. Language is a uniquely effective vehicle for learning that enables humans to adapt more rapidly to new stimuli than other primates.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 7 Nonverbal Communication Kinesics is the study of communication through body movements, stances, gestures, and facial expressions. Odors also play an important role in nonverbal communication.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 8 The Structure of Language The scientific study of spoken language involves several levels of organization: phonology, morphology, lexicon, and syntax. Phonology is the study of the sounds used in speech. Morphology studies the forms in which sounds are grouped in speech. A language’s lexicon is a dictionary containing all of the smallest units of speech that have a meaning (morpheme). Syntax refers to the rules that order words and phrases into sentences.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 9 Speech Sounds In any given language, phonemes are the smallest sound contrasts that distinguish meaning (they carry no meaning themselves). Phones are the sounds made by humans that might act as phonemes in any given language. Phonetics is the study of human speech sounds; phonemics is the study of phones as they act in a particular language. Phonemics studies only the significant sound contrasts of a given language.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 10 Language, Thought, and Culture Chomsky argues that the universal grammar is finite, and the fact that any language is translatable to any other language is taken to be evidence supporting this claim. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: Sapir and Whorf are described as early advocates of the view that different languages imply different ways of thinking (e.g., Palaung vs. English, Hopi speculative tense).
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 11 Focal Vocabulary Lexical elaboration that corresponds to an activity or item that is culturally central is called a focal vocabulary. It is argued that, while language, thought, and culture are interrelated, change is more likely to move from culture to language, rather than the reverse.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 12 Meaning Semantics “refers to a language’s meaning system.” Ethnoscience, or ethnosemantics, is the study of linguistic categorization of difference, such as in classification systems, taxonomies, and specialized terminologies (such as astronomy and medicine).
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 13 Sociolinguistics Sociolinguistics is the study of the relation between linguistic performance and the social context of that performance. The notion that linguistic variation is a product of constantly ongoing general forces for change is called linguistic uniformitarianism.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 14 Linguistic Diversity The ethnic and class diversity of nation-states is mirrored by linguistic diversity. Single individuals may change the way they talk depending upon the social requirements of a given setting--this is called style shifting. Diglossia is the regular shifting from one dialect to another (e.g., high and low variants of a language) by members of a single linguistic population. Linguistic relativity says that no language is superior to any other as a means of communication.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 15 Gender Speech Contrasts In America and England, there are regular differences between men’s speech and women’s speech that cut across subcultural boundaries. The fact that women in these populations tend to speak a more “standard” dialect and use fewer “power” words is attributed to women’s lack of socioeconomic power.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 16 Stratification and Symbolic Domination In situations where social stratification exists, the dialect of the dominant strata is considered “standard” and valued more than the dialects of the lower strata. Sociolinguistic studies have indicated that status-linked dialects affect the economic and social prospects of the people who speak them, a situation to which Bourdieu applies the term symbolic capital. According to Bourdieu, overall societal consensus that one dialect is more prestigious results in “symbolic domination.”
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 17 Black English Vernacular (B.E.V.), a.k.a. “Ebonics” Most linguists view B.E.V. as a dialect of American English, with roots in southern English. William Labov writes that B.E.V. is the “relatively uniform dialect spoken by the majority of black youth in most parts of the U.S. today…” B.E.V. has its own complex system of linguistic rules; it is not an unstructured selection of words and phrases. –B.E.V. speakers do not pronounce intervocalic r’s. –B.E.V. speakers use copula deletion to eliminate the verb to be from their speech. Standard English is not superior in terms of ability to communicate ideas, but it is the prestige dialect.
McGraw-Hill © 2004 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 18 Historical Linguistics Historical linguistics studies the long-term variation of speech by studying protolanguages and daughter languages. Anthropologists are interested in historical linguistics because cultural features sometimes correlate with the distribution of language families.
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