Linguistic Anthropology
Linguistic Anthropology 
Outline 
Overview of linguistic anthropology 
How language shapes our world 
Non-verbal communica...
A conversation with Koko 
http://www.youtube.com/v/SNuZ4OE6vCk
Questions from film (use reading) 
• Is Koko really communicating with 
Penny? 
– What elements of communication are 
ther...
Speaking in Tongues 
http://www.youtube.com/v/OuUAPVFFCRQ
Class Activity 
• List all the languages your can use 
• What other languages are there? 
• Try to think of a wide range 
...
Linguistic Anthropology 
Linguistic anthropology is the study of language and speech in both 
contemporary and past cultur...
Linguistic Anthropology 
Language is a system of sounds that, 
when put together according to certain 
rules, results in m...
Linguistic Anthropology 
Human Languages 
There are about 5,000-6,000 different languages spoken in the world 
today. 
The...
What are the most commonly 
spoken languages? 
Language Ethnologue (2009 
estimate) 
Estimated 
ranking 
Mandarin 845,000,...
Evolution of the Alphabet
Evolution 
of 
Languag 
e
Linguistic Anthropology 
Human Languages 
Disappearing languages… 
• There are around 900 native languages spoken by the 5...
Globalisation Exercise 
pages 54-5 in reading pack 
make notes of your answers, as if for an essay
Globalisation of English 
Official language in 52 countries as well as many small colonies and 
territories. 
1/4 to 1/3 o...
Break Time
Humanity and Language 
Language and culture together are critical to the development of human 
individuals 
• Language is ...
Evolution of Human Language 
• Complex language developed between 2 million 
(H.Ergaster) and 100,000 years ago (early H. ...
Broca’s Area 
Broca’s = syntax – i.e. combing words 
into coherent, grammatically correct 
sentences
Wernicke’s Area 
Wernicke’s = recognising words and their 
meaning
Vocal Tract 
Humans have a dramatically 
lowered larynx. 
• puts the base of the tongue in the 
throat cavity 
• allows mo...
Primate Language 
Call systems 
Call systems consist of a limited number of sounds that are 
produced in response to speci...
Complex Language 
Humans language is hugely more complex 
Concrete things 
–People 
–places 
–Etc 
Abstraction 
–Truth 
–E...
Social Learning 
Enculturation and knowledge 
transmission 
Children acquire culture 
Experience is stored and transmitted...
Precise communication 
Detailed, precise transmission 
• Past, present and future 
• Speculation 
• Interpretation 
• Effi...
Properties of language 
Transmission of thought 
Multimedia potential 
Discreteness 
Arbitrariness 
Productivity 
Displace...
Properties of language 
Multimedia potential 
Human language can be reproduced in forms that make transmission 
viable, ef...
Properties of language 
Discreteness 
Units of language with infinite combination 
• Units of language (e.g.. alphabet) 
•...
Properties of language 
Arbitrariness 
Words are symbols (semiotics) 
• Words have associated meanings 
• Coded references...
Properties of language 
Productivity 
Creation of novel sentences (and their understanding) 
• Turning a finite number of ...
Properties of language 
Displacement 
Ability to discuss things remote in time and space 
• The symbolic nature of languag...
Language and culture 
Classification of reality 
• Categories of the natural and social world 
– Objects 
– People 
– Othe...
Language and culture 
Classification of reality 
North American Livestock Farmers Classification of Animals 
Cattle Horses...
Language and culture 
Classification of reality 
• Labels are given to objects, qualities, 
and actions that we see as mos...
Grammar 
•Grammar refers to all the knowledge 
shared by those who are able to speak and 
understand a given language” (Pe...
Dialect and accent 
•Variations in grammar due to geographical 
region, class or subculture are called 
dialects 
–E.g. Ge...
Language and culture 
Language as a reflection of culture 
• Vocabularies and language use carry 
information in their own...
Language and culture 
Language as a reflection of culture 
• Semantic Domain 
–A set of words that belong to an inclusive ...
Language and culture 
Language as a reflection of culture 
• Even ‘Natural Domains’ are culturally relative 
• Kinship – d...
Language and culture 
Language as a reflection of culture 
“Cultures divide up the world differently, 
forming categories ...
Question 
How do new technologies 
affect language?
Non-verbal language 
Group work 
Describe different hand signals that are 
used 
Where and when are they used? 
Who uses t...
Next week… 
Cultural Anthropology
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Discovering Anthropology: week 3

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This week we are looking at linguistic diversity, the evolution of language and talking gorillas.

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  • The word is, anthropomorphism!
  • List on whiteboard for later activity
  • Not the only means of communication ( e.g. body language)
    What is body language? Why isn’t it a language as per the definition?
  • Is geordie another language?
  • http://www.ethnologue.com/ethno_docs/distribution.asp?by=size
    Perhaps use list of languages from previous activity
    Ask students how they would collect this data?
  • Make points referring to last week:
    Languages, and elements of language, survive when they lead to adaptive advantage. How might this be so?
  • What other ways is English dominant? (web, Hollywood, pop music)
  • Ask students to add ‘break time’ in as many languages as they know??
  • Importance of language to culture (related to week 1)
  • Evolved from primate calls, the following is supplemented with the extra reading in the teaching materials for this week “evolution of speech”
  • Sylian Fissure
    Broca’s =syntax – i.e. combing words into coherent, grammatically correct sentences
  • Sylian Fissure
    Broca’s =syntax – i.e. combing words into coherent, grammatically correct sentences
  • Note that soft tissue doesn’t survive in fossil records, but anthropologists can study the size of holes (e.g. hypoglossal canal) through which important nerves pass.
  • Chimpanzees have been taught sign language with limited success.
  • Father, warden, assume, nature (note the different sound for the ‘a’)
  • e.g. sci fi, we can talk about the impossible!
  • A rock is just a rock
    A bug is just a bug
    Why are these classifications important to farmers?
    More importantly we do it with those around us – Chavs, punks, etc.
  • e.g. creation of new words
  • Spot the deliberate mistake!
  • (perhaps mention Pygmallion?)
    What are the advantages to having the ‘correct’ dialect? Does having the correct accent matter?
  • Twitter and texting? (shortening of messages)
    Text based, Emoticons?
  • Discovering Anthropology: week 3

    1. 1. Linguistic Anthropology
    2. 2. Linguistic Anthropology Outline Overview of linguistic anthropology How language shapes our world Non-verbal communication
    3. 3. A conversation with Koko http://www.youtube.com/v/SNuZ4OE6vCk
    4. 4. Questions from film (use reading) • Is Koko really communicating with Penny? – What elements of communication are there? – Which are missing? • Which word from last week describes a possible problem with this approach? Full documentary about Koko available in YouTube playlist
    5. 5. Speaking in Tongues http://www.youtube.com/v/OuUAPVFFCRQ
    6. 6. Class Activity • List all the languages your can use • What other languages are there? • Try to think of a wide range • What do these languages have in common?
    7. 7. Linguistic Anthropology Linguistic anthropology is the study of language and speech in both contemporary and past cultures Linguistic Anthropology is composed of four basic branches. • Historical linguistics deals with the emergence of language and how languages have changed and diverged over time. • Descriptive linguistics is the study of the sounds (phones), sound systems, grammar, syntax, and the meanings that are attached to words in specific languages. • Sociolinguistics is the study of the relationship between language and social relations. As an example, sociolinguists might study how one's social standing affects his or her language usage. • Ethnolinguistics is the examination of the relationship between culture and language and how the two interact and influence one another.
    8. 8. Linguistic Anthropology Language is a system of sounds that, when put together according to certain rules, results in meanings that are intelligible to all speakers “Cultural Anthropology” Havilland (1993)
    9. 9. Linguistic Anthropology Human Languages There are about 5,000-6,000 different languages spoken in the world today. The imprecision in this estimate is largely due to the fact that some dialects are in the process of diverging and it is not clear that they have reached the stage of being separate languages. If two people find each other's speech unintelligible, they are usually thought to be speaking different languages rather than dialects.
    10. 10. What are the most commonly spoken languages? Language Ethnologue (2009 estimate) Estimated ranking Mandarin 845,000,000 1 English 428,000,000 2 Spanish 429,000,000 3 Hindi/Urdu 182,000,000 Hindi, 60,600,000 Urdu 4 Arabic 221,000,000† 5 Bengali 181,000,000 6 Portuguese 178,000,000 7 Russian 144,000,000 8 Japanese 122,000,000 9 German 90,300,000 10
    11. 11. Evolution of the Alphabet
    12. 12. Evolution of Languag e
    13. 13. Linguistic Anthropology Human Languages Disappearing languages… • There are around 900 native languages spoken by the 5-10 million people of New Guinea and its neighbouring islands (roughly 1/6 of all languages being spoken by far less than 1% of the world's people). • About 2,000 languages now have less than 1,000 speakers • Globally, the rate of language loss now is one every two weeks Source: O’Niel 2007
    14. 14. Globalisation Exercise pages 54-5 in reading pack make notes of your answers, as if for an essay
    15. 15. Globalisation of English Official language in 52 countries as well as many small colonies and territories. 1/4 to 1/3 of the people in the world understand and speak English to some degree. Language of international diplomacy. Dominant language in electronic communication. About 75% of the world's mail, telexes, and cables are in English. Approximately 60% of the world's radio programs are in English. About 90% of all Internet traffic is as well.
    16. 16. Break Time
    17. 17. Humanity and Language Language and culture together are critical to the development of human individuals • 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. • Language has both social and cultural context.
    18. 18. Evolution of Human Language • Complex language developed between 2 million (H.Ergaster) and 100,000 years ago (early H. Sapiens), maybe even 40,000 years ago (H.Sapiens Sapiens) • It shaped our brain, vocal tract, ears, respiratory tract, mouth and nasal passages
    19. 19. Broca’s Area Broca’s = syntax – i.e. combing words into coherent, grammatically correct sentences
    20. 20. Wernicke’s Area Wernicke’s = recognising words and their meaning
    21. 21. Vocal Tract Humans have a dramatically lowered larynx. • puts the base of the tongue in the throat cavity • allows movement of the tongue to modify simultaneously the shape of the throat and mouth hence: • exquisite vowel and pitch control • But it also causes us to choke to death! • Although primates use call systems, their vocal tract is not suitable for speech.
    22. 22. Primate Language 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.
    23. 23. Complex Language Humans language is hugely more complex Concrete things –People –places –Etc Abstraction –Truth –Evil –God –Masculinity –Space
    24. 24. Social Learning Enculturation and knowledge transmission Children acquire culture Experience is stored and transmitted Reality encoded in language
    25. 25. Precise communication Detailed, precise transmission • Past, present and future • Speculation • Interpretation • Efficient transmission
    26. 26. Properties of language Transmission of thought Multimedia potential Discreteness Arbitrariness Productivity Displacement
    27. 27. Properties of language Multimedia potential Human language can be reproduced in forms that make transmission viable, effective and efficient • Writing • Speech • Gestures • Internet • TV
    28. 28. Properties of language Discreteness Units of language with infinite combination • Units of language (e.g.. alphabet) • Rules for combining units Father – Warden – Assume – Nature • Units only convey meaning when combined in recognised, conventional codes (e.g.. words)
    29. 29. Properties of language Arbitrariness Words are symbols (semiotics) • Words have associated meanings • Coded references to –Objects –People –Sensory experiences –Qualities –Actions –Emotions –Etc. • I love you = Te amo = J t’aime = Wo ai ni – the meaning is the same
    30. 30. Properties of language Productivity Creation of novel sentences (and their understanding) • Turning a finite number of words into infinite meaning • Requires shared understanding of components and rules • Most people have no conscious awareness of these rules
    31. 31. Properties of language Displacement Ability to discuss things remote in time and space • The symbolic nature of language provides an abstraction from reality • An object does not have to be present to talk about it • We have symbols for space, time, possibility, etc. • Language allows imagination
    32. 32. Language and culture Classification of reality • Categories of the natural and social world – Objects – People – Other life forms – Events • Based on similarities and differences • What is considered significant
    33. 33. Language and culture Classification of reality North American Livestock Farmers Classification of Animals Cattle Horses Swine Description Cow Mare Sow Female Bull Stallion Boar Male Steer Gelding Barrow Male - Mature - Neutered Calf Foal Piglet Newborn – Regardless of sex Heifer calf Filly Gilt Female - Immature Bull calf Colt shoat Male - Immature
    34. 34. Language and culture Classification of reality • Labels are given to objects, qualities, and actions that we see as most important • This makes it easier for us to communicate complex information about these subjects
    35. 35. Grammar •Grammar refers to all the knowledge shared by those who are able to speak and understand a given language” (Peoples and Bailey) •Linguistically there is no such thing as bad grammar (e.g. apostrophe’s) –This does not mean that it is not important culturally!
    36. 36. Dialect and accent •Variations in grammar due to geographical region, class or subculture are called dialects –E.g. Geordie, Cockney, ‘Street’ –Queen’s English –Professional dialects (legal, medical) •Accent is the way words are pronounced •Both lead to symbolic capital My Fair Lady (Bourdieu)
    37. 37. Language and culture Language as a reflection of culture • Vocabularies and language use carry information in their own right •Language acts to create identity – to denote same and different
    38. 38. Language and culture Language as a reflection of culture • Semantic Domain –A set of words that belong to an inclusive class (chair, table, cabinet, etc. = Furniture) –Can be subdivided into hierarchy of inclusiveness • How a culture creates and divides semantic domains reflects the values of that culture. (e.g.Snow)
    39. 39. Language and culture Language as a reflection of culture • Even ‘Natural Domains’ are culturally relative • Kinship – divided differently by different cultures –UK = Aunts & uncles and nieces & cousins (but not divided by father’s or mother’s side) e.g. In some cultures maternal uncle’s daughters are ‘mother’, whilst paternal uncle’s daughters are ‘sisters’.
    40. 40. Language and culture Language as a reflection of culture “Cultures divide up the world differently, forming categories and classifications of natural and social reality out of the objective properties of things. These differences are reflected in the language of the bearers of the culture.” (Peoples & Bailey, 2003, p.55)
    41. 41. Question How do new technologies affect language?
    42. 42. Non-verbal language Group work Describe different hand signals that are used Where and when are they used? Who uses them? Why are they used instead of language?
    43. 43. Next week… Cultural Anthropology
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