Language and Culture

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					Language and Culture
    – System of human communication utilizing
      arbitrary vocal (or visual) symbols for the
      exchange of information.
• Minimal linguistic event involves:
    –   two human beings with
    –   healthy auditory (or visual) systems (receiver),
    –   healthy vocal (or visual) systems (transmitter), and
    –   healthy nervous systems connecting 2 and 3 to
    –   healthy brains;
    –   a physical link between the two humans
    –   a shared grammar (encoder/decoder), located in the left
        hemispheres of their brains.
  Allows the communication of complex and
   abstract concepts.
  Provides a means by which customs, norms,
   and important information can be passed
   between generations and preserved.
  The process of language acquisition forms the
   way we think
  Language is the vehicle of culture.
     Linguistic Anthropology
• Devoted to the study of human
• Study of non-Western languages
• Relationship between nationalism and
• Role of language in mass media
• Applying research to improved language
        Origins of Language
• Many primates communicate using calls,
  body postures and gestures
• Modern verbal language developed by
  50,000 years ago, perhaps earlier
• Emergence of writing associated with
  emergence of the state.

– Humans are able to convey information
  relevant to all aspects of experience and
– All human languages share the same
  fundamental properties.
    Semantic Universality is achieved due
      to three basic aspects of language:
   – The capacity to create an infinite number of new messages
     with any level of detail.
   – The ability to send or receive a message without direct sensory
     contact with the conditions or events to which the message
     refers. (Abstract concepts)
   – The symbols of language can be completely arbitrary. They do
     not have to resemble or mimic any aspect of what they are
     representing. This allows for the great diversity of languages
     and symbols.
 The discipline which studies language
         structure (grammar).

 Linguistics is descriptive, and describes the
  way people talk not the way they should talk.
 Structural linguistics breaks down language
  into hierarchical levels of structure, from
  broader to smaller categories.

 All human languages are composed of, or
  can be described in terms of, the same basic
– The rules that govern the structure of a
– OR A system located in human brains that
 specifies the relationship between sound and
 meaning in language.
  Basic structure of grammars
• A system of elements and rules:
  – basic sounds
  – rules for putting them together into minimal,
    basic sound-meaning pairs ("words")
  – rules for putting minimal sound-meaning pairs
    into larger entities (phrases, sentences).
           Types of Grammar
• Descriptive grammar:
   – an objective description model of the grammar of a
     natural spoken language (the product of linguistic
     analysis); description of how people actually speak.
• Prescriptive grammar:
   – statements regarding how people should speak (or
     write) in order to be considered "correct" or "educated"
     (social prescriptions, norms).
• PHONETICS: The study of the phones or “individual”
  sounds that native speakers make.

• PHONES: The basic, etic sounds that make up phonemes

• PHONEMES: The basic sound units of the grammar, used
  to make different minimal sound-meaning pairs. The
  smallest sound contrasts that distinguish meaning.

• PHONEMIC SYSTEM: All the phonemes in a given
  language; the set of phones that are arbitrarily but
  habitually perceived by the speakers as contrastive.
• Minimal pair
  – two words (or other sound-meaning units)
    distinguished from one another by a single phonetic
• Free variation
  – alternation of sounds with no change in meaning.
              Phonetic Alphabet
 A system for phonetic transcription (i.e., a written record)
  of sounds of spoken language.

 Sounds are classified according to the origin of the sound,
  state of the vocal chords, and the position of the
                    Phonetic alphabet
• Vocal cord states:
    – maximally tense : stopped : glottal stop
    – minimally tense : voiceless : voiceless glottal
    – intermediate : voiced : voiced glottal fricative
• Articulators: movable speech organs in the oral cavity
    – lips
    – tongue
    – velum (soft palate)
Places of
in the Vocal
                      Places of Articulation
•   Labials: Sounds made by changing the position of the lips
     –   Bilabial: bringing two lips together [b] [p] [m]
     –   Labiodental: touching one lip to the teeth [f] [v] in fine and vine

•   Alveolars: Sounds made by raising the tongue to the alveolar ridge
     – Voiced : [d] do [z] zoo
     – Nasal: [n] new
     – Voiceless: [t] two [s] sue

•   Interdental: Sounds make by placing the tip of the tongue between the teeth
     – Voiceless : [t] thin and ether
     – Voiced: [t] in then and either

•   Velars: Sounds made by placing the back of the tongue onto the soft palate or
     – The endings of the words back, bag, and band

•   Palatals: The front part of the tongue is raised to the hard palatte.
     – Shoe, shut, sure, and sugar
       Manners of articulation
•   Stops
•   Aspirated vs. Unaspirated Sounds
•   Fricatives
•   Afficates
•   Sibilants
•   Obstruents
•   Liquids
•   Glides
Morphology: The rules for combining phonemes into
• Morpheme: The smallest part of an utterance that has a
  definte meaning.
   – minimal sound-meaning unit.
   – Morphemes come in two varieties:

• Bound Morpheme: a morpheme that never occurs alone
  (i.e., is not a word).
   – Suffixs and prefixes: ing, ed, mal, pre,
• Free Morpheme: a morpheme that may occur alone (i.e.,
  is a word).
• Word: minimal free form.
      The smallest part of an utterance that has a definite meaning is
       called a morpheme.
      It may consist of a single phoneme or a string of phonemes.
      A morpheme which can occur by itself is a word
• Homonyms (homophones):
    – morphemes which sound the same but have different meanings.
• Synonyms:

    – morphemes which sound different but have the same meanings.

• Root:
   – the lexical/semantic "center" of a word; the invariant of
     a group of related stems.
• Affixes:
   – morphemes which are added to other morphemes (esp.
     roots, stems).
      • A suffix follows the root/stem.
      • A prefix precedes the root/stem.
      • An infix is inserted into the root/stem
      SYNTAX: The rules for combining
      morphemes (words) into sentences

 Syntax consists of the unconscious rules which govern
  sentence structure and the ways in which words are
  ordered within sentences.
 The basic and universal divisions of Syntax reflects
  fundamental aspects of how human speakers perceive the
  world: nouns for things, verbs for actions and events,
  adjectives for qualities.
 The rules of syntax can be extremely complex, and most
  native-speakers are not able to cite them, but instinctively
  know how to use them : ENCULTURATION

• Phrase Structure rules: How to construct
  proper phrases
• Lexical Insertion rules: How to use words
  within those structures
• Transformational rules: rules that apply
  to (delete, add, move elements in) phrase
  structure trees produced by Phrase Structure
          Syntactic Structure
• Deep structure:
  – the abstract, underlying syntactic representation
    (phrase structure) of sentence, produced by
    Phrase Structure and Lexical Insertion Rules.
• Surface structure:
  – the syntactic representation produced by
    application of transformational rules to deep

• A SYMBOL is something which is used
  to represent something else, usually a
  much more complex concept.
      We can make symbols mean anything: they are
       arbitrary and their complexity is essentially
      Human beings have the ability to think in
       symbols, and language is both an outgrowth of
       that ability and probably a necessary part of it:
 Thought, Language and Society
• Sapir-Whorf              • Sociolinguistics
  – language determines       – social position
    how we see the world        determines the content
    and behavior                and form of language
  – reality is filtered
    through language
• “A language without an army”
• A way of speaking in a particular place
• e.g. Cockney
• Speakers are sometimes considered less
• Ebonics - dialect or language?
                       Different ways of
                       speaking depending
                       on age, gender,
                       occupation and class

          Language and Culture

  Mother-Infant talk           Argument style is
                               culturally learned

                        “Fat talk”
        “Fat Talk”
• Euro-American adolescent girl’s talk a
lot about their body weight and image
• “I’m so fat.” “No you’re not.”
• Functions as positive reinforcement
from friends
• Functions to absolve girl from guilty
feelings about eating
                 - Nichter and Vuckovic 1994
• Silence
• Kinesics
  – body movement, expressions
  – some cultures are more touch-oriented
  – eye-contact in some cultures is rude
• Dress
• Looks
           Mass Media
                                In Japan TV,
promote a more
                                90% of staff
                                are men,
approach to
                                reflected in
news reporting

     Critical media anthropologists
     ask to what degree access to
     media messages are mind-
     opening or controlling
        Language and Change
• Colonialism was a major force of change
• Pidgins
  – usually limited to trade
• National policies of assimilation
  – Soviet Union
  – English-only movement in the US
  The BIG Questions Revisited
• What aspects of communication do
  linguistic anthropologists study?
• How do culture, society and communication
• What are some important          factors
  affecting language          change?

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