Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Spring 2012
4.1 Language and Communication Part 1
Kinesics: study of communication through body movements, stances, gestures, and expressions.
Many facial expressions reflect primate heritage (uniform among humans).
Facial Gestures: universal, part of our evolutionary heritage.
Hand Gestures: vary cross-culturally, part of our divergent cultural heritages.
We regularly monitor nonverbal communication in others and adjust our behaviors accordingly.
What messages do body postures convey?
How do politicians use non-verbal means to communicate something about themselves?
How is status conveyed non-verbally?
How do we project messages about ourselves through the clothing we wear?
Does Language Shape the Way We View the World?
How are words strategically chosen in the political arena to influence your opinions?
How are words strategically chosen in advertising to influence the choices you make?
The knowledge that language shapes the way we view the world can be used strategically in politics,
advertizing, and other venues.
Specialized sets of terms and distinctions that are particularly important to certain groups.
E.g., Inuit terms for snow; Mongol terms for horse; professional chefs’ terms for knives.
Relationships between social variations (ethnicity, status, gender, etc.) and linguistic variations (dialect,
slang, tone, etc.).
Choice of words, intonation, body language all influenced by relative statuses of speaker and listener.
Can be conscious or unconscious.
Important social skill – those who are adept can maneuver through complex society.
Discordance and social disruption: Failure to follow the expected norms can cause problems (e.g., phony
accent; jocular demeanor with older boss; professor using slang with students; . . .).
Symbolic Capital (Bourdieu)
Skillful use of linguistic practices can be converted into social and economic benefits.
Values of dialects vary – which dialects provide access to resources (e.g. jobs, loans)?
Some forms of speech are stigmatized or considered less prestigious.
Speech & Social Stratification
Speech patterns associated with social, political, and economic status.
Speech of low status groups associated with lack of education.
Sociolinguistic discrimination: using linguistic features as evaluator of competence.