Sample: Language, Culture, and Society, 7th Edition

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Sampled below is the Preface and Chapter One from Language, Culture, and Society, Seventh Edition, by James Stanlaw, Nobuko Adachi, and Zdenek Salzmann.

 

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Table of Contents

Contents

Preface

1. Introducing Linguistic Anthropology

Learning Objectives
Why Should We Study Language? Language in Daily Life
Modern Myths Concerning Languages
A Brief History of Anthropology
Anthropology, Linguistics, and Linguistic Anthropology
Summary and Conclusions
Resource Manual and Study Guide
Questions for Discussion
Project
Objective Study Questions
Notes and Suggestions for Further Reading

2. Methods of Linguistic Anthropology

Learning Objectives
Contrasting Linguistics with Linguistic Anthropology
Three Strains of Linguistic Anthropology, and More: Theoretical and Historical Perspectives
The Fieldwork Component, and the Components of Fieldwork
Summary and Conclusions
Resource Manual and Study Guide
Questions for Discussion
Objective Study Questions
Answer Key
Notes and Suggestions for Further Reading

3. The “Nuts and Bolts” of Linguistic Anthropology I: Language Is Sound

Learning Objectives
Anthropologists Notice Language
The Anatomy and Physiology of Speech
Articulation of Speech Sounds
From Phones to Phonemes
Prosodic Features
Summary and Conclusions
Resource Manual and Study Guide
Questions for Discussion
Objective Study Questions
Problems
Answer Key
Notes and Suggestions for Further Reading

4. The “Nuts and Bolts” of Linguistic Anthropology II: Structure of Words and Sentences

Learning Objectives
Combining Sounds into Larger Formal and Meaningful Units
Morphemes and Allomorphs
Morphological Processes
Morphophonemics
Showing Grammatical Relationships: Inflections Versus Word Order
Chomsky and Transformational-​Generative Grammar
Summary and Conclusions
Resource Manual and Study Guide
Questions for Discussion
Objective Study Questions
Problems
Answer Key
Notes and Suggestions for Further Reading

5. Communicating Nonverbally

Learning Objectives
Paralinguistics
Kinesics
Proxemics
Sign Languages
Writing
Summary and Conclusions
Resource Manual and Study Guide
Questions for Discussion
Project
Objective Study Questions
Answer Key
Notes and Suggestions for Further Reading

6. The Development and Evolution of Language: Language Birth, Language Growth, and Language Death

Learning Objectives
Communication and Its Channels
Communication Among Nonhuman Primates
When Does a Communication System Become Language?
Design Features of Language
Language as an Evolutionary Product
Monogenesis Versus Polygenesis
The Life and Death of Languages
Summary and Conclusions
Resource Manual and Study Guide
Questions for Discussion
Projects
Objective Study Questions
Answer Key
Notes and Suggestions for Further Reading

7. Acquiring and Using Language(s): Life with First Languages, Second Languages, and More

Learning Objectives
The First Steps of Language Acquisition in Childhood
Some Theories of Language Acquisition
Language and the Brain
Bilingual and Multilingual Brains
Code-​Switching, Code-​Mixing, and Diglossia
Summary and Conclusions
Resource Manual and Study Guide
Questions for Discussion
Projects
Objective Study Questions
Answer Key
Notes and Suggestions for Further Reading

8. Language Through Time

Learning Objectives
How Languages Are Classified
Internal and External Changes
How and Why Sound Changes Occur
Reconstructing Protolanguages
Reconstructing the Ancestral Homeland
Time Perspective in Culture
Summary and Conclusions
Resource Manual and Study Guide
Questions for Discussion
Objective Study Questions
Problems
Answer Key
Notes and Suggestions for Further Reading

9. Languages in Variation and Languages in Contact

Learning Objectives
Idiolects
Dialects
Styles
Language Contact
Pidgins
From Pidgins to Creoles
Language Contact in the Contemporary World
The World of Languages
Summary and Conclusions
Resource Manual and Study Guide
Questions for Discussion
Projects
Objective Study Questions
Answer Key
Notes and Suggestions for Further Reading

10. The Ethnography of Communication

Learning Objectives
Speech Community and Related Concepts
Units of Speech Behavior
Components of Communication
Recent Trends in the Ethnography of Speaking
Summary and Conclusions
Resource Manual and Study Guide
Questions for Discussion
Objective Study Questions
Answer Key
Notes and Suggestions for Further Reading

11. Culture as Cognition, Culture as Categorization: Meaning and Language in the Conceptual World

Learning Objectives
The Scope of Semantics
Concepts, Words, and Categories
The Rise and (Relative) Fall of Ethnoscience
Meaning in Discourse and Conversation
Summary and Conclusions
Resource Manual and Study Guide
Questions for Discussion
Projects
Objective Study Questions
Answer Key
Notes and Suggestions for Further Reading

12. Language, Culture, and Thought

Learning Objectives
The Double-​Edged Sword of the Sapir-​Whorf Hypothesis: Linguistic Determinism and Linguistic Relativity
The Sapir-​Whorf Hypothesis Reconsidered
Color Nomenclature and Other Challenges to Linguistic Relativity
Theoretical Alternatives to Linguistic Relativity
Future Tests of Linguistic Relativity and Linguistic Determinism
Summary and Conclusions
Resource Manual and Study Guide
Questions for Discussion
Projects
Objective Study Questions
Answer Key
Notes and Suggestions for Further Reading

13. Language, Identity, and Ideology I: Variations in Gender

Learning Objectives
“Gender” Versus “Sex”
Grammatical Versus Biological Gender
Do Men and Women Speak Differently?
Gender and Language: Theoretical Movements
Does Grammatical Gender Affect How We Think?
Language and Gender: Hegemony, Power, and Ideology
Language in Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Subcultures
Some Current Thoughts on Language and Gender Differences
Summary and Conclusions
Resource Manual and Study Guide
Questions for Discussion
Projects
Objective Study Questions
Answer Key
Notes and Suggestions for Further Reading

14. Language, Identity, and Ideology II: Variations in Class, “Race,” Ethnicity, and Nationality

Learning Objectives
Language, Social Class, and Identity
Language, “Race,” and Ethnicity
Language and Nationality
Summary and Conclusions
Resource Manual and Study Guide
Questions for Discussion
Projects
Objective Study Questions
Answer Key
Notes and Suggestions for Further Reading

15. The Linguistic Anthropology of a Globalized and Digitalized World

Learning Objectives
Language Planning
Literacy, Writing, and Education
Intercultural Communication
Always On: New Literacies and Language in an Online Global World
Ethical Questions and Standards of Conduct
Summary and Conclusions
Resource Manual and Study Guide
Questions for Discussion
Project
Objective Study Questions
Answer Key
Notes and Suggestions for Further Reading

Glossary
Bibliography
Index

Preface

Preface to the Seventh Edition

Once again it gives us great pleasure to offer another edition of Language, Culture, and Society. As we explained in the last edition, our intent has been to maintain our original “Americanist” vision of linguistic anthropology—as established by the discipline’s forerunners such as Franz Boas and Edward Sapir—while addressing some of the newer pressing and exciting challenges of the twenty-​first century, among them issues of language and power, language ideology, and contemporary digital and computer-​mediated communication. In this vein, we have substantially reworked our materials on language variation based on race and ethnicity (Chapter 14), linguistic anthropology in the global digitized world (Chapter 15), and how meaning emerges from conversation (Chapter 12). About 20 percent of the text is new, and unfortunately about 20 percent of the text has been reduced or eliminated. However, we have now added dozens of photographs and numerous new figures, problems, sidebars, and boxes. We have also added a newly revised and up-​to-​date glossary.

And speaking of problems and activities, as we mentioned last time, linguistic anthropology is a lot like swimming: you can study hydraulics, kinesiology, or the theory of the backstroke all you want, but it is a lot more fun—and ultimately more rewarding—to actually get wet. So we encourage everyone to step into the linguistics pool (we have tried to make sure the water is not too deep). To encourage this—knowing the current generation of students is not only Internet friendly but Web addicted—we have given at least three or four multimedia links in each chapter through which teachers and students can explore in more detail some of the issues brought up in the text. Sometimes these include things that are purely for fun—who can resist Sacha Baron Cohen in character as Ali G “interviewing” one of the world’s foremost linguists and intellectuals, Noam Chomsky!—to current political affairs, such as the language of the 2016 presidential debates. So these problems and “projects” and Internet activities should not be considered extraneous. They are a vital part of the learning experience.

Now, as we said last time, we do understand that some students are a bit intimidated by such words as grammar and all those strange symbols found in a phonetic alphabet. To this we have two responses. First, we have tried to be more clear in this edition about why we introduce these things, and we offer motivations for needing some formalism—and how it reveals things that cannot be shown in any other way. We also want to remind students that this is not an algebra class, and that many of these problems are closer to crossword puzzles than math equations. So enjoy! Second, in this edition we continue to offer a transcription system that we feel is much easier for beginning students to master than the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA): the so-​called American System, popular among anthropologists, especially before World War II, when exotic fonts were not so easy to typeset. We feel the problem with the IPA for beginners is the conflation of pure vowels and diphthongs, and excessive use of diacritics, in its orthography. In comparison, the American System is much more transparent and less confusing.

Throughout the text, statistics have been updated and the references expanded, with the addition of about one hundred and fifty new sources.

Once more we are indebted to many people for all their help. We are extremely grateful to all the students and instructors—and referees—who have continued to give us many valuable suggestions and comments, some of which we have been able to incorporate in this edition. Linguistics graduate student Su Yin Khor created a new glossary for us and also contributed several sidebars. She also helped with editing and reading chapters, and she prevented us from making naïve mistakes especially in the arenas of emoji usage, Twitter, and text messaging. We are once again indebted to the fine staff at Westview Press for all their editing and production. In particular, we’d like to thank previous editors Leanne Silverman, Evan Carter, Sandra Beris, Karl Yambert (who initially suggested our collaboration), and Catherine Craddock, and acquisitions director Grace Fujimoto. Our current sociology and anthropology editor, James Sherman, has been a voice of clarity and reason in the sometimes complicated revision process. Their support and encouragement has been enormous.

We hope the readers of this new edition will gain as much from using this book as we did from writing it.

Jim Stanlaw
Nobuko Adachi
Zdenek Salzmann

Chapter One

Chapter 1. Introducing Linguistic Anthropology

Learning Objectives

  • Explain some of the “myths” people have about language, and why; be able to refute them
  • Give a brief overview of the history of anthropology and identify its four subfields
  • List some of the assumptions underlying “Americanist” linguistic anthropology
  • Identify Franz Boas and Edward Sapir and explain their importance to linguistic anthropology
  • Describe some ways languages can differ in terms of grammar and vocabulary

The first thing that someone reads in any introductory textbook is the authors’ capsule definition of the subject matter at hand. In this book we have two disciplines that, at first glance, might appear to be very different. Stereotypically, people think of anthropologists in pith helmets out in a jungle someplace uncovering bizarre tribal customs. Likewise, they imagine a linguist as someone who can speak a dozen languages fluently, or else as a scholar poring over ancient texts deciphering secret hieroglyphic messages. In reality these two fields are hardly like that, but that does not make them any less exciting. This book is about how those people who call themselves linguistic anthropologists study the universal phenomenon of human language. But before we go into the specifics of how they do that, we should ask ourselves an even more basic question.

Why Should We Study Language? Language in Daily Life

“Why should I study language?” is hardly a rhetorical question. Most people never formally study language, and they seem to get along fine. But do they? For example, have you ever arranged to meet someone “next Tuesday,” only to find that your friend was planning to show up a week later than you had anticipated? Or why do we need lawyers to translate a contract for us when the document is written in a language that all parties share? David Crystal (1971:15) points out that communication between patients and physicians can be extremely difficult, given the differences in training and perspective of the persons involved. The doctor often has to take a general phrase, such as “a dull ache in my side,” and formulate a diagnosis and treatment based solely on this description. And when responding to what the patient has said, the doctor must choose her words carefully. What a doctor calls a “benign growth” might be heard as “cancer” by the patient.

At school we are confronted with language problems the minute we walk in the door. Some are obvious: “I can’t understand Shakespeare. I thought he spoke English. Why is he so difficult?” Other problems are not so obvious: “What is the difference between who and whom? Doesn’t one make me sound British?” “Why do I have to say ‘you and I’ instead of ‘me and you’?” Some problems, such as the subtle sexism found in some textbooks, may be beyond our everyday psychological threshold. Problems of ethnicity and community-​identity can be seen in such controversial issues as bilingual education or the teaching of Ebonics.

Language is involved in a wide variety of human situations, perhaps every situation. If something permeates every aspect of human life and is so complex that we cannot fathom its influence, we should study it. The scientific study of language is one of the keys to understanding much of human behavior.

The study of language will not in itself solve all the world’s problems. It is useful enough to make people aware that these problems of language exist and that they are widespread and complex. Besides being of intellectual interest, then, the study of language offers a special vantage point of “linguistic sensitization” (Crystal 1971:35) to problems that are of concern to everyone, regardless of discipline and background.

Some of the questions we will address in this book, then, are broad but fundamental—for example:

  1. How can language and culture be adequately described?
  2. Do other animals, such as chimpanzees using American sign language, show linguistic capacities?
  3. How did language originate? How did it contribute to human evolution and the development of culture?
  4. How are languages acquired?
  5. How can languages be classified to show the relationships among them?
  6. What is the relationship between language and thought?
  7. What is meaning? How is it bestowed? How is it learned?
  8. What does it mean to be human?

Modern Myths Concerning Languages

This may be a good place to provide information about languages in general to set some basic matters straight. Every human being speaks a language, but what people think about languages—particularly those about which they know little or nothing—is quite another matter. Consider the following statements. Which ones do you think are true?

Almost everywhere in the world, everyone is monolingual or monodialectal, just as in America.
Spelling in English is basically phonetic and governed by clear rules.
Most writing systems in the world are based on some kind of alphabet.
If you really want to learn Spanish, don’t take a class in school. It is better to just go, say, to Mexico for a month or two.
Some languages are naturally harder to learn than others.
Some languages are naturally more “primitive” than others.
Language itself is not ambiguous; it is people’s misinterpreting things that causes problems.
Some dialects are, well . . . stupid, demonstrating that a person is uneducated.
The use of language somehow reflects one’s intelligence.
People who are fluent in another language may not have complete mastery of their native language.
The ability to learn a foreign language is a special kind of skill that some of us have, and others don’t.
As our grade school teachers taught us, if you want to get it right, go to the dictionary!
People who use double negatives (“I don’t need no anthropology classes”) are really not thinking logically.
It is easier to learn Chinese if you come from a Chinese family background than from a European family.
Languages seem to have special characteristics or personalities: for example, French is romantic; German is scientific; Russian is soulful; Spanish is hot-​blooded; Italian is emotional; Chinese is simple and straightforward; Japanese is mysterious, spiritual, and Zen-​like; English is logical; Greek is philosophical, and so on.
All Native Americans generally speak the same language; that’s why they could communicate with each other using sign language (like in the movies).
The more words you know, the better you know your language.

Most anthropologists and linguists would say that all of these statements are suspect, if not outright wrong. Let us briefly consider a few of these misconceptions concerning languages in more detail because they appear to be widespread, even among those who are otherwise well educated and knowledgeable. These misconceptions we can refer to as myths, in the sense of being unfounded, fictitious, and false beliefs or ideas.

Primitive Languages . . . Or Not?

The most common misconception is the belief that unwritten languages are “primitive,” whatever that may mean. Those who think that “primitive” languages still exist invariably associate them with societies that laypeople refer to as “primitive”—especially the very few remaining bands of hunter-​gatherers. There are of course differences in cultural complexity between hunting-​and-​collecting bands and small tribal societies, on the one hand, and modern industrial societies, on the other, but no human beings today are “primitive” in the sense of being less biologically evolved than others. One would be justified in talking about a primitive language only if referring to the language of, for example, the extinct forerunner of Homo sapiens of a half million years ago. Even though we do not know on direct evidence the nature of the system of oral communication of Homo erectus, it is safe to assume that it must have been much simpler than languages of the past several thousand years and therefore primitive in that it was rudimentary, or represented an earlier stage of development.

Why are certain languages mistakenly thought to be primitive? There are several reasons. Some people consider other languages ugly or “primitive sounding” if those languages make use of sounds or sound combinations they find indistinct or “inarticulate” because the sounds are greatly different from those of the languages they themselves speak. Such a view is based on the ethnocentric attitude that the characteristics of one’s own language are obviously superior. But words that seem unpronounceable to speakers of one language—and are therefore considered obscure, indistinct, or even grotesque—are easily acquired by even the youngest native speakers of the language in which they occur. To a native speaker of English, the Czech word scvrnkls “you flicked off (something) with your finger” looks quite strange, and its pronunciation may sound odd and even impossible because there is no vowel among the eight consonants; for native speakers of Czech, of course, scvrnkls is just another word. Which speech sounds are used and how they are combined to form words and utterances vary from one language to the next, and speakers of no language can claim that their language has done the selecting and combining better than another.

The Grammar of Non-​Western Languages

Another myth has to do with grammar. Some think that languages of peoples whose societies are not urbanized and industrialized have “little grammar,” meaning that such languages have few, if any, of the sort of grammar rules students learn in school. According to this misconception, members of simple societies use language in rather random fashion, without definite pattern. To put it differently, grammar in the sense of rules governing the proper use of cases, tenses, moods, aspects, and other grammatical categories is erroneously thought to be characteristic of “civilized” languages only. Once again, nothing could be further from the truth. Some languages have less “grammar” than others, but the degree of grammatical complexity is not a measure of how effective a particular language is.

What sorts of grammars, then, characterize languages spoken by members of tribal societies? Some of these languages have a fairly large and complicated grammatical apparatus, whereas others are less grammatically complex—a diversity similar to that found in Indo-​European languages. Edward Sapir’s description of the morphology of Takelma, based on material collected in 1906, takes up 238 pages (Sapir 1922). In Takelma, the now extinct language spoken at one time in southwestern Oregon, verbs were particularly highly inflected, making use of prefixes, suffixes, infixes, vowel changes, consonant changes, and reduplication (functional repetition of a part of a word). Every verb had forms for six tense-​modes, including potential (“I can . . . ” or “I could . . . ”), inferential (“it seems that . . . ” or “I presume that . . . ”), and present and future imperatives (the future imperative expressing a command to be carried out at some stated or implied time in the future). Among the other grammatical categories and forms marked in verbs were person, number, voice (active or passive), conditional, locative, instrumental, aspect (denoting repeated, continuing, and other types of temporal activity), and active and passive participles. Sapir’s description of verb morphology fills more than 147 pages—yet is not to be taken as exhaustive. Although the brief characterization here is far from representative of Takelma verb morphology, it clearly indicates that Takelma grammar was anything but simple. A similar and more detailed demonstration of morphological complexity could easily be provided for hundreds of other so-​called primitive languages.

Vocabulary Deficiencies?

When it comes to the vocabulary of languages, is it true, as some suppose, that the vocabularies of so-​called primitive languages are too small and inadequate to account for the nuances of the physical and social universes of their speakers? Here the answer is somewhat more complicated. Because the vocabulary of a language serves only the members of the society who speak it, the question to be asked should be: Is a particular vocabulary sufficient to serve the sociocultural needs of those who use the language? When put like this, it follows that the language associated with a relatively simple culture would have a smaller vocabulary than the language of a complex society. Why, for example, should the Inuit people (often known by the more pejorative term “Eskimo”) have words for chlorofluoromethane, dune buggy, lambda particle, or tae kwon do when these substances, objects, concepts, and activities play no part in their culture? By the same token, however, the language of a tribal society would have elaborate lexical domains for prominent aspects of the culture even though these do not exist in complex societies. The Agta of the Philippines, for example, are reported to have no fewer than thirty-​one verbs referring to types of fishing (Harris 1989:72).

For Aguaruna, the language serving a manioc-​cultivating people of northwestern Peru, Brent Berlin (1976) isolated some 566 names referring to the genera of plants in the tropical rain forest area in which they live. Many of these genera are further subdivided to distinguish among species and varieties—for example, the generic term ipák “achiote or annatto tree (Bixa orellana)” encompasses baéŋ ipák, čamíŋ ipák, hémpe ipák, and šíŋ ipák, referring respectively to “kidney-​achiote,” “yellow achiote,” “hummingbird achiote,” and “genuine achiote.” Very few Americans, unless they are botanists, farmers, or nature lovers, know the names of more than about forty plants.

Lexical specialization in nonscientific domains is of course to be found in complex societies as well. The Germans who live in Munich are known to enjoy their beer; accordingly, the terminology for the local varieties of beer is quite extensive. Per Hage (1972) defined ten “core” terms for Munich beers according to strength, color, fizziness, and aging. But when local connoisseurs also wish to account for the degree of clarity (clear as against cloudy) and the Munich brewery that produced a particular beer, the full list now exceeds seventy terms. Such a discriminating classification of local beers is likely to impress even the most experienced and enthusiastic American beer drinker.

So, Are All Languages the Same?

However, even though no languages spoken today may be labeled primitive, this does not mean that all languages are the same, do all things in the same way, or are equally influential in the modern transnational world. The linguistic anthropologist Dell Hymes claims that languages are not functionally equivalent because the role of speech varies from one society to the next. One of his examples is the language of the Mezquital Otomi, who live in poverty in one of the arid areas of Mexico. At the time of Hymes’s writing, most of these people were monolingual, speaking only Otomi, their native language. Even though they accepted the outside judgment of their language as inferior to Spanish, they maintained Otomi and consequently were able to preserve their culture, but at a price. Lack of proficiency in Spanish, or knowledge of Otomi only, isolated the people from the national society and kept them from improving their lot. According to Hymes, no known languages are primitive, and all “have achieved the middle status [of full languages but not] the advanced status [of] world languages and some others. . . . [But though] all languages are potentially equal . . . and hence capable of adaptation to the needs of a complex industrial civilization,” only certain languages have actually done so (Hymes 1961:77). These languages are more successful than others not because they are structurally more advanced, but because they happen to be associated with societies in which language is the basis of literature, education, science, and commerce.

The Otomi example is not an isolated case in Mexico. An important factor that contributes to the success of a language is the literacy of its speakers. In countries where many languages are spoken, the language or languages that people learn to read and write are associated with knowledge and therefore also with political and economic power. In Mexico, whose official language is Spanish, more than 250 indigenous languages or regional dialects are spoken (Lewis 2009). These include Nahuatl (several dialects of a Uto-​Aztecan language) and Yucatec (a Mayan language), each spoken by more than a million speakers, and about fourteen others that are used by more than 100,000 speakers each. During the last seventy years, however, the percentage of monolingual and bilingual Mexican Indians has been steadily declining in favor of Spanish (from 16 percent in 1930 to about 7 percent in 2005). Although speakers of Indian languages use them in family life, in the fields, at traditional ritual gatherings and curing ceremonies, and in village markets and other local settings, an increasing number use Spanish in schools, agricultural or other training, hospitals and clinics, and political and administrative meetings organized by representatives of the state or federal government. Speaking knowledge and literacy in Spanish have come to be viewed as a mark of “cultural advancement” and self-​confidence; the use of only an indigenous language is viewed as a sign of ignorance, backwardness, and a passive attitude. (Although the absence of writing in no way implies inferiority of a language, it is particularly ironic that in pre-​Columbian times a number of Mesoamerican peoples did have writing systems.) Today, “Spanish is . . . exerting a tremendous pressure, particularly among the young, and the rejection of the Indian language has been a first step toward assuming a mestizo [mixed European and American Indian ancestry] identity, ‘passing over’ from one ethnic group to another” (King 1994:170). But can one talk about unsuccessful languages when their subordinate status is being assigned to them by outsiders and accepted by their own speakers?

To say, however, that some languages may be considered more successful than others must not be taken as justifying linguistic profiling—that is, judging the worth of persons on the basis of their speech. This may happen (and is happening) whenever one of two (or several) languages spoken in a particular area of the world is thought to have more prestige than another. Such valuation may easily lead to language prejudice and result in an irrational attitude of superiority toward an individual, a group, or a population using that language. And strange as it may seem, language prejudice can exist even in situations in which two (or more) languages in question have equally long histories and distinguished literary traditions. A case in point may be the attitude in the eastern United States of some white Americans toward Puerto Ricans. The use of “good” English (whatever “good” may mean in this context) is associated by these white Americans with political and economic prestige, but Spanish (or English, the second language of the Puerto Ricans, if spoken with a decided accent and grammatical mistakes) is equated with poverty, a lower-​class status, lower intelligence, and the like. In other words, languages, dialects, choice of words, and accents become the means by which people are classified and then treated accordingly. Linguistic prejudice and racial prejudice are close relatives.

A Brief History of Anthropology

This book is a text on linguistic anthropology, so let us now discuss what these two disciplines—anthropology and linguistics—entail. We begin with anthropology. A very simple definition of anthropology is “the holistic study of humankind,” but this may not be especially enlightening. More insightful might be these propositions, which summarize the overall scope of anthropology (Pi-​Sunyer and Salzmann 1978:3):

  1. Because members of the species Homo sapiens are biological organisms, the study of human beings must try to understand their origin and nature in the appropriate context.
  2. As hominids (that is, recent humans and their extinct ancestors) strove to adapt to a great variety of natural and self-​made conditions, they engaged in a long series of innovations referred to by the term culture.
  3. In the course of their cultural evolution during the past million years, humans have been immeasurably aided by the development of an effective means of communication, the most remarkable and crucial component of which is human language.

Many other fields, of course, are also concerned with aspects of the human condition. Among these fields are anatomy, physiology, history, political science, economics, art history, literature, and sociology. With all these specialized areas focusing on the human experience, why would there be a need for such a broad discipline as anthropology?

When Herodotus, a Greek historian of the fifth century bce, wrote briefly about the ethnic origin of the Carians and Caunians of southwestern Asia Minor and took into consideration the dialects they spoke, he engaged in (stretching the point a bit) what could be called linguistic anthropology. During the Age of Discovery, European scholars became intrigued by the many different peoples of the American continents and the languages they spoke. Nevertheless, linguistic anthropology in the modern sense is a relatively recent field of study that developed in the United States and has been practiced predominantly by North American academics.

The stimulation for the earliest phases of what was to become linguistic anthropology came from the exposure of European immigrants to Native Americans. The cultures and languages of these peoples were studied by educated Americans of varying professions—physicians, naturalists, lawyers, clerics, and political leaders. Among these amateur linguists, for example, was Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), who collected the vocabularies of Native American languages. In his Notes on the State of Virginia (1787) Jefferson wrote, “Great question has arisen from whence came those aboriginals of America” and then offered the following suggestion: “Were vocabularies formed of all the languages spoken in North and South America . . . and deposited in all the public libraries, it would furnish opportunities to those skilled in the languages of the old world to compare them with these, now, or at any future time, and hence to construct the best evidence of the derivation of this part of the human race” (Jefferson 1944:225–226). In this passage, Jefferson referred to more than just the comparative study of languages; he must have had in mind using linguistic evidence to address questions concerning the cultural prehistory of humankind.

[Photo 1.1 Franz Boas. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-36743.]

By the middle of the nineteenth century the world was basically a well-​known place, both geographically and culturally. The details certainly remained to be filled in, but no one expected to find a new hemisphere or uncover an unknown civilization. What puzzled scholars, however, was why there was so much human variety. Peoples looked vastly different; they spoke different languages; and their religions, marriage practices, and other customs also seemed very different. One of the main intellectual and scientific tasks of the day was to try to explain this diversity of race, language, and culture, past and present.

Modern anthropology began as the study of subjects that were not already claimed by scholars in other fields. But to say that anthropology just gathered these intellectual leftovers is not quite accurate. It was thought that the study of human biological and cultural development would shed light on the pressing “race, language, and culture” question. Because at that time “primitives” were thought to be the remnants of an evolutionary ancestral past, the study of preindustrial societies naturally became anthropology’s main domain. Early anthropologists, then, focused especially on the nonliterate tribal peoples others considered “primitive” or “savage.” These humble beginnings are still reflected in the popular conception of anthropologists as people who supply museums with exotic specimens from societies in remote parts of the world or who dig up the remains of past human life and cultures. Many modern anthropologists, however, study their own cultures as well, and some of their findings and comments on them are illuminating.

During the nineteenth century, the study of Native Americans and their languages occupied both distinguished Americans and a number of European explorers who traveled in the western part of the United States. Some of them collected and published valuable data on Native Americans and their languages that would otherwise have been lost. Serious and purposeful study of Native American languages and cultures, however, did not begin until after the establishment of the Bureau of (American) Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution in 1879. John Wesley Powell (1834–1902), perhaps better known as the first person to run the Colorado River throughout the entire length of the Grand Canyon, became its first director. In 1891, Powell published a still-​respected classification of American Indian languages north of Mexico.

[Photo 1.2 Edward Sapir. Portrait of Edward Sapir, Canadian Museum of History, 85901 LS.]

Because the early anthropologists were interested in peoples other specialists neglected, they concerned themselves with all aspects of a society. The German-​born Franz Boas (1858–1942) was a dominant figure in the early days of American anthropology and held the first academic position in anthropology in the United States (at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, from 1888 to 1892). He authored, coauthored, or edited more than seven hundred publications, ranging from articles on Native American music, art, folklore, and languages to studies in culture theory, human biology, and archaeology. As early as 1911, Boas edited the first volume of Handbook of American Indian Languages, followed by two other volumes (1922 and 1933–1938) and part of a fourth (1941). Even though he emphasized the writing of grammars, the compiling of dictionaries, and the collecting of texts, research concerning the place of languages in Native American societies and the relation of languages to cultures began to be undertaken with increasing frequency. Because of Boas’s advocacy, the study of the relationship among language, culture, and society became fully recognized as important enough to be considered one of the four subfields of anthropology. Boas’s direct influence was felt until his death at the age of eighty-​four, and the course of American anthropology after him was shaped to a great extent by his students at Columbia University.

Probably the most important founder of today’s linguistic anthropology was Edward Sapir (1884–1939), whom we met previously in our discussion of Takelma grammar. Sapir was undoubtedly the most accomplished linguist and anthropologist of the first half of the twentieth century. His seminal Language (1921), was one of the first linguistics books written for a popular audience, and it is still in print today. Sapir was perhaps the most prolific anthropologist, ever—his works have been collected in a (so-​far) nine-​volume collection of some 7,000 pages (with fourteen volumes in the series being projected). He was mainly a specialist in Native American languages, doing work on Yana, Wishram, Chinook, Navajo, Nootka, and Paiute, among others. But he was also one of the most influential general scholars of his day, impacting the fields of anthropology, linguistics, and psychology.

By World War II, anthropology was well established as an academic field and was taught at major US universities. The four main subfields then recognized—in large part a legacy of Boas—were biological (or physical) anthropology, cultural anthropology, archaeology, and linguistic anthropology. More specialized areas of concern and research have developed within the subfields, among them political, economic, urban, feminist, medical, legal, nutritional, visual, and psychological anthropology, and the anthropology of area studies such as Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Europe, to mention a few.

The one commitment that anthropologists profess regardless of their specialization is to the holistic approach. The term holistic refers to concern with a system as a whole rather than with only some of its parts. Because studying an entire culture in full detail could easily become a lifetime project, anthropologists focusing on only certain of its aspects invariably study and discuss them in full cultural context. In the study of humanity, applying the holistic approach means emphasizing the connections among the many different facets of the human condition so that humankind can be understood in its full complexity: cultural, social, and biological.

One characteristic that sets anthropology apart from the other social sciences is a strong fieldwork component, sometimes augmented (especially in archaeology and biological anthropology) by work in the laboratory. Archaeologists survey land for sites and excavate and analyze the remains of past cultures. Biological anthropologists study such topics as the relationship between culture and disease, the behavior of nonhuman primates (such as chimpanzees and gorillas), gene pool frequencies, and nutritional patterns. They also search in particular locations of the world for skeletal remains relating to human evolution. For some time now, cultural anthropologists have not limited themselves to the study of tribal societies, peasant villages, or bands of hunter-​gatherers in remote parts of the world. Many today work in postindustrial modern societies such as Japan and the United States or those found in Europe. This is certainly as it should be: if anthropology is truly the study of humankind, then it must concern itself with all of humankind.

Anthropology, Linguistics, and Linguistic Anthropology

Another discipline that also focuses on uniquely human attributes is linguistics, the scientific study of language. Linguistics does not refer to the study of a particular language for the purpose of learning to speak it; rather, it refers to the analytical study of language, any language, to reveal its structure—the different kinds of language units (its sounds, smallest meaningful parts of words, and so on)—and the rules according to which these units are put together to produce stretches of speech. There is a division of labor, then, between linguists and linguistic anthropologists. The interest of the linguist is primarily in language structure, whereas the interest of the linguistic anthropologist is in speech use and the relations that exist between language, on the one hand, and society and culture, on the other. As for the prerequisite training, the linguist does not need to study anthropology to become fully proficient in linguistics; a linguistic anthropologist, in contrast, must have some linguistic sophistication and acquire the basic skills of linguistic analysis to be able to do significant research in linguistic anthropology.

A terminological note is appropriate here. Although anthropological linguistics has frequently been employed to refer to the subfield of anthropology otherwise known as linguistic anthropology, and a respected journal exists under that name (Anthropological Linguistics), the term linguistic anthropology is to be preferred, as Karl V. Teeter argued some years ago (1964). Briefly, if anthropology is the study of humanity, and language is one of the most characteristic features of humankind, then the study of language is an obvious and necessary aspect of anthropology as a whole. To modify the noun linguistics by the adjective anthropological is clearly redundant, because even though members of all animal species communicate, so far as is known no other species uses anything comparable to human language. Only if, say, members of the cat family (Felidae) or of the class of birds (Aves) had something like human speech (not just some system of communication, no matter how intricate) would it make sense to speak of anthropological linguistics to distinguish it from some such field of study as felid or avian linguistics (that is, the study of the language of cats or birds). As we have already seen, there are several subfields of anthropology; just as the subfield concerned with culture is referred to as cultural anthropology, the one concerned with language is aptly referred to as linguistic anthropology. This is the term used throughout this book: it states exactly what the subfield is about—the study of language (or speech) within the framework of anthropology.

Others, however, have been quite adamant about these apparently picayune differences in terminology, which to the uninitiated would seem to matter little. Dell Hymes (2012), for example, argued that there were political and academic consequences to these choices of words. Hymes said it was important to be clear that the work discussed here was not just a kind of linguistics that anthropologists decided to do, but rather an integral part of the anthropological paradigm. But in the 1960s, the formalist study of grammar and language, as advocated by Noam Chomsky and his followers, came to dominate much of all intellectual thought (as we will see in Chapter 4). Chomsky and others stressed the notion of linguistic competence—the underlying knowledge and ability a person has for a language, regardless of his or her actual manifestation—or performance of that language in a social context at any given time. But to Hymes and others it was exactly this communicative ability of language to produce results in social life that held the most interesting problems and prompted the most important questions. Communicative competence and the social life of language, then, was what anthropologists should be studying, and the way to best describe this activity was to use the cover term linguistic anthropology.

The Americanist Tradition

Hymes (2012:160) also asks another pertinent question: “What happened to our foundations in Native American languages?” By this he is referring to the long-​standing historical connection between anthropology in general—and linguistic anthropology in particular—with “the tradition and kind of work that first brought linguistics and ethnographic research together in the United States, that is, work with American Indian people and American Indian languages.” Although he laments that less stress is placed on Indian languages now than before, and that the analysis of Indian myth, verse, and poetry has been largely supplanted by more formal studies, he makes the important point that anthropology, linguistics, and Native Americans were inexorably linked in the first half of the twentieth century.

Because of this close connection, some (e.g., Darnell 1999, 2001; Valentine and Darnell 1999) have called this the “Americanist” tradition in anthropology. By this they mean not just a subject matter—American Indian languages and cultures—but also a set of premises that underlie much of the discipline. Some of these are listed in Box 1.1. Often these assumptions are not explicitly stated, but Darnell and others argue that they permeate anthropology as practiced and taught in North America. Many go back directly to Franz Boas. Although anthropological theory has changed greatly over the course of a century of often hard-​fought and groundbreaking debate, the continuity from Franz Boas to the present can be seen through the works of Alfred Kroeber, Ruth Benedict, Edward Sapir, Elsie Clews Parsons, Benjamin Lee Whorf, A. Irving Hallowell, Claude Lévi-​Strauss, and others.

Summary and Conclusions

In its modern form, linguistic anthropology was the last subfield of anthropology to be developed and recognized and was practiced primarily by North American anthropologists. Its beginnings go back to the interest of nineteenth-​century scholars in the great variety of Native American societies and the languages they spoke. Linguistic anthropologists view language in its cultural framework and are concerned with the rules for its social use; the analysis of its structure is therefore only a means to an end. By contrast, linguists in their study of languages emphasize linguistic structure and the historical development of languages.

Just as in the rest of anthropology, the data for linguistic anthropology are for the most part obtained in the field. Over several decades fieldworkers have developed techniques and methods to the point that anthropology departments with a sizable program in linguistic anthropology now offer courses in linguistic field methods.

Box 1.1 Some Assumptions of the “Americanist” Tradition

1. Language, thought, and reality are presumed to be inseparable; that is, cultural worlds are constructed from linguistic categories; this, then, posits or implies the following:

a. linguistic determinism (a relationship between language and thought): language determines the way people perceive and organize the world;

b. linguistic relativitism: the distinctions encoded in one language are not found in any other language;

c. linguistic equality: anything can be said or thought in any language; no language is more complex or simpler or easier than any other; no language is innately harder or easier to learn than any other; and

d. linguistic indeterminacy: the distinctions a language makes are arbitrary; there is no a priori way to predict ahead of time what distinctions a language might or might not make.

2. For each linguistic assumption given above there is a corresponding cultural counterpart:

linguistic determinism => cultural determinism

linguistic relativitism => cultural uniqueness

linguistic equality => cultural relativism

linguistic indeterminacy => cultural indeterminacy

3. Culture is defined in terms of a system of symbols—in turn, these symbols reify and legitimate the culture; in other words, culture is a set of symbols in people’s heads, not just the behaviors that arise from them.

4. Discourse and “texts” of various kinds are the primary basis for both linguistic and ethnographic study.

5. An intimate, intensive, and long-​term working relationship with a number of key informants, using the native language, is an absolute necessity.

6. It is assumed that there is a link between linguistics and what anthropologists sometimes call “culture and personality” studies (i.e., culture and the individual are inseparable).

7. It is assumed that culture is mutable and historic—that is, traditional cultures are not static; native peoples—like Euro-​Americans—also have a history; “traditional” cultures change and adapt to new circumstances.

8. There is an emphasis on long-​term fieldwork (often two or three decades spent in the same community).

9. There is a strong commitment to preserving knowledge encoded in the oral tradition.

10. Native peoples are not objects to be studied; there is a dialogic relationship between the researched and those doing the researching.

11. There is also a strong link among the informant, the researcher, and the researcher’s work; some native peoples are linguists and anthropologists themselves, and many are at least readers of and commentators on the research product.

12. There is often a rather strong emphasis on “native” categories; they are at least as important as the researcher’s categories.

13. There often is a de-​emphasis on theory over data (at least in the pre–World War II era).

14. The strict separation of race, language, and culture is something never to be forgotten; indeed, when this is forgotten, dire social consequences can result.

15. Although relativism is assumed, this by no means implies that linguistic and cultural universals are to be dismissed or ignored.

Jim Stanlaw (based on Darnell, Theorizing American Anthropology [1999], 45–48, and Invisible Genealogies [2001], 11–20; Stanlaw, Review of Invisible Genealogies [2002])


Resource Manual and Study Guide

Following are some questions related to the text you have just read. This format is followed in all subsequent chapters. For the true-​false questions, circle T or F, as applicable, to the left of each statement. For each multiple-​choice question, select the most easily defensible complement or choice and indicate your answer by entering the appropriate capital letter in the space to the left of the question number. For the completions, complete each statement using the most suitable word(s). The number of words is indicated in parentheses. In some chapters, there are problems asking you to apply the methods of analysis just presented to actual linguistic data. Solutions to the problems and answers to all objective questions are given in the answer key. For each chapter, there are questions for discussion and sometimes projects. Because these are open-​ended questions, we have not provided answers for them. Finally, please note that definitions for all the key terms bolded throughout the text can be found in the glossary at the back of the book.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Imagine people growing up without language. Can they still “think” the same as someone with language? That is, can we think without language? What about visual artists or musicians? Do they think in language? What personal experiences might you have had yourself to use as evidence for your answers?
  2. One of the authors of this book has just been made king of America, and his first decree is that everyone must study a foreign language in school for at least six years, starting in the first grade. Will this edict start a revolution? Would you be one of the rebels? Is this un-​American? What do you think the king has in mind with this decree, and does it make any sense? What if we told you that this actually has happened in numerous countries?
  3. Enrollments nationwide for Arabic language classes in institutions of higher education have risen well over 100 percent in recent years, and the number of colleges offering Arabic instruction has nearly doubled. Why do you think that is?
  4. Project

    In this project we will consider notions some people might have about language. Take all or some of the items on the list on page 2 and show them to a friend, roommate, or family member. Ask that person what she or he thinks, and why. The answers may actually surprise you. (As mentioned previously, each of these statements would be considered wrong or exaggerated by most anthropologists and linguists.)

    Objective Study Questions

    True-​False Test

    T F 1. For the most part, the terms linguistic anthropology and anthropological linguistics mean exactly the same thing, and neither is to be preferred over the other.
    T F 2. Natural language itself is not ambiguous; it is people’s misinterpreting things that causes problems.
    T F 3. According to Boas, there is no intrinsic connection among race, language, and culture.
    T F 4. Almost everywhere in the world, everyone is monolingual or monodialectal, just as in America.
    T F 5. No language is really more complex or simpler or easier than any other; no language is harder or easier to learn than any other.
    T F 6. Whereas linguists are primarily interested in the structure of languages, linguistic anthropologists study the relationship between language, on the one hand, and culture and society, on the other.

    Multiple-​Choice Questions

    ____ 1. The person who is said to be the “founding father” of American anthropology is (A) Edward Sapir. (B) Dell Hymes. (C) Franz Boas. (D) Karl V. Teeter.
    ____ 2. Anthropology as a recognized science began in the (A) seventeenth century. (B) eighteenth century. (C) nineteenth century. (D) twentieth century. (E) twenty-​first century.
    ____ 3. According to Edward Sapir, it is the (A) syntax, (B) vocabulary, (C) grammar that more or less faithfully reflects the culture whose purposes it serves.
    ____ 4. During the last seventy years, the percentage of monolingual and bilingual Mexican Indians has been steadily declining in favor of Spanish by about what percent? (A) From 16 percent in 1930 to about 7 percent in 2005. (B) From 10 percent in 1930 to 1 percent in 2005. (C) There actually has been not much change. (D) Spanish has for the most part replaced almost all indigenous languages.
    ____ 5. Lexical specialization—that is, a large inventory of words pertaining to a particular domain—is found in which of the following instances? (A) The Agta of the Philippines have more than thirty verbs referring to types of fishing. (B) The natives of the German city of Munich are said to have more than seventy terms referring to the local varieties of beer. (C) Americans have a hundred or so names for makes and types of automobiles. (D) Only two of the preceding three choices are true. (E) All three choices, A–C, are true.

    Completions

    1. In the nineteenth century, one of the main intellectual and scientific tasks was to try to explain the great diversity of __________, __________, and __________, past and present (three words).
    2. Sapir’s description of the morphology of the __________ language demonstrated that non-​Western languages can be as complex as any found in Europe (one word).
    3. A very brief and simple definition of anthropology might be “the __________ study of humankind” (one word).

    Answer Key

    True-​false test: 1-​F, 2-​F, 3-​T, 4-​F, 5-​T, 6-​T
    Multiple-​choice questions: 1-​C, 2-​C, 3-​B, 4-​A, 5-​E
    Completions: 1. race, language, culture (any order), 2. Takelma, 3. holistic

    Notes and Suggestions for Further Reading

    Those who wish to explore even more language myths than those discussed here should see the lively Bauer and Trudgill (1999). There are a number of books on linguistic anthropology for beginning students, including Ahearn (2012), Ottenheimer (2013a, 2013b), and Bonvillain (2010). Duranti (1997), and Hanks (1995) are more advanced; Agha (2007) even more so, but is excellent. Duranti (2001a) is a convenient encyclopedic dictionary of key terms for studying language and culture, and Duranti (2006) is an edited overview of articles on topics covering the whole field of linguistic anthropology. Another encyclopedic approach of a different kind—but also very useful for beginning students—is Crystal (2010). Enfield, Kockelman, and Sidnell (2014) is a fantastic resource, but a bit advanced for beginners. Bauer (2007) is a different kind of handbook, but it provides much interesting information on languages and linguistics in one convenient place. For general-​reader introductions to the field of linguistics, see Burton et al. (2012)—it is not really for dummies!—or Rowe and Levine (2015), who are actually anthropologists. For interesting overviews of the languages of the world for beginning students, see Andresen and Carter (2016) or Austin (2008).

    Edward Sapir’s Language has been in print in various editions since it first appeared in 1921, for good reason. The greatest expert in Native American languages before World War II, Sapir could also write in an entertaining manner. Darnell (2010) gives him a sensitive biography. The most accessible of Franz Boas’s linguistic works is his “Introduction” to the Handbook of American Indian Languages (1911). His grandson Norman Boas (2004) has written his definitive biography. The “Americanist” tradition in linguistic anthropology is covered by Darnell (2001), Valentine and Darnell (1999), and the review by Stanlaw (2002). A very useful collection of readings on topics germane to linguistic anthropology can be found in Blum (2013).

We hope you have enjoyed this sample of:

Language, Culture, and Society

Seventh Edition

by James Stanlaw, Nobuko Adachi, and Zdenek Salzmann

Copyright © 2018 by WESTVIEW PRESS

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