The BIG Questions • How do humans communicate? • What are the links between communication, cultural diversity, and inequality? • How does language change?
Communication • Communication is the process of sending and receiving messages • Most humans are in almost constant communication! • With other people, with supernatural beings, or with pets
How Do Humans Communicate? • Language and verbal communication • Language is a systematic set of symbols and signs with learned and shared meanings • Probably developed in humans about 100,000 years ago – when had both the anatomical and mental capacity to do so • Nonverbal language and embodied communication • Communicating with media and technology
Key Characteristics of Human Language • Human language has productivity • The ability to create an infinite range of understandable expressions from a finite set of rules • Human language emphasizes the feature of displacement • The ability to refer to events and issues beyond the immediate present • Humans have the physiological capacity for speech
Properties of Human Verbal Language • Has distinctive sounds (or phonemes) • Meaningful sounds • Has a vocabulary (or lexicon) • Meaningful words • Focal vocabularies – clusters of words that refer to important features of a particular culture • Has a syntax (or grammar) • Rules and patterns for making words meaningful
Verbal Languages around the World Use Different Sounds to Convey Meaning
Example of a Focal Vocabulary – Saami are indigenous people of Scandinavia and Russia
Human Verbal Language • Key Characteristics • Productivity • Displacement • Formal Properties • Sounds • Grammar • Vocabulary
Nonverbal Language and Embodied Communication • Sign language and gestures • Gestures are movements, usually of the hands, that convey meanings • Some gestures may be universally meaningful, but most are culturally specific and must be understood in its cultural context • http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/06/16/chimp-hug-kiss.html • Sign language is a form of communication that uses mainly hand movements to convey messages • May be used by the hearing impaired as their main form of communication • May be used in situations where verbal communication is forbidden or undesirable
Nonverbal Language and Embodied Communication • Silence • Is an important component of communication • Can be associated with power or lack of power • Can be associated with respect, or may use silence in situations of ambiguity • May be misinterpreted as ignorance
Nonverbal Language and Embodied Communication • Body language • Involves the body sending and receiving messages • Including dress, hair styles, postures, eye contact, walking style • Convey messages about age, gender, sexual interest or availability, profession, wealth, and emotions • Give boys blue baby blankets and girls pink baby blankets
Communicating with Media and Technology • Media anthropology is the cross-cultural study of communication through electronic media and print media • Looks at the messages conveyed, the audience response, and the social effects of this • Critical media anthropology asks to what degree access to its messages is liberating or controlling, and whose interests the media serves
Communicating with Media and Technology • The politics of journalism • News stories are packaged differently by journalists depending on the intended audience • How “accurate” is “the news”? • Culture and advertising • Advertising to Latinos • Promotes a monolithic image of Latino culture • Effects – identity change, missed opportunities to tap into specialized Latino markets
Communicating with Media and Technology • Communication technology and inequality • The digital divide refers to social inequality in access to new and emerging information technology, especially access to up-to-date computers, the Internet, and training regarding their use • http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-thu_cheappcnov01,0,2887350,full.story?coll=chi_tab01_layout • Knowledge is power! • Computers with Internet provide a lot of knowledge and networking opportunities, so provide power • Help people preserve and learn ancestral languages, record agricultural and medicinal knowledge, protect culture, improve lives
Media anthropologists study the media process and content, the audience response and the social effects of media presentations Journalists in war zones write a story about the same event differently, depending on whether it’s for a US or European newspaper Critical media anthropologists ask to what degree access to media messages is liberating or controlling, and whose interests the media serve Culture and Mass Media
Human Communication Fieldwork • Research on human communication involves fieldwork and participant observation • Often very detailed analysis of tape recordings and video recordings – sometimes even frame by frame! • Fieldwork Challenges • Translation • Literal translation • Communication always occurs in a cultural context • Observer’s paradox • The research process alters people’s normal behavior • Especially when being video taped! • People want to act “correctly” and more formally
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis Argues that language determines how we see the world and our behavior People who speak different languages inhabit different “thought worlds” e.g. If a language has many different words for different kinds of snow, someone who speaks that language can “think” about snow in more ways than someone can whose language has fewer “snow” terms Language shapes culture and thought Sociolinguistic model Study of how cultural and social context shapes language Argues that social position determines the content, meaning, and form of language Culture shapes language Language, Thought, and Society: Two Theories
Critical Discourse Analysis • Critical discourse analysis focuses on the relations of power and in equality in language • Looks at the linkages between social inequality, power, and language
Critical Discourse Analysis • Various classes, genders, ethnicities, other subcultures have their own distinctive communication styles (or registers) • Include variations in vocabulary, grammar, and intonation
Critical Discourse Analysis • Gender in Euro-American Conversations • Characteristics of female speech include… • Politeness • Rising intonation at the end of sentences • Tag questions • Male speech • Less polite • Assertive tone • Rarely use tag questions • Interrupt women in speech more than women interrupt them • Both genders use indirect responses
Critical Discourse Analysis • Txt talk • g2g pos :’( • ? • jj lmao :D • ?
Critical Discourse Analysis • Txt talk • g2g pos :’( • Got to go, parents over shoulder, crying face • jj lmao :D • Just joking, laughing my ass off, laughing face
Critical Discourse Analysis • African American English (AAE) / Ebonics • Debate on whether ebonics should be embraced in the classroom • Or whether African American students are expected to shed their culture and language at the door while conforming their language to American Mainstream English
Language Change • Language, like culture, is always changing! • Adding new words in changing times • Borrowing words from other languages • Languages may be destroyed
Historical Linguistics • Historical linguistics is the study of language change through time • Often compare lists of words and grammatical forms in different languages • Can sometimes tell where people migrated to and which cultures had contact with each other in various points in time based on language similarities and difference • Can determine language families – languages descended from a parent language • Example: the Indo-European Language Family
Two Possible Locations for the Origins of Proto-Indo-European
Language change through migration: the spread of Bantu languages in Africa
Writing • Earliest written languages – about 4000 BCE • Were made up of logographs • Signs that indicate a word, syllable, or sound • Writing and the rise of the state • Writing is often associated with state-level political organization • Recordkeeping is an essential task of a state • Writing for ceremonial purposes / tombs • Writing for artistic expression / poetry • An empire without writing: khipu among the Inca of the Peruvian Andes in the 14th century • Cords of knotted strings of different colors, for keeping accounts and recording events
Colonialism and Nationalism • Beginning in the 15th century, colonialism was a major force of language change • Colonial powers declaring their own language as the language of government, business, and education • Often suppressed indigenous languages and literatures • Indigenous languages were viewed as being “uncivilized” • Led to discrimination against those who spoke these languages and the extinction of many languages • Led to increase in bilingualism – competence in a language other than one’s birth language
Colonialism and Nationalism • Pidgin • Is a language that blends elements of at least two parent languages that emerges when two different cultures with different languages come in contact and need to communicate • Is a secondary, rudimentary language in addition to the speakers’ own native language • Usually limited to functional domains, for example, trade and basic social interactions • e.g. – owners needing to communicate with slaves, slaves needing to communicate with other slaves
Colonialism and Nationalism • Pidgin
Colonialism and Nationalism • Creole • Is a language descended from a pidgin with its own native speakers, richer vocabularies, and more developed grammar • Is a primary language
Colonialism and Nationalism • National policies of language assimilation • Soviet Union • English-only movement in the U.S.
Example of nationalism and linguistic assimilation in Russia of the Komi language
Globalization and Language Change • Global languages • 96% of the world’s population speaks 4% of the world’s languages • English is the most globalized language in history • British colonial expansion influenced this – the British made English the official language of the colonies • Takes on regional variations – Spanglish, Japlish, and Tex-Mex • Pros – ease of communication, more economic opportunities • Cons – linguistic imperialism
Endangered Languages • Documenting declining languages is still a key part of what linguistic anthropologists do • Degrees of language loss • Language decay – language shift, when speakers have limited vocabulary in their native language and more often use a new language in which they may be semi-fluent or fluent • Language endangerment – when a language has fewer than 10,000 speakers • Language extinction – language death, occurs when the language no longer has any competent users
Endangered Languages • There are about 7,000 languages in the world today • Over half are endangered (less than 10,000 native speakers) • A quarter have less than 1,000 speakers
Endangered Languages • Why bother trying to maintain or revitalize linguistic diversity? • Why should we care?
Endangered Languages • Why bother trying to maintain or revitalize linguistic diversity? • Diversity is a good thing in and of itself • Diversity (biological, cultural, and linguistic diversity) is a sign of a healthy planet • Certain aspects of a culture and a culture’s history and identity are lost when a culture’s language is lost • Important knowledge of different ways of life and different ways of thinking about and dealing with life’s challenges may be lost when a language is lost • Stories which teach important life lessons, knowledge of plants and their medicinal uses, etc.
Endangered Languages • Efforts to revive or maintain local languages face many challenges • Political opposition from governments that fear local identity movements • Limited financial resources to support minority language programs • Deciding on which language or which version of a language to maintain or revive is difficult and always a political decision • Who will decide? • How will the decision be made?
The BIG Questions Revisited • How do humans communicate? • What are the links between communication, cultural diversity, and inequality? • How does language change?