Lecture Week 2 - CULTURE AND LANGUAGE Culture Once there...

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CULTURE AND LANGUAGE Culture Once there was neither humanity nor culture. Then, as a result of biological evolution, humanity acquired the capacity to develop culture and in turn to become the product of its cultures. Much of what anthropologists study concerns culture . Cultures are the products of human activity and thought; they are people-made. Nature provides us with certain needs, but culture tells us how to fulfill them. Humans cannot exist outside of culture. People are molded by culture from the moment of birth, and probably even before that due to the cultural prescriptions for pregnancy and birth and expectations that people have about the child. Tales of children reared by animals are mainly myths. But remarkably that in few proven cases these children were never able to adjust to human society. They never learned the language, and some of them even were not able to walk on two legs. Movies on Tarzan do not have anything in common with reality. Culture is an abstract concept. You cannot touch it, or see most of it. But it has molded each of us into who and what we are: the way we dress, what we eat for dinner and how we eat it, how we approach each other, or what colors we paint our houses. It makes us strangers, when we are away from home, especially in other countries, because signs, smells, sounds, values, traditions, and the way other people think are not what we expect and used to.
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Culture has been defined by anthropologists in many different ways, because they disagree which aspects of culture are the most important ones. Still most of them would agree that broadly defined culture is a system of shared symbols, beliefs, values, customs, meanings, skills, patterns of behavior and thought, as well as material objects that the members of a society use to cope with the world and with one another and that are transmitted from generation to generation though learning . Human culture is learned, s hared, patterned, adaptive, symbolic, and ever changing. Let us have a closer look at these major characteristics of culture. Culture is learned because our social behavior came to be based primarily on learning, and our ability to learn can produce changes in behavior much more rapidly than natural selection can ever affect them via specific genetic codes. Our behavior has been passed down to us through our culture rather than through our genes. Learning culture is a continuous process. We start learning our culture the day we are born, and we are still learning things at the time of our death. All animals have some capacity to learn, and learning in important to the survival of most species. But no other animal learns, can learn, or needs to learn as much as the human animals. To function as independent members of our societies, we require not only a long period
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Lecture Week 2 - CULTURE AND LANGUAGE Culture Once there...

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