notes - Notes Chapter 1 The Socially Charged Life of...

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Notes Chapter 1 The Socially Charged Life of Language 1 This incident is taken from Bucholtz (2007:243–244). The names used are pseudonyms, most of which were chosen by the participants t hemselves. 2 The case of Taiap’s endangered status is analyzed in Kulick (1992). 3 A more deeply contextualized analysis of this ritual can be found in Ahearn (2001a:90–93). 4 The soup bowl analogy is taken from McDermott and Tylbor (1995). For illuminating discussions of context, see the various contributions to Duranti and Goodwin (1992). 5 Such an approach is in itself an act that is thoroughly embedded in a his- torically specific, socially influenced understanding of language. As Michael Silverstein (2006:276) notes: “The carving out and theoretical stabilization of langue [language considered as an abstract set of gram- matical rules] from among all the partial facts of language in use has been, to be sure, a Western cultural project of immense importance to vast projects of domination and control of ‘nature,’ of people, of com- munication, and of the legitimation of certain qualities of mind at the expense of others.” 6 Indeed, to look only at decontextualized, abstract grammar, according to Asif Agha, amounts to “fetishizing restricted data about fragments of language” (2007:8). “As with any fad,” Agha writes, “the time for this one has come and gone” (Agha 2007:7). Michael Tomasello, a cognitive psychologist and the co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Living Language: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology , First Edition. Laura M. Ahearn. © 2012 Laura M. Ahearn. Published 2012 by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
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Notes to pp. 10–23 293 Evolutionary Anthropology agrees: “Universal grammar was a good try,” he states, “and it really was not so implausible at the time it was proposed, but since then we have learned a lot about many different languages, and they simply do not fit one universal cookie cutter” (Tomasello 2005:641). Nicholas Evans and Stephen Levinson (2009) argue in convincing detail that there are “vanishingly few,” if any, true universals across all languages and that in fact diversity itself, present at every level of linguistic organization, may be the only universally shared aspect of all languages. “The claims of Universal Grammar,” Evans and Levinson write, “are either empirically false, unfalsifiable, or misleading in that they refer to tendencies rather than strict universals” (2009:429). 7 These abbreviations, copied from an actual pattern for an Irish knit sweater, are probably as foreign to non-knitters as linguists’ jargon is to non-linguists. A brief gloss of the abbreviations is as follows: k = knit stitch; p = purl stitch; T R = twist to the right; T L = twist to the left. 8
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This note was uploaded on 09/28/2011 for the course ANT 004 taught by Professor Chand during the Fall '08 term at UC Davis.

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notes - Notes Chapter 1 The Socially Charged Life of...

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