a203-11f-22-LanguageAndThought

a203-11f-22-LanguageAndThought - Introduction to Cultural...

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Introduction to Cultural Anthropology: Class 22 Language and thought Copyright Bruce Owen 2011 - Just as anthropologists consider all cultures to be equally “valid”, we consider all languages to be equally functional - some languages have more words for certain areas of experience - others have to explain the same concepts using many more words - for example, some concepts that German expresses in a single word take many words to express in English, but they nevertheless can be expressed in English - German “schadenfreude” = English “pleasure one experiences due to observing someone else’s misfortune” - or the Hanunoo of the Philippines, who have 92 terms for different kinds of rice - we would have to describe or explain each one - that is, each language has its own focal vocabularies - some have grammars more suited to communicate certain kinds of concepts - even so, all natural human languages appear able to express pretty much everything their speakers need to say - with enough effort, anything said in one language can be translated into any other language - thus all natural human languages are capable of expressing the full range of human thought - Language as a categorizing system (morphology) - remember from last time that morphology is the study of how a language divides up experience into categories - experience is a continuum of sensory impressions - but in order to think and talk about it, humans divided the continuum up into named categories of things - dog, cat, man, woman, rock, water… - these categories are morphemes : the smallest language’s smallest units of meaning - in English, many morphemes correspond to a single word - but many words combine multiple morphemes: dogs=dog+plural - so words (or really, morphemes) are symbols for categories of experience or perception - Every language divides up experience differently - example: blue in English and Spanish - “blue” in English covers two distinct colors in Spanish: “azul” [dark blue] and “celeste” [light or sky blue] - Spanish speakers do not consider azul and celeste to be variants of single color, as English speakers do; they are two distinct colors - Say a Spanish speaker has three crayons, one light blue, one yellow, and one green. - If you ask the “azul” one, the Spanish speaker will just be confused, and will probably say that he or she has no azul crayon - while if you asked an English speaker for the “blue” crayon, he or she would understand immediately that you meant the light blue one. - Example with the “blue” truck in Moquegua, Peru
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Intro to Cultural Anthro F 2011 / Owen: Language and thought p. 2 - more complex systems of categories also vary from one language to another - example: brushes in English and Spanish - all the objects in the example slide are “brushes” to an English speaker - what they have in common is that all have a mass of bristles or hairs - they can be subdivided into types according to what they are used for
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a203-11f-22-LanguageAndThought - Introduction to Cultural...

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