Anthropological Linguistics

 

Anthropological linguistics is the study of the relations between language and culture, and the relations between human biology, cognition and language. This strongly overlaps the field of linguistic anthropology, which is the branch of anthropology that studies humans through the languages that they use.

 

Whatever one calls it, this field has had a major impact in the studies of visual perception (especially colour) and bioregional democracy, both of which are concerned with distinctions that are made in languages about perceptions of the surroundings.

 

Conventional linguistic anthropology also has implications for sociology and self-organization of peoples. Study of the Penan people, for instance, reveals that their language employs six different and distinct words, all of whose best English translation is "we". Anthropological linguistics studies these distinctions, and relates them to types of societies and to actual bodily adaptation to the senses, much as it studies distinctions made in languages regarding the colours of the rainbow: seeing the tendency to increase the diversity of terms, as evidence that there are distinctions that bodies in this environment must make, leading to situated knowledge and perhaps a situated ethics, whose final evidence is the differentiated set of terms used to denote "we".

Sub Fields

Anthropological linguistics is concerned with

  • Descriptive (or synchronic) linguistics: Describing dialects (forms of a language used by a specific speech community). This study includes phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and grammar.
  • Historical (or diachronic) linguistics: Describing changes in dialects and languages over time. This study includes the study of linguistic divergence and language families, comparative linguistics, etymology, and philology.
  • Ethnolinguistics: Analyzing the relationship between culture, thought, and language.
  • Sociolinguistics: Analyzing the social functions of language and the social, political, and economic relationships among and between members of speech communities.
Features of Language
  • Duality of Pattering: A system of sounds with a system of meaning. (exp- cat/act/tack have similar phonemes but expressed in different order to convey different meaning)
  • Productivity: A finite set of symbols and rules combined to create an infinite set of novel ideas.
  • Interchangeability: Any human and native speaker of that language can send or receive any message in their language.
  • Arbitrariness: There is no fundamental association with word and its meaning.(exp: cat is in reality larger than a microorganism but word is much smaller)
  • Displacement: language can be used to talk about topics not currently being experienced.(i.e-yesterday a cup of the table tipped over and spilled)
  • Specialization: Language only serves the purpose of communication
  • Cultural Transmission: Specifics of language must be learned anew by each person.
Recent Work

Mark Fettes, in Steps Towards an Ecology of Language (1996), sought "a theory of language ecology which can integrate naturalist and critical traditions"; and in An Ecological Approach to Language Renewal (1997), sought to approach a transformative ecology via a more active, perhaps designed, set of tools in language. This may cross a line between science and activism, but is within the anthropological tradition of study by the participant-observer. Related to problems in critical philosophy (for instance, the question who's we, and the subject-object problem).

Source of this Article
Clicky Web Analytics