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Flashcards in Language, Gender, Identity Deck (32)
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Anthropological interest in language

- Fieldwork is often oral – need for understanding
- The structure of language provides insight into a culture
- Language provides insight into people’s interpretations and perceptions of the world


Aspects of language

- Definition of language vs. speech vs. communication
- Language as code
- Speech communities
- Vocabulary
- Grammar


Denotative meanings

The dictionary definition


Connotative meanings

Meaning based on context + culture


How can language be ambiguous?

- Denotative vs. connotative meanings
- Use of metaphors


Native speaker

A person who has spoken a particular language since early childhood


Linguistic competence

Mastery of adult grammar


Communicative competence

Mastery of adult rules for socially and culturally appropriate speech


Language and context

- Difference between having linguistic vs. communicative competence
- Children learn when it is appropriate to say certain things or to keep quiet


What 3 things did Dell Hymes argue a speaker considers?

1) his or her own social position
2) the position of person he or she is addressing
3) the social context of interaction before speaking


How is human language different from other forms of animal communication?

- Openness: talking about the same thing in different ways
- Displacement: talking about abstract notions (e.g. unicorns)
- Prevarication: speaking falsely or nonsensically
- Arbitrariness: no function associated with a word
- Duality of patterning: sound (phonemes) + units of meaning (morphemes)
- Semanticity: we don't use words in same ways (e.g. apes vs. monkeys)


Sapir-Whorf hypothesis

- Aka “linguistic relativity principle”
- General idea that language influences a person’s view of the world
- But there are many challenges with linguistic determinism (“strong” hypothesis)
- So people use “weak” hypothesis


What are the challenges to the "strong" Sapir-Whorf hypothesis?

- Gender pronouns
- Language translation
- Speech communities uncontained and have different ways of describing the world
- Being multi-lingual


Language components

- Phonology
- Morphology
- Semantics
- Pragmatics
- Syntax



Study of the sounds (phones and phonemes) of a language



Study of the smallest units of meaning (morphemes) in language



Study of language in the context of its use



Study of meaning



Study of sentence structure


Research areas of linguistic anthropology

- Reconstructing ancient languages or helping to preserve languages
- Studying linguistic differences to understand patterns of thought in multiple cultures
- Examining dialects and styles in one language to show how speech reveals social differences
- Exploring the role of language in colonization


Gender and language

- Language can be used to convey gender (sounds, grammar)
- Linguist Robin Lakoff’s work examining how women’s conversational style relates their relative powerlessness in society
- Anthropologist Deborah Tannen’s work examining speech patterns of men and women
Men = report-talk (seeks to command attention, convey information, and win arguments)
Women = rapport-talk (seeks to establish connection with others)


What is a social construct?

A concept or practice that may appear to be natural, taken-for-granted, obvious, common-sense, to those who accept it, but in fact it is a product – a cultural artifact – of a particular culture or society


Gender as a social construct

- Gender as a category is significant (to varying degrees) to all human cultures
- Anthropologists view sex as determined by biology, and gender as determined by culture


Anthropological insights into gender

- First ethnographers (male) often did not pay attention to gender
- All societies conceptualize differences between men and women, but these differences vary from culture to culture
- Societies differ in the number of gender categories they recognize (e.g. Third gender, such as two-spirit)
- Gender can require effort and maintenance (e.g. Sambia men of Papua New Guinea)
- Gender hierarchies can become embedded in language (e.g. Emily Martin’s work on the Egg and the Sperm)


Anthropological insights into sexuality

- Heteronormative ideals suggest sexuality is more static than it is
- Use of naturalizing discourses to see anything other than heteronormative as “unnatural”
- In some cultures, much more liberal views towards sexuality (e.g. Richard Lee’s work with Ju/’hoansi; Malinowski’s work with Trobriand Islanders; Mead’s work in Samoa)
- But also stricter views on sexuality are observed (e.g. Heider’s work with the Dani)


Naturalizing discourse

Deliberate representation of particular identities (e.g. caste, class, race, ethnicity and nationality) as if they were a result of biology or nature rather than history or culture, making them appear eternal and unchanging.


Self and subjectivity

- Self as taken for granted product of culture
- Importance of individual names
- Western concept of the self as autonomous, independent agent (ego-centric) vs. non-Western societies often more socially embedded (socio-centric) 


Why do anthropologist prefer the term "subjectivity" to personality?

1) It gives agency to individual
2) It acknowledges that our power to act is limited by our circumstances



An individual's awareness of his or her own agency and position as a subject


Social identty

- Concept of social identity speaks to the learned personal and social affiliations we have of our own and others’ position in society (including gender, sexuality, race, class, nationality, ethnicity)
- Social identity is confirmed and constructed in large part by others