Language, Culture & Society: an Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology

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LANGUAGE, CULTURE & SOCIETY:
AN INTRODUCTION TO LINGUISTIC ANTHROPOLOGY

Language, Culture & Society:
An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology

Language, Culture & Society:
An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology

Anthropology, a study of human kind, is and has been concerned with all aspects of human society. Within anthropology are four main subfields: physical/biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, archaeological anthropology, and linguistic anthropology; with many subgroups within these fields. Within the four lies an array of lab testing techniques and field work, providing a more in-depth analysis of humanistic aspects that could not be obtained through other means.

According to two prominent anthropologists, Pi Sunyer and Salzmann, the most recently classification of humans, “Homo sapiens,” has been the main emphasis in anthropology; and can be summarized by the overall scope of anthropology by three propositions. First, because members of the Homo sapiens species are biological organisms, the study of human beings must try to understand their origin and nature in the appropriate context; two, as humans strive to adapt to a great variety of natural and self made conditions, they engaged in a long series of innovations referred to by the term culture; and three, in the course of their cultural evolution during the past million years, humans were immeasurably aided by their developing of an effective means of communication, the most remarkable and crucial component of which is human language (Pi Sunyer and Salzmann 1978:3). This, then, enables linguistic anthropology’s emphasis to be based on a premise: Linguistic anthropology is concerned with the consequences of the process referred to in the third person (Salzmann 1998:3). Since anthropology is the study of human kind, and language is the single biggest entity that distinguishes humans from any other living organism on the planet, one can argue that the anthropological subfield, linguistic anthropology, and linguistics run parallel with one another.

Linguistic anthropology goes outside of the generic term “language” and “linguistics—the study of language,” and directs more attention towards differences in cultural and social structures. And under the two structures lies more in-depth categories: the relations between world views, grammatical categories and semantic fields, the influence of speech on socialization and personal relationships, and the interaction of linguistic and social communities (Pier Paolo Giglioli 1972:9-10; Salzmann 1998:5). Furthermore, for a more in-depth analysis of the diversity of languages and dialects, and to experience the underlining reasoning on a personal level of how cultural and social structures influences language, linguistic anthropologists would immerse themselves (participant observation) into various cultures and geographical locations, further enabling them to get a better perception of why and how differences in language exist.

Communication studies among humans have been studied over hundreds of years. It has been found that evolution and genetics have played an important role in human language and communication. Many hypotheses have been formulated over the years to brace the evolutionary theories. Eric H. Lenneberg, an author who wrote on biological foundations of language (1967), hypothesized that language could be understood through two conflicting theories: continuity or discontinuity theories. The continuity theory, according to Lenneberg, is how human language started as an inferior speech form, which slowly developed and emerged in a linear trend over time. Contrary to his continuity theory, Lunenburg’s discontinuity theory theorizes that human language is exclusive. That is, speech has been a set form of communication and has no evolutionary trends. However, even though there has been many theories, supported by either...
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