Wardhaugh 9 and 10
Words and Culture and
also My Fair Lady
and short discussion of Nettle and Romaine
(Essay and short answer final not Scantron)
3/5 id cards?
Whorfian hypothesis
• “We cannot talk at all except by subscribing to
the organization and classification of data
which the agreement decrees”
• Language determines/constrains thought
• Wrong! Children, feral children, deaf people
who never learned language. They can all
• Pinker, (The Language Instinct 1994, 59-61) rips
Whorf a new one.
Language and Thought
• Universal grammar
• Universals of human
culture and language
• http://condor.depaul.ed
• But where might Whorf
and his teacher Sapir have
been right about a
connection between
language and culture?
• Do bilinguals think their
languages structure the
world differently? Are
they right? Aesthetics?
Why preserve endangered
abstraction in speech & thought
actions under self-control
distinguished from those not under
affection expressed and felt
age grades
age statuses
age terms
baby talk
belief in supernatural/religion
kin, close distinguished from
kin groups
kin terms translatable by
basic relations of
kinship statuses
language employed to manipulate others
language employed to misinform or mislead
language is translatable
language not a simple reflection of reality
language, prestige from proficient use of
Monboddo (1773)
Nineteenth and twentieth-century
• Kinship terms are a universal feature of human
language. Some systems are much richer than
others, but all make use of such factors as gender,
age, generation, blood, and marriage in their
• Very difficult to get an exhaustive description
• As social conditions change, we can expect
kinship systems to change to reflect the new
conditions (Wardhaugh 228)
Discussion question 4. p. 230
If a language uses a term equivalent
to English mother to cover MoSi,
MoBrDa, and MoBrSiDa, and a term
equivalent to English sister to over
FaBrDa, FaFaSi, and FaSi, what
hypotheses might you be tempted to
make concerning differences between
the family structure of speakers of
such a language and your won family
What family terms do you use? Father, dad, mother,
mom? Do you use these terms or do you know
anyone who uses these terms to refer to people other
than their natural parents? What else might Dad or
Mother be used to mean? Papa in Old Irish, for
example, referred to the foster-father rather than to
the father. If you meet a randy old British man at a
restaurant and he introduces you to his niece, an
attractive young woman who is dining with him,
what might you assume their actual relationship is?
Taxonomies, colors, race, and racism. Is racism wrong
because it is immoral or because it is a categorical mistake?
Both? What is the connection?
Are racists poorly informed or evil?
Are taxonomies and colors relative?
What about societies that think of neighboring tribes as nonhuman because of their language, color, dress, etc?
Color and ethnicity and language?
Larry Summers at Harvard
Wardhaugh 235
1. Try to account for the often reported finding that, for
English at least, males usually display less ability than
females in dealing with matters having to do with
color, including the actual use of color terminology.
2. What are some of the more esoteric color
designations you have enountered reently? Where did
you find them? Who used htem? What appears to be
their purpose
3. Two other naturally occuring phenomena capable of
sub-division are years and days. How is each divided?
Taboo and Euphemism
• Definitions and etymologies
• Savants, peace-keepers, sanitation worker,
administrative assistant
• Political correctness?
• Sex, death, etc…
• Watch for uses of Bloody in MFL – what
does bloody mean?
Look at pages 254-5 in
“Active listening”
Things to look out for in MFL
• Count the number of accents you hear
• What is wrong with Higgins’s categorization of
• Does the film depict different registers for the
same speaker in different situations? Examples?
• Does Higgins have “cultural know-how”? Is he a
sociolinguist? Why or why not?
• Is Eliza’s claim of being linguistically ruined by
Higgins tenable?
• Question 2 Wardhaugh page 245
After break
Vanishing Voices
• What is language death?
• Why is it a tragedy? Why is it not a tragedy?
• What is the strongest argument in the book for
trying to maintain linguistic diversity?
• Why do languages die? Suicide? Murder?
• Is it more like moving house, getting a new
computer? What about computer languages?
Endangered languages
• Like the miner’s canary: where languages are in
danger, it is a sign of enviromental stress. (Is there
a necessary connection here or an incidental one?)
• Language is what made everything possible for us.
• Each language has its own window on the world?
P. 14. Whorfian?
• Every people has the right to its language. And the
right to give it up?
• Passive construction at end of p. 15. Who or what
is destroying rain forests and languages?
Capitalism? Natural selection?
More from Vanishing Voices
• “The next great steps in the scientific development
may lie locked up in some obscure language in a
rain forest” 16. Not very likely though.
• How much biological information, and of what
sort, would be passed down via oral culture?
• Practical and scientific/industrial or
aesthetic/academic reasons for preserving and
studying dead and dying languages? A
More from Vanishing Voices
• Multilingualism good monolingualism bad? Vice
• Diversity an absolute good?
• “Violence in Wales” 20? Murder?
• Is linguistic assimilation usually coerced or
• Ethnic and religious concerns mitigate against
linguistic assimilation. Hebrew reborn.
Political boundaries “artificial” are
linguistic/cultural boundaries “natural” is “natural”
better than “artificial”?
Linguistic chauvanism in Ireland
The Celtic tiger vs Celtic culture
“a nation that incorporates cultural and linguistic
diversity is also richer than one that denies its
existence” 23. Japan is poor?
More Questions for the authors
Oppression of women in some of these diverse linguistic cultures is okay?
What if the endangered languages are structurally racist/sexist? Is that even
If language = culture does world language = English
Americas have 150 of the worlds 249 stocks of language, but only a few
people populated Americas after they arrived via the icebridge? Why
relatively few stocks in Africa?
Is dialect death as tragic to Nettles as language death? Why not?
Why did the Sami leave the Arctic? Enviornmental damage? Why else?
Read from Chapter 9 of C.S.
Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet
p. 53