Communication
(Miller Chapter 9)
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
The BIG Questions
 How do humans communicate?
 What are the links between
communication, cultural diversity, and
inequality?
 How does language change?
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Communication
 Communication is the process of sending
and receiving messages
 Most humans are in almost constant
communication!
 With other people, with supernatural beings, or
with pets
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How Do Humans Communicate?
 Language and verbal communication
 Language is a systematic set of symbols
and signs with learned and shared
meanings
 Probably developed in humans about 100,000 years
ago – when had both the anatomical and mental
capacity to do so
 Nonverbal language and embodied
communication
 Communicating with media and
technology
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Key Characteristics of Human
Language
 Human language has productivity
 The ability to create an infinite range of
understandable expressions from a finite
set of rules
 Human language emphasizes the
feature of displacement
 The ability to refer to events and issues
beyond the immediate present
 Humans have the physiological capacity
for speech
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Properties of Human Verbal
Language
 Has distinctive sounds (or phonemes)
 Meaningful sounds
 Has a vocabulary (or lexicon)
 Meaningful words
 Focal vocabularies – clusters of words that
refer to important features of a particular
culture
 Has a syntax (or grammar)
 Rules and patterns for making words
meaningful
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Verbal Languages around the
World Use Different Sounds to
Convey Meaning
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Example of a Focal Vocabulary –
Saami are indigenous people of Scandinavia and Russia
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Saami – where they
live
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Human Verbal Language
Key Characteristics
Formal Properties
 Productivity
 Sounds
 Displacement
 Grammar
 Vocabulary
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Nonverbal Language and
Embodied Communication
 Sign language and gestures
 Gestures are movements, usually of the hands,
that convey meanings
 Some gestures may be universally meaningful, but most
are culturally specific and must be understood in its
cultural context
 http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/06/16/chimp-hugkiss.html
 Sign language is a form of communication that
uses mainly hand movements to convey messages
 May be used by the hearing impaired as their main
form of communication
 May be used in situations where verbal
communication is forbidden or undesirable
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Some South African Gestures
that a Man Might Use
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Nonverbal Language and
Embodied Communication
 Silence
 Is an important component of
communication
 Can be associated with power or lack of
power
 Can be associated with respect, or may
use silence in situations of ambiguity
 May be misinterpreted as ignorance
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Nonverbal Language and
Embodied Communication
 Body language
 Involves the body sending and receiving
messages
 Including dress, hair styles, postures, eye
contact, walking style
 Convey messages about age, gender,
sexual interest or availability, profession,
wealth, and emotions
 Give boys blue baby blankets and girls pink
baby blankets
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Hair style is
also a form of
communication
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Communicating with Media and
Technology
 Media anthropology is the crosscultural study of communication through
electronic media and print media
 Looks at the messages conveyed, the
audience response, and the social effects of
this
 Critical media anthropology asks to
what degree access to its messages is
liberating or controlling, and whose
interests the media serves
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Communicating with Media and
Technology
 The politics of journalism
 News stories are packaged differently by
journalists depending on the intended
audience
 How “accurate” is “the news”?
 Culture and advertising
 Advertising to Latinos
 Promotes a monolithic image of Latino
culture
 Effects – identity change, missed
opportunities to tap into specialized Latino
markets
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Communicating with Media and
Technology
 Communication technology and inequality
 The digital divide refers to social inequality in access
to new and emerging information technology,
especially access to up-to-date computers, the
Internet, and training regarding their use
 http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chithu_cheappcnov01,0,2887350,full.story?coll=chi_tab0
1_layout
 Knowledge is power!
 Computers with Internet provide a lot of knowledge
and networking opportunities, so provide power
 Help people preserve and learn ancestral
languages, record agricultural and medicinal
knowledge, protect culture, improve lives
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Culture and Mass Media
Media
anthropologists
study the media
process and
content, the
audience
response and
the social
effects of media
presentations
Journalists in
war zones
write a story
about the
same event
differently,
depending on
whether it’s
for a US or
European
newspaper
Critical media anthropologists
ask to what degree access to
media messages is liberating
or controlling, and whose
interests the media serve
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Human Communication
Fieldwork
 Research on human communication involves
fieldwork and participant observation
 Often very detailed analysis of tape recordings
and video recordings – sometimes even frame by
frame!
 Fieldwork Challenges
 Translation
 Literal translation
 Communication always occurs in a cultural context
 Observer’s paradox
 The research process alters people’s normal behavior
 Especially when being video taped!
 People want to act “correctly” and more formally
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Language, Thought, and Society:
Two Theories
 Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
 Argues that language
determines how we see the
world and our behavior
 People who speak different
languages inhabit different
“thought worlds”
 e.g. If a language has many
different words for different
kinds of snow, someone
who speaks that language
can “think” about snow in
more ways than someone
can whose language has
fewer “snow” terms
 Sociolinguistic model
 Study of how cultural and
social context shapes
language
 Argues that social
position determines the
content, meaning, and
form of language
 Culture shapes language
 Language shapes culture and
thought
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Critical Discourse Analysis
 Critical discourse analysis focuses on
the relations of power and in equality in
language
 Looks at the linkages between social
inequality, power, and language
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Critical Discourse Analysis
 Various classes, genders, ethnicities,
other subcultures have their own
distinctive communication styles (or
registers)
 Include variations in vocabulary, grammar,
and intonation
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Critical Discourse Analysis
 Gender in Euro-American Conversations
 Characteristics of female speech include…
 Politeness
 Rising intonation at the end of sentences
 Tag questions
 Male speech
 Less polite
 Assertive tone
 Rarely use tag questions
 Interrupt women in speech more than women
interrupt them
 Both genders use indirect responses
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Critical Discourse Analysis
 Txt talk
 g2g pos :’(
?
 jj lmao :D
?
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Critical Discourse Analysis
 Txt talk
 g2g pos :’(
 Got to go, parents over shoulder, crying face
 jj lmao :D
 Just joking, laughing my ass off, laughing face
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Critical Discourse Analysis
 African American English (AAE) /
Ebonics
 Debate on whether ebonics should be
embraced in the classroom
 Or whether African American students are
expected to shed their culture and language
at the door while conforming their language
to American Mainstream English
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Language Change
 Language, like culture, is always
changing!
 Adding new words in changing times
 Borrowing words from other languages
 Languages may be destroyed
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Historical Linguistics
 Historical linguistics is the study of
language change through time
 Often compare lists of words and grammatical
forms in different languages
 Can sometimes tell where people migrated to
and which cultures had contact with each
other in various points in time based on
language similarities and difference
 Can determine language families –
languages descended from a parent
language
 Example: the Indo-European Language
Family
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© Allyn & Bacon 2008
The Indo-European Language
Family
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Two Possible Locations for the
Origins of Proto-Indo-European
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Language change through migration:
the spread of Bantu languages in
Africa
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Writing
 Earliest written languages – about 4000 BCE
 Were made up of logographs
 Signs that indicate a word, syllable, or sound
 Writing and the rise of the state
 Writing is often associated with state-level political
organization
 Recordkeeping is an essential task of a state
 Writing for ceremonial purposes / tombs
 Writing for artistic expression / poetry
 An empire without writing: khipu among the
Inca of the Peruvian Andes in the 14th century
 Cords of knotted strings of different colors, for
keeping accounts and recording events
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Khipu
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Colonialism and Nationalism
 Beginning in the 15th century, colonialism
was a major force of language change
 Colonial powers declaring their own language
as the language of government, business, and
education
 Often suppressed indigenous languages and
literatures
 Indigenous languages were viewed as being
“uncivilized”
 Led to discrimination against those who spoke
these languages and the extinction of many
languages
 Led to increase in bilingualism – competence
in a language other than one’s birth language
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Colonialism and Nationalism
 Pidgin
 Is a language that blends elements of at
least two parent languages that emerges
when two different cultures with different
languages come in contact and need to
communicate
 Is a secondary, rudimentary language in
addition to the speakers’ own native
language
 Usually limited to functional domains, for
example, trade and basic social interactions
 e.g. – owners needing to communicate with
slaves, slaves needing to communicate with
other slaves
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Colonialism and Nationalism
 Pidgin
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Colonialism and Nationalism
 Creole
 Is a language descended from a pidgin with
its own native speakers, richer vocabularies,
and more developed grammar
 Is a primary language
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Colonialism and Nationalism
 National policies of language assimilation
 Soviet Union
 English-only movement in the U.S.
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Example of
nationalism and
linguistic
assimilation in
Russia of the
Komi language
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Globalization and Language
Change
 Global languages
 96% of the world’s population speaks 4%
of the world’s languages
 English is the most globalized language in
history
 British colonial expansion influenced this – the
British made English the official language of the
colonies
 Takes on regional variations – Spanglish,
Japlish, and Tex-Mex
 Pros – ease of communication, more economic
opportunities
 Cons – linguistic imperialism
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Endangered Languages
 Documenting declining languages is still a
key part of what linguistic anthropologists do
 Degrees of language loss
 Language decay – language shift, when
speakers have limited vocabulary in their native
language and more often use a new language in
which they may be semi-fluent or fluent
 Language endangerment – when a language
has fewer than 10,000 speakers
 Language extinction – language death, occurs
when the language no longer has any competent
users
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Endangered Languages
 There are about 7,000 languages in the
world today
 Over half are endangered (less than
10,000 native speakers)
 A quarter have less than 1,000 speakers
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Endangered Languages
 Why bother trying to maintain or
revitalize linguistic diversity?
 Why should we care?
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Endangered Languages
 Why bother trying to maintain or
revitalize linguistic diversity?
 Diversity is a good thing in and of itself
 Diversity (biological, cultural, and linguistic
diversity) is a sign of a healthy planet
 Certain aspects of a culture and a culture’s
history and identity are lost when a culture’s
language is lost
 Important knowledge of different ways of life and
different ways of thinking about and dealing with
life’s challenges may be lost when a language is
lost
 Stories which teach important life lessons,
knowledge of plants and their medicinal uses,
etc.
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Endangered Languages
 Efforts to revive or maintain local
languages face many challenges
 Political opposition from governments that
fear local identity movements
 Limited financial resources to support
minority language programs
 Deciding on which language or which
version of a language to maintain or revive
is difficult and always a political decision
 Who will decide?
 How will the decision be made?
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The BIG Questions Revisited
 How do humans communicate?
 What are the links between
communication, cultural diversity, and
inequality?
 How does language change?
Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2008
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The BIG Questions?