The Origins of Grammar: An Anthropological Perspective


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Causes of language loss include natural disasters, war and genocidal violence, cultural repressions, and cultural marginalization. This has strongly negative effects on the cultural groups whose language is lost or endangered.


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These can include the loss of social identity, loss of cultural knowledge, loss of ecological knowledge, and many more. Linguistic relativity. One popular area of debate for many linguistic anthropologists is the idea of linguistic relativity. Linguistic relativity is the idea that language affects the way that we think about life and the world. By language, proponents of linguistic relativity are not so much referring to the content of speech but to the actual structural elements of a language, including grammar, syntax, language rules, and other elements.

Some linguistic anthropologists argue for the linguistic determinism, which is the stronger view of this argument. Linguistic determinism asserts that language and its structure completely determines the way that speakers of this language think, rather than just being an influence. In contrast, many linguistic anthropologists show support for a weaker version of this argument, which is much less deterministic.

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Other areas of study. Linguistic relativity is a good example of one of the most popular ideas within the field of linguistic anthropology. However, linguistic anthropologists examine many different ideas about the relationship between language and culture. Another common area of study is research on questions about why individuals and groups will choose to speak in one language over another. For example, why will a person choose to speak English over their native language?

Why would one type of accent in the English language be considered more proper than another? These are just a few of the questions that researchers are interested in. Gender is another popular area of study in linguistic anthropology.

Anthropologists versus linguists

Researchers in this area can be concerned with questions such as. Why are there gender differences in speech? What are they? What causes them? Since it is thought by many linguistic anthropologists that language affects thought and the way that we perceive the world, these questions are of both interest and importance.

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The Origins of Grammar: An Anthropological Perspective

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The Origins of Grammar

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This is a largely North American enterprise, although it is now being taken up by other linguists around the world. It has strong links to Cognitive Linguistics see chapter 5 and identifies itself as being a non-structuralist theory. This places it in direct opposition to generativism, but also in opposition to the structural aspects of other functionalist grammars. In this respect it has some similarities to Integrationist Linguistics, which does not acknowledge a need for any systems in linguistic analysis Toolan, FTL is a theory of linguistic processes. In the traditional Chomskyan CO Language is not an adjunct to knowledge, an engine to transfer information between minds; it is itself a form of knowledge, and indis- tinguishable in its working from other forms of knowledge.

This view of language has inevitable effects on the approach to grammar. Grammar for FTL cannot be an extant thing which dictates the production of language, it has to be an emergent property of the use of language. There are universals in language grammar, but they are products of universal needs to share particular types of knowledge. The common cognitive mapping of the knowledge being shared imposes its own regularities on the sharing process, creating the illusion that the regularities are within language itself and not emergent from general cognition.

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According to FTL, this illusion has allowed linguists who are seeking rule systems in language to find them, even though they are not actually present. FTL therefore offers an important reminder that all language theories rely on basic assumptions, and these should not be allowed to go unchallenged. Popularity is not always a guarantee of accuracy. Grammar without Tiers?


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  4. The functional linguistic models discussed here by no means exhaust the range of theories available; many more exist e. However, the five traditions described do demonstrate an important fact about the range of theories available: functional linguistics is a broad church.

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    Yet there are some things that functional linguistic models do share in common. First, language is about meaning, and this has to be the primary driver when looking at language rules. Second, language is about signalling, so the relationship between sender and receiver has to be part of the language model. Third, language is about signs, so the rules of language must account for the ways that signs are manipulated in the production and comprehension of language utterances.

    There would seem to be as much differentiation of levels in functional linguistics as in generativist analyses.

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    The Origins of Grammar: An Anthropological Perspective The Origins of Grammar: An Anthropological Perspective
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