Saturday, October 25, 2008

Doing Anthropology (MIT video, 8 minutes)
Thoughts on Fieldwork From Three Research Sites
Cultural Anthropology is a social science that explores how people understand - and act in - the world. But what, exactly, is it that Cultural Anthropologists do? How do they approach their research? In this short film,

Thursday, October 23, 2008

language & culture - K.David Harrison's book

P 40.5 .L33 H37 2007 Harrison, K. David. When Languages Die.
The Extinction of the World's Languages and the Erosion of Human Knowledge.
London: OUP.
13 The world's 6.34B people speak, at latest count, 6,912 languages. If speakers were divided evenly among languages, each tongue would have 917,000 speakers... The top 10 biggest languages have hundreds of millions of speakers each, accounting for just over 50% of humans. If we expand this set to include the top 83 languages, we have covered nearly 80% of the world's population.

35 mankind... classifying, grouping, and describing plant and animal life, behavior, and usefulness to humans. Scientists refer to this practice as taxonomy: naming individuals and groups, sorting things into groups, discovering relations among them.
57 [reindeer words] Dongur. It is a powerful word. It means 'male domesticated reindeer in its third year and first mating season, but not ready for mating', and it allows a tribe of nomadic reindeer herders in Siberia to identify and describe with a single word what would otherwise require a full sentence.
58 ...uncle may be a mother's brother, or a mother's sister's husband, or perhaps just his parents' adult male friend. While our mind readily grasps the various types of 'uncle', English provides no ready-made, unique labels to distinguish them. Conversely, in cultures like Tofa with more socially important kinship relations, there exists no general word for 'uncle'. Five different type of uncles would have five completely different labels. By simply learning these labels, the child implicitly learns that these are distinct kinship roles. [unique identifiers]
146 [Walter Ong] Language s so overwhelmingly oral that of all the many thousands of languages --possibly tens of thousands-- spoken in the course of human history only around 106 have ever been committed to writing to a degree sufficient to have produced literature, and most have never been written at all. Of the some 3,000 languages spoken that exist today only some 78 have a literature...
...what it means to be a purely oral, non-literature culture. No grocery lists, no letters or e-mails, no memos, no text messages on cell phones, no books, no report cards, [no junk mail, direct mail, bills, email], no instructions on how to assemble artificial Christmas trees, no owner's manuals, no dictionaries, no newspapers, no libraries. This is the *normal* state of affairs for most human languages. [and therefore societies]
210 Rotokas (spoken in New Guinea by 4,320 people) reportedly gets by with a mere six consonants: p, t, k, v, r, and g, while Ingush a language of the Caucasus (230,000 speakers) boasts a whopping 40 consonants. Besides many common sounds like 'p', 'b', and 'f', Ingush uses a special series of ejective consonants that are produced by closing and raising the vocal chores to compress air inside the pharynx, then releasing the pressure suddenly to create a popping sound to accompany the consonant. Ejectives are moderately rare, occurring in only about 20% of the world's languages. To employ *seven* distinct kinds of ejectives, as does Ingush, is exceedingly rare. But even Ingush is not the upper limit: Ubykh, which reportedly had 70 consonants, lost its last speaker in 1992.
     ...Ingush appears more complex, allowing multiple consonants to sit next to each other, for example, bw, hw, ljg, and rjg: bwarjg 'eye'   hwazaljg 'bird'
==NOTES to text
243 Russian and Polish and other languages have a term that means "a whole 24 day," while English lacks this word.
246 [seven day week/calendar] first came into use in ancient Babylon, but a 10-day week was adopted by the Mayan Empire, and some Bantu civilizations in Africa adopted a six-day week.
261 [inventory of sign languages] ...about 700 sign languages in the final count
== urls:
p237> Lenape words (Deleware; Delaware), Talking dico,
p246 Halkomelem elders; folkbiology, [NW coast]
p249 [Baltic: Karaim chanting prayers/religion ceremonies online]
p250 [video clip]
p256 >population estimates for many languages; e.g. India's many languages
p270 Myth: Signs are glorified gestures. Online at
p278 Hawaiian Dictionary. Online at
  Hillis, David M, Derrick Zwickl, and Robin Gutell 2003. Tree of Life. Online at Accessed January 2006. [As published in Science 300: 1692-1697]
  Kiesling, Scott F. 2004. Dude. American Speech 79(3): 281-305.
  Medin, Douglas L., and Scott Atran 1999. Folkbiology. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  Nettle, Daniel, and Suzanne Romaine 2000. Vanishing Voices: The extinction of the world's languages. New York: OUP. [ch.3 "Lost Words - Lost Worlds"]
  Weisstein, Eric W. 2005. Base In MathWorld - A Wolfram Web Resource. Online at Accessed August 2006.
Ironbound Films, "The Last Speakers" (Siberia documentary).
National Geographic project on endangered languages.
Living Tongues Inst for Endangered Languages
podcast, The World of Words,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

high school as recap of human's social trajectory?

[excerpt & source,]

You could say our lives as social beings are ruled by the three R's: respect—the sense that proper deference has been paid to our status, reputation—the carefully maintained perception of our qualities, and reciprocity—the belief that our actions are responded to fairly. In other words, high school may be the most perfect recapitulation of the evolutionary pressures that shaped us as a species...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

theme issue, White Privilege and Schooling

Anthropology & Education Quarterly, Volume: 39, Number: 3 (9/2008)
online from AnthroSource at 
[subscription required for Web access]
Introduction to Theme Issue: White Privilege and Schooling, guest editor Douglas Foley

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

youth produced ethnographic film, 'Anglesea Road'

...the film 'Anglesea Road' on youtube... It was made as part of visual anthropology project between the Royal Anthropological Institute and a college in South East London, where a group of 16-19 year-olds made a mini-ethnographic film about their local area, and takes a look at a street which has a large Somali population, and what the area means to them.