Sounding out ideas on language, vivid sensory words, and iconicity

Category: Anthropology

  • At the smallest scale of human interaction, prosocial behavior follows cross-culturally shared principles

    At the smallest scale of human interaction, prosocial behavior follows cross-culturally shared principles

    We have a new paper out in which we find that people overwhelmingly like to help one another, independent of differences in language, culture or environment. This is a surprising finding from the perspective of anthropological and economic research, which has tended to foreground differences in how people work together and share resources.

  • Over-reliance on English hinders cognitive science

    Been reading this paper by @blasi_lang @JoHenrich @EvangeliaAdamou Kemmerer & @asifa_majid and can recommend it — Figure 1 is likely to end up in many lecture slides Naturally I was interested in what the paper says about conversation. The claim about indirectness in Yoruba and other languages is sourced to a very nice piece […]

  • What do you really need on this earth?

    Natural conversations are a great source of data for all sorts of linguistic research. Linguists and conversation analysts usually study them primarily for their structure, not their content. This is not out of disinterest, but out of empirical prudence. Talk tends to support a wide range of interpretations. It is empirically safest to stick to observable […]

  • On “unwritten” and “oral” languages

    The world’s many endangered languages are often characterized as “unwritten” and “oral” languages. Both of these terms reveal the language ideologies still implicit in many academic approaches to language: “unwritten” defines by negation, revealing a bias towards stable, standardized abstractions of communicative behaviour (away from a dynamic conception of situated talk-in-interaction); and “oral” defines by […]

  • A Mawu community in Sefwi, Western Region, Ghana

    In Kawu on the very final day of my 2012 fieldtrip, I heard something unusual. Some people talked about a community of Mawu people, speakers of Siwu, living in Sefwi. Now Kawu, as you know, is in the east of Ghana, close to the border with Togo. Sefwi on the other hand is all the […]

  • Bourdieu’s food space, updated

    Food writer Molly Watson from Gastronomica provides us with an update of Bourdieu’s food space, where different types of food are arranged spatially along two dimensions: economic and cultural capital. The beautiful illustration is by Leigh Wells . Note the four versions of “homemade pickles” appearing in all four regions of the chart. Molly Watson […]

  • H.B.K. Ogbete, A history of the Akpafus

    One of the most interesting sources on the history and customs of the Mawu people of eastern Ghana (also known as the Akpafu) is a little book written in 1998 by Rev. H.B.K. Ogbete. This book contains a wealth of material: it records oral traditions, names of ancestors and chiefs, and a lot of background […]

  • The Senses in Language and Culture

    The Language & Cognition group at the MPI for Psycholinguistics will present a session on The Senses in Language and Culture at the 108th AAA meeting in Philadelphia, December 2-6. Come visit us on Friday morning from 8.00-11.45 in the Liberty Ballroom A, on the 3rd Floor of the Downtown Marriott.

  • Bingo! Refinding the oldest specimen of Siwu

    The oldest written fragments of Siwu found so far come from Rudolph Plehn (1898).1 Besides some words and phrases (edited and published in 1899 by his friend Seidel), Plehn took down two lines of songs. To one of them I devoted a post some time ago. Now I’ve found a full transcription of the other, […]

  • AAA Meeting Abstracts online? Only viable if it’s Open Access

    The AAA is currently conducting a survey on how to implement a website that would be hosting AAA Meeting Abstracts. As they write, Specifically, we’re investigating posting the 2007 and 2008 AAA annual meeting paper abstracts, which would be posted exactly as they were submitted to AAA and would not be interactive, although they would […]

  • Some miracle of cloning

    “See what I just did? Made another me.” Darwin (Marvel Comics), panel from X-Factor issue 37. There is a very quirky sentence right in the first chapter of Richerson & Boyd’s (2005) Not By Genes Alone that unintentionally defeats the very point they are making. After explaining why ‘culture is essential’ (the chapter title) and […]

  • AAA Photo Contest galleries now online

    The Winners and Finalists of the 2008 AAA Photo Contest are now available in a Flickr gallery. The photos are really beautiful — I’m honoured that one of my submissions is featured among them (and happy that Siwu ideophones are getting some press!). Click on a photo in the slideshow below to show the author […]

  • The Enduring Spoken Word

    Science has just published a comment by me on Oard’s “Unlocking the potention of the spoken word” (Oard 2008). It is a critique of the monomodal view of language adopted in that article. (If you haven’t read the original piece, check it out here, or see my brief summary.)

  • I thought I had company (a Mawu dirge)

    Funeral dirges (sìnɔ in Siwu) are sung during the period of public mourning preceding a burial. The musical structures of these dirges, the performances, and their place in the larger context of the funeral have been described in some detail by Agawu (1988) and before him by the German missionary Friedrich Kruse (1911); however, the […]

  • Four Stone Hearth #60

    It’s that time again! The 60th edition of Anthroblogging’s very own blog carnival Four Stone Hearth is up at Middle Savagery. Check it out, there are lots of interesting posts.

  • Finalist in the AAA Photo contest

    The results of the AAA photo contest have just been announced. Congratulations to the winner, Peter Biella! Of my four submissions, one made it to the finals (best 20) and one to the semifinals (best 54). All 294 submissions will appear in the AAA Flickr gallery in due course; mine follow below. My finalist was […]

  • Unlocking the potential of the spoken word?

    An intriguing article in Science two months ago suggests that advances in speech processing ‘may soon place speech and writing on a more equal footing, with broad implications for many aspects of society’. It reminds us that most of humanity’s approximately 50,000 years1 with language was dominated by the spoken word, and that the balance […]

  • Claude Lévi-Strauss on Arte

    28-11-2008Claude Lévi-Strauss’ 100th birthday German television channel Arte devotes much of today’s programme to Claude Lévi-Strauss to celebrate his 100th birthday on the 28th of November 2008. It seems the broadcasts are not being streamed to the web. However, the programme web pages do contain a number of items viewable online, including some excerpts from […]

  • Four Stone Hearth

    The 51st installment of Four Stone Hearth is up at Clashing Culture, featuring an interesting mishmash of anthropological topics. For those of you who don’t know it, Four Stone Hearth is a blog carnival that brings together the four fields of anthropology (archaeology, socio-cultural anthropology, bio-physical anthropology, and linguistic anthropology) — each of which is […]

  • Pfisterer on Akpafu, 1904 (part II)

    Today’s posting brings you the second part of Pfisterer’s 1904 article (see the previous posting for details on the context and provenance of this piece of missionary writing). This part gives us information on religious beliefs; myths of origin; the afterlife and reincarnation; so-called ‘fetishes’ (kùɣɔ/àɣɔ in Siwu) and how they are to be served […]