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Art in Society


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Title: Art in Society

Art in Society
Venus of Willendorf
Aboriginal Art Van Goghs
What is Art?
  • Art is very difficult to define, but it generally
    refers to the manifestations of human creativity
    through which people express themselves in dance,
    music, song, painting, sculpture, pottery, cloth,
    story telling, verse, prose, drama, and comedy.
  • At least 28,000 years old

This photo, taken in Berlin, Germany, illustrates
art within art. In the background, the
experimental artist Christo has wrapped the
Reichstag. Another man has wrapped himself and
is now posing in front.
Body Decoration and Adornment
  • Perhaps one of the oldest forms of art
  • Ranges from permanent (tatoos, piercings, scars,
    change in skeleton) to temporary (paint, objects,
  • Aesthetic and social - can represent rank, sex,
    occupation, identity, religion
  • Drawing attention
  • Females - makeup, earrings, necklace, belt,
  • Males - beards, tatoos, clothing
  • Change in status (usually puberty)

Variation in Art
  • Visual Art
  • mirroring environment
  • differential use of natural materials
  • relationship between art and culture
  • repetition, space, symmetry, enclosure
  • Music
  • song style varies with cultural complexity
  • importance of a regular rhythm
  • Folklore
  • urban legends ( or
  • North Carolina ghost stories

Art in Other Cultures
  • Civilized and Primitive Art
  • timelessness
  • ethnocentrism
  • communal works
  • tourist art
  • Culture Contact
  • with Europeans (Australia)
  • with other groups (Native Americans)
  • scholars

Art and Religion
  • Definitions of both art and religion focus on the
    more than ordinary aspects of each with regard to
    how they are different from the ordinary and
  • A lot of Western and non-Western art has been
    created in association with religion, but it is
    important to remember that not all non-Western
    art has ritual or religious importance.
  • Art and religion both have formal (museums and
    churches, temples) and informal (parks, homes,
    and regular gathering places) venues of
  • State-level societies have permanent structures
    for religion and art.
  • Nonstate-level societies lack permanent
    structures for religion and art.

Language and Communication
Proto-Indo-European Linguistic Family Tree
  • Language is our primary means of communication.
  • Language is transmitted through learning, as part
    of enculturation.
  • Language is based on arbitrary, learned
    associations between words and the things they
  • Only humans have the linguistic capacity to
    discuss the past and future in addition to the
  • Language serves to convey all the complex,
    elaborate behavior that constitutes our culture.
  • Anthropologists study language in its social and
    cultural context.

  • We communicate by agreeing to call an object,
    movement, or abstract concept by a common name in
    our spoken language.
  • Other forms of communication
  • Direct facial expression, body stance, gesture,
    tone of voice
  • Indirect writing, algebra, music, painting,
  • Non-linguistic communication

Nonhuman Communication
  • Systems of communication are not unique to
  • Animals communicate through sounds, odors, or
    body movements.
  • Some animal communication systems are symbolic,
    which means that even when the referent is not
    present, the communication has meaning.
  • Example Vervet monkeys in Africa
  • Closed versus open communication systems

Call Systems
  • Call systems consist of a limited number of
    sounds that are produced in response to specific
    stimuli (e.g. food or danger)
  • Calls cannot be combined to produce new calls.
  • Calls are reflexive in that they are automatic
    responses to specific stimuli.
  • Although primates use call systems, their vocal
    tract is not suitable for speech.

Apes, such as these Congo chimpanzees, use call
systems to communicate in the wild
Call Systems
Contrasts between human language and a primate
call system
Sign Language
  • A few nonhuman primates have been able to learn
    to use American Sign Language (ASL).
  • Washoe, a chimpanzee, eventually acquired a
    vocabulary of over 100 ASL signs.
  • Koko, a gorilla, regularly uses 400 ASL signs and
    has used 700 at least once.
  • Sherman and Austin--both chimps--were trained on
    computer keyboards. Sherman and Austin began
    communicating with each other via computers.
  • Kanzi, another chimp, has come closest to having
    a primitive English grammar.

Sign Language
  • These nonhuman primates have displayed some
    human-like capacities with ASL.
  • Joking and lying
  • Cultural transmission they have tried to teach
    ASL to other animals
  • Productivity they have combined two or more
    signs to create a new expressions
  • Displacement the ability to talk about things
    that are not present

The Origin of Language
  • The human capacity for language developed over
    hundreds of thousands of years, as call systems
    were transformed into language.
  • Language is a uniquely effective vehicle for
    learning that enables humans to adapt more
    rapidly to new stimuli than other primates.
  • First real language usage probably began 100,000
    years ago with early Homo sapiens, or as late as
    40,000 years ago.
  • Language center in the human brain increased.

The Origin of Language
  • By studying creoles and childrens acquisition of
    language, we can try to reconstruct how humans
    first learned language.
  • Creoles
  • pidgin - simplified version of a language,
    generally lacking prepositions and auxiliary
  • creole - incorporates vocabulary from two
    languages but has a grammar that differs from the
    new and native languages
  • Childrens Acquisition of Language
  • a child can learn any language, any grammar
  • children around the world learn to speak at the
    same general age
  • childrens speech patterns are the same in
    different languages
  • errors children make are consistent with creoles

Descriptive or Structural Linguistics
  • In human language, meaningful sounds and
    sequences are combined without conscious
    knowledge of the rules of a language.
  • Language rules are those that refer to patterns
    of speaking that are discoverable in actual
  • Grammar includes the unconscious principles that
    predict how most people talk.
  • Descriptive (or structural) linguistics tries to
    discover the rules of phonology--the patterning
    of sounds morphology--the patterning of sound
    sequences to form meaningful units and
    syntax--the patterning of phrases and sentences
    that predict how most speakers of a language talk.

  • There is a huge number of phones (different
    sounds) that the human vocal tract can make each
    language uses only some of these.
  • Hard to learn a foreign language and the sounds.
  • Phones might take different positions (e.g. ng
  • Alphabet can represent phones differently
  • Example Ghoti Fish (tough, women, position)
  • English has 26 letters but 40 distinct sounds
  • Phoneme sound or set of sounds that makes a
    difference in meaning in the language
  • ways of pronouncing sounds a (ay, ah), the
    (thee, thu)

  • Morpheme is the smallest unit of language that
    has meaning could be one word, could be a
    prefix, could be a signifying syllable.
  • Examples dog (word), indefinite (prefix),
    boldly (adverb sig)
  • A lexicon consists of words and morphs and their
    meanings a dictionary approximates the lexicon
    of a language.
  • Meanings can depend on order (English, French, or
    Spanish) or changing morphemes (usually called a
    declension, as in Latin, Russian, or Greek).
  • Some languages have gendered words (Romance
    languages, German, Greek, Old English, etc.).

  • The rules of syntax may be partly learned in
    school, but most children know many of them as
    soon as they learn the language.
  • Example Lewis Carrolls Through the Looking
  • Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  • Did gyre and gimble in the wabe.
  • All mimsy were the borogoves,And the mome
    raths outgrabe.
  • Which words are adjectives? Verbs? Singular
    noun? Plural noun?

Historical Linguistics
  • Historical linguistics focuses on how language
    changes over time.
  • Compare the following works from Old, Middle, and
    Modern English
  • Beowulf (Old English)

Lo, praise of the prowess of people-kings of
spear-armed Danes, in days long sped,we have
heard, and what honor the athelings won!Oft
Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes, from many
a tribe, the mead-bench tore,awing the earls.
Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum, þeodcyninga, þrym
gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon. Oft
Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum, monegum mægþum,
meodosetla ofteah, egsode eorlas.
Historical Linguistics
  • The Canterbury Tales (Middle English)
  • This worthy lymytour, this noble Frere,
  • He made alwey a maner louryng chiere
  • Upon the Somonour, but for honestee
  • No vileyns word as yet to hym spak he.
  • This worthy limiter, this noble friar, He turned
    always a lowering face, and dire, Upon the
    summoner, but for courtesy No rude and insolent
    word as yet spoke he.

Historical Linguistics
  • Hamlet (Early Modern English)
  • For who would bear the whips and scorns of
    time,The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's
    contumely1,The pangs of despised love, the law's
    delay,The insolence of office and the
    spurnsThat patient merit of the unworthy
    takes,When he himself might his quietus2
    makeWith a bare bodkin3? Who would fardels4
    bear,To grunt and sweat under a weary life,But
    that the dread of something after death,The
    undiscover'd country from whose bourn5No
    traveller returns, puzzles the willAnd makes us
    rather bear those ills we haveThan fly to others
    that we know not of?

1 Haughtiness and contempt 2 Death 3 Dagger 4
Burden 5 Destination
Historical Linguistics
  • Historical linguistics also studies the long-term
    variation of speech by studying protolanguages
    and daughter languages.
  • Anthropologists are interested in historical
    linguistics because cultural features sometimes
    correlate with the distribution of language
  • Linguists can reconstruct changes that have
    occurred by comparing contemporary languages that
    are similar these usually derive from a common,
    ancestral language.
  • Proto-Indo-European
  • Sino-Tibetan
  • Borrowing

  • 50 of the worlds populations speak an
    Indo-European language
  • Many rules uncovered by Jones and Grimm
  • In Germanic, d of Romance switched to t, as in
    duo to two
  • The p of Romance switched to f, as in pater to
  • Cognates - words that are similar in sound and

  • Another major language family, spoken by more
    than a billion people, is Sino-Tibetan.

Linguistic Divergence
  • Gradual change
  • Natural boundaries
  • Social boundaries
  • Borrowing
  • Change by force
  • Military means

Language and Culture
  • Explaining the diversity of language can help
    explain the interaction between language and
    other parts of culture.
  • Culture influencing language
  • Berlin and Kays color word study
  • simple societies will have few color words
  • complex societies will have numerous color
    words (red, green, blue, yellow . . . To colors
    found in a J. Crew catalogue)
  • All languages have a core vocab of about the same
  • Language influencing culture
  • Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis suggested that language is
    a force in its own right and it affects how
    individuals in a society perceive and conceive of

Ethnography of Speaking
  • Sociolinguistics is concerned with the
    ethnography of speaking--with cultural and
    subcultural patterns of speech variation in
    different social contexts.
  • Examples
  • A non-native speaker might know all the rules of
    English but is unsure what to say in social
    situations--is it more proper to talk about the
    weather, or about personal finances?
  • Social status and speech
  • Higher class tends to have more homogeneous
  • Honorifics (in German and in English)
  • Gender differences - will talk about on 7/17
  • Multilingualism and Codeswitching
  • Interethnic communication - will talk about on
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