Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Language and Societies abstracts, vol. 2 (Spring 2010)

The abstracts below are summaries of papers by junior scholars from the 2010 edition of my course, Language and Societies. The authors are undergraduate and graduate students in anthropology and linguistics at Wayne State University. Over the next few weeks, some students will be posting links to PDF versions of their final papers below their abstracts. Comments and questions are extremely welcome, especially at this critical juncture over the next week, when the authors are making final revisions to their papers.

Anton Anderssen: Exceptional Musical Ability within a Framework of Metalinguistical Ideologies about Swedish Language
Ami Attee: I See What You’re Saying: The Communicative Functions of Hand Gestures
Brandon Davis: Language Variation: A Case Study of the Island of Tanna, Vanuatu
Andrea DiMuzio: Writing History in Formative Mesoamerica: Connecting History and Social Stratification in Four Ancient Scripts
Kate Frederick: Losing Power: The Effect of Language Loss in Native American Communities
Margaret Gale: It’s About Time
Mark Hill: The Implications of Gender in Patient-Physician Discourse
Emily Jelsomeno: Bitch, Nigger and Gay: Exclusive Language? The Semantic Shift of Pejorative Words and Reclamation
Frankie Johnson: Gender-Specific Honorifics in Japanese: A Comparative Study
K.A.L.: Dubbing and Subtitling in Europe: Benefits, Drawbacks, and Cultural Implications
R. LaPorte: Bosnian Language and Ethnic Identity
Kathryn Meloche: On and About Glass Bottles—the effects of technology on the evolution of bottle language
Cherry Meyer: The De-centering of Standard English through Indigenous Postcolonial Poetry
Evelyn Postell-Franklin: Mixed Messages: discourse trends in the hip-hop era
Melinda Pye: Infant Baby Talk: Is it an Effective Device?
Georgia Richardson-Melody: A Worldview Lost in Translation: Issues with Translating Ayurvedic Science into a Biomedical Worldview
Jennifer Rivera: American Sign Language and the influences of Computer Mediated Communication
Leah R. Shapardanis: What do whining dogs have to do with universal grammar?
Graham Sheckels: A Discourse Analysis of Runic Messages in Two Media
Joseph A. Sindone III: Linguistic and paralinguistic cues of text-based computer-mediated communication and their associated social processes
Claudia Voit: Reassessment of the Maya Verb Root, K’al


April 23, 2010 Posted by | Editor | Leave a comment

It’s about Time

It’s about Time

Margaret Gale

The debate over the validity of linguistic determinism (whether the language that we speak dictates our behavior and actions) and its softer version, linguistic relativity (if differences in language cause differences in thought processing) has been raging among the anthropology, linguistic, and even the cognitive science communities for decades. This paper investigates the realm of metaphor and its connection to linguistic determinism and linguistic relativity. Using the American linguistic corpus, COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English), and a free listing activity that involved the author’s colleagues at a public secondary school, American English time metaphors were collected and analyzed. Several prominent metaphors were revealed, such as TIME IS MONEY, TIME IS A COMMODITY, and TIME IS A MOVING OBJECT. These metaphors were then compared to the way in which time is discussed in other languages, mainly Hopi, revealing that American time metaphors are unique when compared to those used in other cultures. Then recent studies that attempt to connect time metaphors to cognition about time and studies involving gestures associated with time were reviewed. These studies along with a look into social norms prominent in American society do show a connection between the way people talk about time and the way people think about time. This supports the theory of linguistic relativity. However, the studies evaluated in this paper do reveal that linguistic relativity is plastic: Just as a person can learn the phonology and syntax of another language, one can learn the metaphors and correlating habits of thought that come with a language, as well. While linguistic relativity was validated by the findings of this paper, it was shown to be malleable, and the question still lingers: Which comes first, the language that shapes our thought processes, or the thought processes that shape our language?

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | Leave a comment

Gender-Specific Honorifics in Japanese: A Comparative Study

Gender-Specific Honorifics in Japanese: A Comparative Study

Frankie Johnson

This paper will examine various Japanese honorifics to determine the extent to which linguistic expressions differ based on the gender of the speaker in Japanese. In order to determine this, linguistic expressions that are gender specific will be analyzed along with the ways in which these expressions relate to the gender roles of the speakers within Japanese society. The paper will focus on honorifics in various social settings to showcase similarities and differences among the speakers, constructing generalizations and exceptions, if any, to those generalizations.

Honorifics are referred to in Japanese as “keigo” and are understood as being words, parts of a word (prefix, suffix), or expressions that speakers use to convey some form of respect to the individual that they are addressing or referring to. Gender-specific honorifics take this concept one step further by altering the ways in which male and female speakers show respect, such as when females use more polite or super-polite honorific verbs to speak to a superior whereas males often use the most basic humble verb forms. This paper will examine historical factors that have contributed to the distinctions in gendered speech which may have ultimately contributed to the availability of as many gender-specific honorifics in Japanese as there are today. To analyze the gender-specific honorifics, this paper will look at various factors such as what is said, which gender says it, why it is said, what the expressions say about that gender, whether age is a factor, and whether any alternatives to the expressions exist. Lastly, various misconceptions about the use of these gender-specific expressions will be examined.

Keywords: Gender-specific, honorifics, gender roles, linguistic expressions, onna kotoba, otoko kotoba

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | Leave a comment

Writing History in Formative Mesoamerica

Writing History in Formative Mesoamerica
Connecting History and Social Stratification in Four Ancient Scripts

Andrea DiMuzio

This paper examines one potential function of early writing in Formative Mesoamerica in relation to the developing stratification of the period. Reviewing the work of Joyce Marcus, Stephen Houston, Donald Brown, and others suggests that early writing may have functioned to legitimize developing elites by creating history. If writing generates authority and authenticity, writing history could justify stratification while creating social cohesion. Moreover, history can be broken down into a variety of types from critical history to legendary history, with a range of focus from military to biography to genealogy. Different types and foci of history could be used by elites to achieve different goals.

A list of texts was compiled and divided into four scripts: Cascajal, Mayan, Zapotec, and Isthmian. Interpretations for each text were taken from previous literature on Mesoamerican writing and iconography, and were based on known glyphs, context and iconography allowing an assessment of content. A comparison of the scripts illustrates variation in the specific uses of writing, but similar interest in recording general historical information. Whether the focus is on ascending kings or military victories, the effect was to create a cohesive social group, while still elevating elites, at a time of great social change. Through the authority of writing, and the manipulation of fact, history was created in support of the elites.

Currently, the sample of texts is small, and generally undeciphered, as a result these findings are preliminary. Additional samples and greater decipherment will bolster the reliability of the data. Furthermore, additional archeological investigations into Brown’s theory on hierarchy and history would assist in applying his work to developing writing. Additional studies on the affect of history on identity building would also develop these findings.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | Leave a comment

What do whining dogs have to do with universal grammar?

What do whining dogs have to do with universal grammar?

Leah R. Shapardanis

Universal Grammar contends that language universals are necessary for child language acquisition and syntactically evident in spite of surface-level diversity. Evans & Levinson challenge UG and argue that incidences of linguistic diversity must be acknowledged at “face-value.” This paper seeks to evaluate interrogative rising pitch cross-culturally using Evans and Levinson’s approach. By examining the varied realizations of interrogative pitch manipulation, as well as non-pitch question markers in spoken and signed languages, empirical evidence is brought against a universal of interrogative pitch marking. Further discussion about diversity in pitch use and interrogative marking addresses the influence cognitive functions have on language and how, using Evans and Levinson as a jumping-off point, linguists can reveal more about the universals of human cognition by disregarding language universals.

Keywords: Language Universals, Evans & Levinson, Cognitive Linguistics, Phonology (Cognitive Phonology), Linguistic Diversity, Pitch (Rising Pitch), Fundamental Frequency Code, John J. Ohala, Ulrike Zeshan

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | Leave a comment

Bosnian Language and Ethnic Identity

Bosnian Language and Ethnic Identity

R. LaPorte

The individual countries of what was once Yugoslavia each had a distinct history, different legends, different literary figures and quite often, different religions. As a result of these disparities, each country uses language sometimes unique unto them. Bosnia is no exception, but is a unique situation in that the official language is frequently considered to be Serbian-Croatian, despite the war for self-governance and the desire for complete independence.

This paper examines how language used in Bosnia serves to create a distinctive ethnic identity, separate from the other countries of former Yugoslavia. Is Bosnian actually a separate language or is the primary reason for the distinction as separate languages political, to reinforce three independent groups: Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians? Two separate methods of addressing this question were used: by researching the history of the language used in Bosnia and by conducting random interviews at the Cultural Center located in Hamtramck, MI.

A review of historical and anthropological works shows that the Ottoman history of Bosnia is intertwined with the language used in Bosnia, by the heavy influence of Turkish words.

In the interviews twelve men and eight women were asked if they thought Bosnian was a dialect of Serbian-Croatian, or if they thought it was its own separate language. Each participant was born either in Serbia, Croatia, or Bosnia, and each participant had been in the United States no more than eighteen years. The ages ranged from 22 to 58. Ten participants thought Bosnian was a dialect of Serbian-Croatian, and ten would consider Bosnian a separate language. Interestingly, the common factors in all twenty responses were history and religion. Each participant thought the variations between Serbian-Croatian and Bosnian were somehow attributed to the Turkish influence in Bosnia, and the subsequent majority of the Bosnian population being Muslim.

In conclusion, these results showed that although there is some hesitance in labeling a separate Bosnian language, there is a separate and distinctive Bosnian ethnic identity, which extends into the language used in Bosnia.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment

Language Variation: A Case Study of the Island of Tanna, Vanuatu

Language Variation: A Case Study of the Island of Tanna, Vanuatu

Brandon Davis

Vanuatu is an island chain nation that is located east of Australia. In modern context Vanuatu is part of Melanesia, one of three groupings, along with Polynesia and Micronesia, in which all the Southern Pacific islands falls into. Approximately 80 small islands encompass the inhabited area of the archipelago. This is why Vanuatu is a fragmented place. The people of the islands existed in a state of practical isolation until the Europeans arrived in the 18th century. The French and English colonized the islands, dividing the archipelago in half, and creating a joint control of the government administration. This period of colonial rule infused European influence into the pre-existing culture of the people of Vanuatu. You can observe this clearly on the Southern Vanuatu island of Tanna.

Tanna is unique among the islands of Vanuatu. It is home to a group of languages known in Western terminology as Southern Vanuatu, or Tanna, languages. The people of Tanna have distinct cultural differences that separate them from the other islands of Vanuatu, and in fact create divisions between one another. Tanna is home to several “cargo cults” which have recently become famous for their reverence of what they perceive as Western culture. When considering this one would think that language variation would be common as well. This is not the case however.

On Tanna there are 5 different native languages that are spoken: Kwa’mera, Lenekal, Whitesands, Northern Tanna, and South Western Tanna. These languages provide specific cultural identity as well as create regional boundaries. Surprisingly there is practically no direct contact variation that has occurred within the languages of Tanna. That is not to say that they have not been indirectly affected though.

Bislama is a creole language which was developed over the period in which Vanuatu was a European colony. Bislama was created out of the need for communication, not only between natives and Europeans, but also between natives of different islands. Bislama combines a regional form of Melanesian grammar with a largely English and French lexicon of words. The creation of Bislama is probably the greatest cultural innovation that the people of Vanuatu have ever made. This opened the doors for trans-island cooperation, and when the islands were granted independence Bislama became the one of the bases upon which a sense of unity and nationalism could grow.

Today the people of Tanna will interject Bislama into their everyday speech. The use of Bislama is particularly common when participating in formal dealings, especially with people of other islands, or to qualify a point or example. Bislama use is more common in some areas of Tanna than it is in others. It also is rarely used in communication between parties of the same tribal entity. Regardless we can still look to Bislama for the answer to the question of what post-colonial language variation has occurred on Tanna.

Tanna is a place that in modern times has come to be known for cultural assimilation. Given this it is surprising to see how little direct contact-variation there has been within the native languages. Although Bislama is heavily European influenced it is a cultural innovation that can be wholly credited to the native people. Therefore where we see language variation it is really a result of domestic cultural innovation. Regardless, it is through the use of Bislama that we see contact-variation of language among the people of Tanna.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment

American Sign Language and the influences of Computer Mediated Communication

American Sign Language and the influences of Computer Mediated Communication

Jennifer Rivera

The recent technology boom in the field of Computer Mediated Communications has proved transformative to the organization and linguistic structure of American Sign Language (ASL). Given ASL’s lack of an orthographic representation the textual communication mediums have been English based and therefore provide challenges in the visual spatial world of ASL. The more recent video technologies allow for direct visual communication in ASL, though due to the mediums restrictions the language is often modified for clarity. This paper aims to address the adaptations used within ASL in response to Computer Mediated Communication through a literature review of several influential authors in the field, such as Elizabeth Keating, and the linguistic text of Ceil et al. It is shown that the Deaf community has adapted its language to fit the constraints of English text by the increased use of emoticons and over all increased modification of the emotional value of text in order to mimic the affective non-manuals within ASL that are lacking in text. The alterations shown to occur most frequently in response to video mediums is in the increase of English code switching and changes in the location in which the sign is produced in relation to the signers body. Further research is need within the field in general to see if the signs that are being modified in relation to communication technologies are only used in conjunction with the technologies, or if the changes are seeping into ASL usage in general. Such research is essential to better our understandings of the relationship between ASL and Computer Mediated Communication technologies so that more efficient mediums of communication for ASL can be created in the future.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | Leave a comment

A Worldview Lost in Translation

A Worldview Lost in Translation
Issues with Translating Ayurvedic Science into a Biomedical Worldview

Georgia Richardson-Melody

Language, thought, and culture are intimately connected. Based on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, language influences one’s thoughts; therefore language also influences perception of reality, or worldview. The worldview associated with a language is understood within that cultural context, I then argue that language translation poses difficulty in preserving the worldview from one language into another. Language users, within the same culture, have a shared understanding of the context for the meaning of their language. The meaning of the Sanskrit language is lost when translated into modern-American English due to differing cultural linguistic formations, and contexts.

Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, has been preserved in the Sanskrit language, posing unique challenges to proper translation of Ayurvedic science into modern-American English and also the modern construct of Biomedicine in the West. Today in the West, there is a growing interest in using alternative medicines to that of Biomedicine, which in turn is wrapping Ayurveda into a category “under” biomedicine. I feel that this increase in interest, poses challenges to the correct understanding of Ayurveda, due to the tendency of Westerners to try to understand Ayurveda through the existing biomedical construct. This challenges proper translation of Ayurvedic medicine because it does not fit into the Western construct of medicine. I make two arguments for language and issues with translation:

1. Translation of Ayurvedic science into the biomedical worldview is difficult due to contrasting understandings of science.
2. Proper translation of the Ayurvedic texts into modern-American English is difficult due to the complexity of the Sanskrit language where meaning and interpretation are important aspects of the language.

In order to understand how language translations can affect linguistic worldview of science, we must consider that each culture understands science through a shared language. This creates a shared worldview associated with science. Ayurveda is a holistic science, considering the language use and interpretation as important as the other variables of life that Ayurveda takes into consideration. Biomedicine maintains the hegemonic worldview that it is “modern science” with scientific proof for validation, whereas Ayurveda has validation through history. Therefore, when Ayurveda is placed into the biomedical construct, we see conflicting worldviews which challenge proper translation.

Key words: Ayurveda, Sanskrit, English, Translation, Worldview, Sapir-Whorf

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | Leave a comment

Losing Power: The Effect of Language Loss in Native American Communities

Losing Power: The Effect of Language Loss in Native American Communities

Kate Frederick

The recent surge in language revitalization programs in many Native American societies can be attributed to the integral role of language in each Native community. Using Bourdieu’s linguistic capital this paper examines the role of language and its connectedness to power in the community. By examining two Native groups, the Cherokee Nation and the Hopi, this paper exhibits the differing roles of language in each community and how linguistic capital can affect personal power and prestige. More specifically, the question is how each community perceives the role of language in identity and power; in terms of individual prestige, monetary wealth, and religious influence?

Beginning with a glimpse into the past of each group, it becomes clear as to where language loss occurred in the differing histories. Mufwene’s linguistic ecology helps explain such language loss and its relatedness to an inhospitable environment; and Bourdieu’s linguistic capital elucidates the need for competitiveness on the linguistic market in order for a language to survive. Further, ethnographies and language revitalization program’s research were used in order to fully comprehend the current role of language in each society.

The findings of this paper were less obvious than expected. The role of language in the Cherokee Nation is more of an identity marker, a way to define oneself as a member of the Cherokee community. Power comes in the form of a cultural association with being Cherokee. Conversely, in the Hopi community, having the ability to speak Hopi, and to speak it well, gives one an extreme advantage in the community. The institution created by kiva talk, allows for a consistent perpetuation of the Hopi language, and gives it linguistic capital to be traded in the market.

Both of these communities are experiencing a change in their language and its role; the Cherokee are trying to regain their language, while the Hopi are quickly losing theirs. Further studies should be conducted on the newest generation of Hopi and Cherokee as they grow into community leaders. Will the less fluent Hopi children create a less integral role for their language in the community? Will the increasingly more fluent Cherokee children begin assigning a more prominent role for their language in their everyday lives?

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment

A Discourse Analysis of Runic Messages in Two Media

A Discourse Analysis of Runic Messages in Two Media

Graham Sheckels

Messages left in the form of Norse runes provide a method of studying a culture that significantly impacted much of Northern Europe at the end of the first millennia. Surviving examples of the runic writing of the Vikings can be found across Scandinavia and nearly everywhere these seafarers ventured. Runologists have long studied these works, and debated the uses to which this writing system was put. This article asks if a form of discourse analysis can be used to gain a sense of the socioeconomic status of the authors of the runic messages inscribed on various runakefli, or wooden message-sticks, versus the status of the authors/commissioners of stone grave markers or other monuments. Two corpora were examined, chosen for the very different media upon which their messages were carved. The first are two dozen the inscriptions preserved on runakefli excavated at Bergen, Norway, dating to the 12th and 13th century. These comprise nearly the entirety of the surviving runakefli found in Northern Europe, and concern such topics as business ventures, political correspondence, and love poems. The second corpus is a set of 25 inscriptions carved into rune-stones located in North-Central Denmark, dating to the end of the tenth century and later. The messages conveyed in this body are entirely memorial in nature, created to commemorate the lives of various family members. Discourse analysis and estimates of the labor involved in creation suggests that these two corpora were created by two different (though not necessarily mutually exclusive) sets of people, for two very different purposes. The runakefli of Bergen were private in nature, meant by the writer for consumption by a single recipient. The messages indicate that most of the writers were likely middle class individuals such as merchants. In contrast, the rune-stones were public monuments carved at significant expense and meant to convey not only the high status of the memorialized individual, but also the corresponding high social status of the commissioner, usually a family member. The Bergen runakefli suggest that a significant portion of the population could read runes and that the monumental rune-stones were not only intended for consumption by fellow elites, but also served to reinforce the status difference between classes.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | Leave a comment

Reassessment of the Maya Verb Root, K’al

Reassessment of the Maya Verb Root, K’al

Claudia Voit

This article examines past and present interpretations of the Maya verb root known as k’al. The verb root is depicted in Classic and Post Classic Period monuments, codices, stelae, altars and ceramics. Scholars including Floyd Lounsbury, Eric Forstemann, Eduard Seler, Eric Thompson, Linda Schele, Jeff Miller, and David Stuart, have given us a general reading of k’al. Some of these scholars suggest the prevailing interpretation of k’al is ‘to tie,’ ‘tying,’ or ‘wrapping,’ while others suggest that the verb means ‘to bind.’ Schele’s interpretation of k’al in some instances is ‘the end’ or ‘to make.’ When one examines the astronomical and ritual treatments of k’al, there appear to be more than one interpretation of the verb root.

Other scholars, like Gerardo Aldana, suggest that current interpretations of the Venus Pages (a major astronomical guide) within the Dresden Codex, and a hieroglyphic panel found in Copan reveal that we may use the same treatment of k’al in astronomical texts as those found in ritual texts. Aldana suggests that when using the textual data, such as hieroglyphic texts found in Temple-11 (in Copan), we can support the theory that the interpretations of the verb root within the Dresden Codex actually refers to a ritual ‘enclosing’ or ‘loop-tracing’ in space and time and this interpretation may also be used when deciphering ritual events.

This article will revisit past and current interpretations of the verb root which have appeared in various forms and in many different texts. It will also review the compounds involving the verb root. The goal of this paper is to present the data on k’al and to open up discussions of which meaning of the verb root should be employed when examining astronomical and ritual events. In each example of k’al presented in this paper, this work will include the hieroglyphic reading(s) of the verb root. It will also include past and present dictionary examples (including all Eric Thompson versions) of the verb root along with their examples of k’al used alone, or involving compounds. Additionally, it will include examples of k’al that are found on various monuments, stelae, and temples. Further, it will examine Gerardo Aldana’s suggestion that when k’al occurs in codices, like the Dresden Codex, or in the readings within Temple 11 (both of these texts referring to astronomical events), we may want to examine which meaning of k’al is appropriate.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | Leave a comment

On and About Glass Bottles—the effects of technology on the evolution of bottle language

On and About Glass Bottles—the effects of technology on the evolution of bottle language

Kathryn Meloche

Glass bottles have long been an important source of packaging for products ranging from food and medicine to household and industrial chemicals. This paper explores the ways in which the wording on and around glass bottles has changed over time, including bottles, labels, tags, boxes and print advertisements. These changes result from the mechanization of carton technology, tin cans, and bottle production between 1879 and 1902 relating to the mass production and sale of branded food, medicine, personal and household products in America. The infiltration of brand names into the American vocabulary is discussed.

The advertisements and labels are classified according to Simpson’s (2001) discourse on the linguistic classification of advertisement. Most of the early ads and labels were found to be ‘reason ads’ with the number of ‘tickle ads’ increasing throughout the 20th century with the advances in print technology and ‘luxury’ product production.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment

The De-centering of Standard English through Indigenous Postcolonial Poetry

The De-centering of Standard English through Indigenous Postcolonial Poetry

Cherry Meyer

This paper has as its aim to examine how Standard English is de-centered through novel uses of English in poetry, specifically the poetry of indigenous peoples. Standard English, as it was imposed by the British Empire, was a tool for colonization in that it served to establish a “center” of formal education and globalized society, and “the other” of underprivileged, indigenous society. ‘Indigenous’ is defined to mean natives of a land, and ‘colonial’ or ‘postcolonial’ is those who were colonized by the British Empire. This is meant to exclude colonies where English is the first language, such as is the case in the United States or Canada. Colonial language imposition is an ideal setting to study language change because the use of the language did not develop naturally for these speakers. Rather, the language imposition is traumatic, so that the language standard is discriminatory and even awkward for indigenous users. To remedy this incongruence, novel uses and adaptations of English occur, some of which are examined in this paper. Further, as the language of international business and with a growing base of international users, the English used in England can no longer maintain its position of authority as ‘the standard.’ I include examples of poetry from Canadian Native Americans, Aboriginals of Australia, Indians and Caribbeans of African descent. Poetry is the chosen medium of language usage because the goal of the poet is to say as much as possible in as few words as possible. This criterion of brevity should lead to a concise sample of novel combinations of words and sounds. The emphasis is on free verse poetry because of its adaptability to local idioms and oral traditions.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment

Infant Baby Talk: Is it an Effective Device?

Infant Baby Talk: Is it an Effective Device?

Melinda Pye

Communication is vital for survivorship and the creation of social networks. However, how do infants become socialized into his or her culture through language? This paper examines whether the use of baby talk amongst caregivers helps infants acquire language more easily as opposed to the use of adult speech and whether its use aids in their language development. In addition to examining if the use of baby talk varies cross-culturally or is used at all.

In this literature review the characteristics of baby talk were defined by the linguist Charles A. Ferguson and its use as an interactional method was described by Naomi S. Baron. In addition, the research of June Hampson, Katherine Nelson, Robin Copper, Richard Aslin, and others were used to determine the impacts of the use of baby talk on infants. The literature reviewed indicated that they stylistic preference in language acquisition and vocabulary range of the infant can be attributed to the mean length utterance of the mother. In addition, infants show a preference for infant-direct speech over adult directed speech. Cross-culturally, among the Yakima Indians baby talk is not used and is viewed negatively and a preference is shown for adult-direct speech. Among the Comanche an age stipulation is placed on the duration that baby talk is used.

In conclusion, this research is significant because some caregivers desire to socialize their child in the most effective manner. In retrospect, it is interesting to cross-culturally compare the values that each culture places on language in terms infant socialization. In addition, the use of baby talk may be viewed as an effective device in one cultural system, but ineffective in another system. Overall, it is up to the caregiver to use their discretion to select the most appropriate and effective language device that fits into the rules and customs of their culture.

Future research should include more topics on the modifications in paternal speech when baby talk is used. In addition to research on reasons why some cultures use age as a maker to discontinue the use of baby talk and why they condemn the use of such language.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | Leave a comment

Linguistic and paralinguistic cues of text-based computer-mediated communication and their associated social processes

Linguistic and paralinguistic cues of text-based computer-mediated communication and their associated social processes

Joseph A. Sindone III

With the prevalence of social interaction mediated by computers and communication technology in the modern age, much literature has emerged to investigate the effects of computer-mediated communication (CMC) on social interaction. This study reviews social science literature spread across the fields of communication, psychology, linguistics, and anthropology, to investigate how the qualities of CMC change and adapt the linguistic and paralinguistic cues available during face-to-face (FtF) interaction, as well as the effect the medium has on social processes that depend on cues. Core to existing theories on social interaction in CMC (such as the hyperpersonal model of CMC by Walther, the Social Identity Deindividuation Theory of Lea and Spears, and the ‘cues-filtered-out’ perspectives in early research) is the role that cues (and the lack of cues) in CMC play in influencing social interaction and the development of interpersonal relationships.

The cues available in CMC exist due to inherent qualities of the medium that set it apart from FtF: the asynchronicity of communicative exchanges and the restriction of communication to the written verbal channel. These two traits result in an overall greater degree of control over the cues transmitted in CMC in comparison with the extemporaneous delivery of FtF cues. Profile information is one example of a cue that can be moderated and selectively presented online depending on how advantageous it is to display these cues. In face-to-face interaction, there is no way to easily control the presentation of one’s visage and physique. In a number of computer-mediated social outlets (such as forums, MMOs, and weblogs), the lack of these cues are standard, giving users the freedom to present these cues at will. However, while some automatic cues in FtF contexts are optional and selectively presented in CMC, others cues persist as unconscious processes in both mediums.

In addition to reviewing the types of cues available in CMC, attention is focused on how these cues affect the perceptions of one’s communicative partner, the content and meaning of the messages being communicated, the transmission of emotions, the potential for linguistic mimicry, and the signaling of irony.

This review identifies some of the weaknesses in current literature on CMC, and suggests a direction for future research: testing the generalizability of current theories to CMC as a whole by investigating the variability of cue function across different online social contexts and communities.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment

Bitch, Nigger and Gay: Exclusive Language? The Semantic Shift of Pejorative Words and Reclamation

Bitch, Nigger and Gay: Exclusive Language? The Semantic Shift of Pejorative Words and Reclamation

Emily Jelsomeno

The fact that words are mutable is immutable. Shaped by society, history and people, words can and often do experience semantic shift through the years. This paper specifically deals with the semantic shift and reclamation of three pejorative words: bitch, nigger and gay. How have these words undergone semantic shift and how, if at all, have they been reclaimed with a resultant positive connotation?

A literature review was undertaken, focusing on etymology, pejorative word usage (focusing on bitch, nigger and gay), and reclamation. Building upon the analytical works of many, including Ergun and Brontsema, this analysis investigates the etymology of the three words in question as well as current usage by both in-group members and out-group members. A member of an in-group is defined as a person who falls within the community defined or classified by a particular pejorative word. Therefore, an in-group member for bitch is a female, an in-group member for nigger is an African-American and an in-group member for gay is a homosexual.
The investigation of the reclamation of gay also draws upon the reclamation of queer for comparison. More reclamation work has been around queer, both by the gay community as well as in academia, where a significant amount of inquiry has been done into queer theory.

Interestingly, while all three words experienced semantic shift, the path the shift takes for gay differs. If one takes into account in-group reclamation, the semantic shift for bitch and nigger moves from negative to positive. However, gay has experienced multiple semantic shifts, partially through reclamation. The shift pattern for gay appears to be positive to negative to positive and now currently negative in its newest meaning ‘stupid, dumb, lame.’

While in the literal sense, no one can own a particular word, a sense of ownership and right of use does come into play with pejorative words. In-group reclamation works by creating that sense of ownership to turn a pejorative into a positive, or at least neutralize the negative word. This has been found more so with bitch and nigger, and less with gay.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | Leave a comment

Exceptional Musical Ability within a Framework of Metalinguistical Ideologies about Swedish Language

Exceptional Musical Ability within a Framework of Metalinguistical Ideologies about Swedish Language

Anton Anderssen

Swedes are known for their exceptional contributions to the music industry. Unattributed anecdotal evidence suggests that the tonal quality of the Swedish language may influence musical abilities in Swedes.

This research includes original ethnographic inquiry. Semi-structured interviews are conducted to gain access to cultural beliefs about tonality, not facts about the way tonality actually works.

The research found that Swedes attribute their exceptional musical ability to an exceptional educational system, not to the Swedish language. Additionally, the research uncovered the metalinguistic ideology that Norwegians sound “merrier” when speaking their closely related Scandinavian language.

A literature review uncovered the process by which Swedish became a tonal language, unlike the Scandinavian Danish or Icelandic, and that the phenomenon arose in Sweden after Finland, Iceland, and Denmark were settled. Thus, Icelandic, Finn-Swedish, and Danish are not tonal. Further literary review revealed the process of sound switching is known in other languages, such as in English, where sounds were changed upon disappearance of the last phonemes – hence, mouses became mice, gooses became geese, cows became kine, jinnies became jinn, et cetera.

The study can serve as a foundation for future research about the metalinguistic belief that Norwegian sounds “merrier” than Swedish. This could be examined in context with other sociological factors, like a far higher standard of living in Norway than Sweden.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | Leave a comment

I See What You’re Saying: The Communicative Functions of Hand Gestures

I See What You’re Saying: The Communicative Functions of Hand Gestures

Ami Attee

Hand gestures are movements that occur when a person is speaking, and not while a person is listening. It can be hypothesized that hand gestures must serve a communicative function. The studies of hand gestures accompanying conversation have only been researched in depth for the latter part of the twentieth century, but are still continuing to gain more interest. As of right now, there is no definitive answer as to what the true purpose of hand gestures is.

However, this paper will identify several types of common gestures used in conversation, and two of the most popular theories regarding their use. The first theory is that gestures are used for a speaker to communicate to their audience. This is supported by research and experiments showing that apes use gestures to communicate to one another (Tanner and Byrne 1996), people gesture more frequently when they have an audience (Bavelas et al. 1995), and the effects of a speaker using the wrong gestures can impair a speaker’s perception and memory of their conversation (Cassell et al. 1994). The second theory is that gestures are physical process of thinking and speaking, since they occur at the same time. The second theory is supported by research and experiments with children blind from birth using comparable gestures to those with sight (Iverson and Goldin-Meadow 1998), when hands are restricted the speaker has a difficulties recalling information from memory (Hostetter and Hopkins 2002), and gestures are used even when there is no audience present (Krauss et al. 1995).

The two main theories are nearly opposites (for the audience or for the speaker), but neither directly try to disprove the other. This paper intends to show some of the theories, experiments, and ideas surrounding gestures and their communicative functions. Whether gestures are used for the speaker or the audience, they are still important to communication and language. Though the mystery remains unsolved, each experiment gives insight and understanding to the complexity of hand gestures and their communicative functions.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment

Dubbing and Subtitling in Europe: Benefits, Drawbacks, and Cultural Implications

Dubbing and Subtitling in Europe: Benefits, Drawbacks, and Cultural Implications


As the world becomes ever more globalised, it is very common for films and television programmes to be released in several locations around the world. However, if the people in one area do not understand the original language of the programme, it must first be translated to make it accessible to the target audience. This is most commonly done by either subtitling or dubbing the programme; and different regions and cultures usually strongly prefer one method or the other.

In this paper these two methods are examined in detail. A benefit of dubbed programmes is that they may stay more faithful to the medium (as film and television generally do not feature large amounts of text); however, translation errors may accumulate during the dubbing process, and so the final product may sound unidiomatic. Also, viewers of dubbed programmes are much more vulnerable to censorship. While subtitling allows the viewer to watch the programme in its original format, they may be difficult for some viewers to read; and as some condensation must occur so that the text will fit the screen and allotted time, some details will inevitably be lost. Pressure to make the most accurate translations possible may result in the adoption of a large amount of loan-words.

The final part of the paper attempts to identify what effect these factors may have on a particular population’s choice to use one method over the other. Some populations may speak the foreign language well enough that, with help from the subtitles, the programme can be understood well enough in the original format. By contrast, other cultures may fear the possibility of the foreign language creeping into their own, and use dubbing as a way of re-enforcing the importance of their native language and resisting change. Even though one translation method may be better-suited for a particular type of programming, it is unlikely that a region would be willing to compromise its preference for the other.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | abstract | 1 Comment