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4.7: Language Change

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    Languages develop and change throughout time. Language branches and grows as groups of people travel, split, trade, learn and develop.[14] They are constantly being altered to fit the needs of individual societies. Once a language is established it continues to change as time progresses through adaptation and sharing. Many languages are a combination of older languages, and often represent a mixing of cultures. Spanish and English are both Germanic based languages, yet have their own grammar rules and gendered words. In the United States these two languages come in close contact and often mix, many households today using what is commonly referred to as “Spanglish”. As cultures choose to adapt to new terms or not, creates more splices, or branches, in the metaphorical language tree. Today, language change in a language is not a slow process; words develop new meaning, take on new symbolism and convey new different ideas every day. Media and technology have an enormous influence on how a language changes. Once a new term is created or obtains a new meaning, it can be repeated and spread across the world in seconds or minutes. This instantaneous sharing has created a rapid change and these words and meaning can come go as quickly as they are created. These terms often represent eras or generations.

    Slang Vocabulary

    Slang is the development of new informal words or phrases that have meaning within a specific social group. In some cases new words grow further than the original group and reach other groups due to the word's functional use for multiple social groups. For example, the phrase "My bad" is used when a person has made a mistake in certain aspects of American culture. The phrase “my bad” is frequently employed as a response to someone making a mistake. The phrase would only be recognizable to the culture it grew out of but would not be easily understood by someone who may not know the language or culture well. Another well-known slang phrase in the American youth culture is the term "Frenemy". The slang combines the words "friend" and "enemy." It is a person who appears to be your friend but maintains a certain enemy aspect as well. Again, this phrase would not be recognizable to someone who is not a part of the youth culture. Slang terms are typically phrases or trends in languages and often are developed in younger generations of people. Who uses Slang? Slang is used by all kinds of groups of people who share situations or interests. The group which uses these words is always in the minority, and often use slang to set themselves apart or make it difficult for ordinary people to understand them. When a particular new expressions is known and used by a large majority of the population, it is no longer slang, but part of the regular language or usage. Note: Slang and Informal English are NOT the same. Some slang can be used in formal situations, and some of the words that can only be used in informal situations are not slang. Also, sometimes it's a good thing to use Slang in some conversation because, It communicates more quickly than formal language, It communicates ideas, concepts, or descriptors that formal language has not yet caught up with (when this happens within an industry or profession, we call it "jargon;" when it happens socially, we call it "slang;" either way it's the same thing) Because it offers side channel or subtext use communication that is understood within a particular group but not outside it (an extreme and fascinating example is Cockney rhyming slang) Because it communicates nuances of meaning or emotion better than formal language. When slang becomes popular enough, it stops being slang and becomes part of the language. This is how language evolves.[15]

    Contact Language

    When communities with their own distinct native language come into contact with each other, variations of those languages combine to create a single new language. Contact languages may be divided into two categories: pidgin and creole[16] The study of language contact is called contact linguistics.The distinctive line between a pidgin language and creole is the first generation of a language versus the second more developed generation.[17]


    A pidgin is distinguished as a contact language with no native speakers. When two cultures with their own languages must communicate for the first time, a reduction or simplification of the languages occur along with changes in meanings. The structure of the language fluctuates and does not necessarily remain constant. Pidgin language may only be carried throughout one generations, but may also be used through multiple generation - an example of this being Tok Pisin, the pidgin language of Papua New Guinea. One of the main uses of pidgins is for the purpose of communication between two linguistically distinct groups of people, often for use in a shared activity such as trading. Throughout time, the pidgin may die out or become established for use by further generations to create a creole language.[18] Africans who were enslaved and brought to the Americas were deliberately kept isolated from others who spoke the same African language, to prevent them from organizing a rebellion. In order to communicate with each other, they developed a pidgin language with the overseer's language as the superstrate. Over the years, they developed a language community of their own, with the pidgin language as the means of communication among themselves and with their offspring born into slavery.[19]

    Hawaiian Pidgin English

    An example of a pidgin is the Hawaiian pidgin language that was developed when immigrants from other nations began settling in the islands to work on sugar plantations. A single form of communication was needed throughout the different cultures, therefore a type of English slang was used to accommodate different understandings. The different cultures included Portuguese, Japanese, Filipino, and Chinese.[20] Most of the vocabulary of Hawaiian Pidgin is derived from English, the language of the dominant group. Hawaiian Pidgin syntax is similar to the subordinate Native Hawaiian language, as well as other subordinate immigrant languages. The structure of the Hawaiian pidgin English language varies from person to person seeing as the language is based on a few key vocabulary words.[21]

    When visiting Hawaii, some locals can be very docile towards tourists, or for lack of word, white people. I guess in a way that makes them sort of racists, but it is a way for Hawaiians and the sacred livings of people there to keep their culture their own. Oftentimes, if you're in Hawaii for a long time, you find yourself growing accustomed to talking in the Pidgin language or picking up a few phrases here and there. It's like when other people visit another country, and you eventually pick up on a few words or popular phrases. Hawaii is the same. My dad who was born and raised in Hawaii, where his family still has a 40-acre homestead, often finds himself talking in Pidgin language even as soon as he picks up the phone when talking to a relative. For someone who is local to Hawaii but leaves the island, I don't think that background ever really leaves. Often Pidgin can be hard to "decode" or understand but it's all in a way for Hawaiians to protect what cultural dignity they have left.

    In recent years, Hawaiian Pidgin has become more accepted in academic and institutional settings. Historically, Hawaiian Pidgin speakers were viewed as less intelligent and 'lower class' by those who spoke standard English. Today there are entire dictionaries, not to mention a plethora of novels and plays, being published in Hawaiian Pidgin.

    Several words in the Hawaiian Pidgin vocabulary resemble their English translations:

    • Any kine (pronounced: any kyne). Translates into the English: "anything". Ex: "No listen to dat tita, she say any kine, brah."[22] The resemblance to the English translation may be seen with the pronunciation of the word kine sounding like the English kind. Usually, this word is used with a descriptive noun afterward, stating what the 'kine' is in reference to. Ex: "Eh, sistah, you got any kine flowers smell ono (delicious) like dat?" This makes it a little more subject specific than the English 'anything.'
    • Kay den translates into the English: "alright". Ex: "Kay den, I no show you mine."[23] Kay being a shortened version of the English okay and den being a slang term for the English word then.

    Some words of Hawaiian Pidgin however do not correlate with English vocabulary:

    • Akamai (pronounced: ah-kah-mai). Translates into the English: "smart, intelligent". Ex: "Dat Jimmy Boy plenny akamai. He wen mek one computah."[24] Akamai is an actual Hawaiian word, and therefore does not resemble the English translations.
    • Pau (pronounced: pow). Translates into the English: "finished, done".[25] Ex: "Eh, you all pow so we can go?" There is no actual translation into English of the word 'pau,' as it is a real Hawaiian word.


    Once a pidgin language is passed on to another generation and taught as a first language, it becomes a native language, also known as a creole. Creole languages are more refined and complex versions of the original pidgin language. The vocabulary of the language is expanded and the grammar rules become more stable, enabling speakers to communicate more fully.[26] The creation of a creole language occurs when stable communication is necessary for a group.[27]

    While pidgins are simple trade languages, creoles have more developed grammatical and syntactic systems. Creoles use the lexicon of the language that has higher power or prestige, known as the superstate, and borrows grammatical rules from the less powerful language, or substrate.[28]

    A great example of a creole speaking culture or group would be Belize. The native Belizeans speak a creole that is called Kriol. It is a mix of English, African based Garifuna, Moskito Indian, and a little bit of Spanish and Maya. Many linguists have recognized Kriol as a full-fledged creole, because it has met all of the rules that set it apart from a pidgin and other contact languages.[29]

    Creoles are grammatically rule-governed, and both the syntax and lexicon develop rapidly during Creolization. For example, as Tok Pisin creolizes, it has developed the morphological marker ol before a noun to indicate plurality; in the pidgin, one can determine plurality only by context or the presence of a numeral or qualifier before the noun.[30]

    Creoles are also known as a specific group or culture with mixed French, African, Spanish, and Native American descent. Many of them live in Louisiana or are tied by family to Louisiana. This culture began as an offspring of the Old World and the New when this country was still being colonized. Creoles are not one thing or the other, and have lived their lives misunderstood, misrepresented, and misinterpreted. In the past, under White government, Creoles were not allowed to be an equal part of society. Blacks, free and slaves, did not feel Creoles were part of their world either. Because of this rejection, Creoles had a strong bond with one another and had to create their own world and culture. They were self-sufficient and relied on each other. Creoles were landowners, artists, teachers, and business people.[31]


    The Oral Tradition

    Throughout the world there are many "oral traditions", but in this section, Oral Tradition is the transmission of cultural information and material through vocalization. It is one of the oldest forms of communication of cultural values, histories, and symbolism due to its independence from written language. Oral traditions include stories, songs, speeches, jokes and uttered ritual. The most prominent aspect of oral tradition is storytelling, which can be understood as both truthful narratives that encompass events in the ancient past, as well as folk lore tales that are told across generations but are not necessarily believed to be a literal truth. In the cases of narratives and stories, it is not up to the teller of the story to make clear what is truth or myth, but to the listener to make their own judgments about truth. Oral traditions are important to impoverished cultures that do not have the knowledge nor the means to write down their traditions. To these cultures, the only way to keep their ways of life alive is to transfer the knowledge orally. This, however, makes it harder for anthropologists and historians to understand isolated and otherwise extinct cultures since there is no written material.

    In many cases, an anthropologist or someone else interested in preserving or publishing oral stories, histories, poetry, or jokes runs into problems when they do something that the original “owners” of the story deems disrespectful or wrong. These disrespectful acts could be that they didn't ask permission from the "owner" before they published the stories, or that they interpreted the story in an incorrect manner rather than simply writing down what had been literally spoken(see Morphology). Many story tellers believe that, when written, a story or tale loses significance because it is not being spoken.

    This is especially true in the transference of American Indian oral traditions into written works. American Indian cultural learning occurs mainly through living oral traditions, whereas European-Americans learn from written formats that emphasize linear thinking and logic. It is difficult to put American Indian oral traditions into writing because American Indian ideas are hard to fit into a linear and “logical” format. Many American Indians believe, as well, that much of the essence of the story is lost in the translation between oral and written. This is especially true when treaties were negotiated between the US government and Indian tribes.[32]


    In many cultures, written history is something new, and much of a culture's tradition and history is orally transmitted to the next generation by a specific group of people. In many present-day West African countries, tradition is passed down by a group of people known as Griots. Griots are known as "Les maître de la parole", or "The Masters of Speech". Griots have many roles in West African culture, acting not only as historians but filling the roles of entertainers, genealogists, singers, poets, storytellers, and even counselors to kings. They primarily passed down history through the ages by transmitting their knowledge in the forms of songs, stories, and poems.

    The historical knowledge of Griots and the power they wield through that knowledge is formidable. They command admirable musical talent as well, traditionally playing a 21-stringed instrument known as the Kora. A Griot is essentially a walking, talking historical record, and in West Africa, the historical record of a people's culture was often entirely dependent on a Griot's memory, as there was little to no written history. The position of Griot is genealogical, passed down through bloodlines over the ages. Good Griots possess remarkable memories and musical talent, and are ever ready to recite long histories, sing traditional songs, or recall genealogies.

    Despite their many talents and their important role in society, it is believed that Griots were a part of one of the lowest castes in their social hierarchy. There are speculations that they were defined by their speech patterns; the high-pitched, fast paced speech of the Griots was more similar to that of the 'ñeeño' (middle and lower castes) than the low pitched, steady speech of the 'géer,' or nobles. Singing and storytelling were considered inappropriate for higher social classes. Griots were only allowed to marry within their caste were often subject to abuse and discrimination from other castes. In many communities, Griots were not allowed to even enter the homes of higher-class families. This social injustice often did not stop at death, as many Griots in central Senegal were not given burial rights, as it was thought that burying Griots would result in a poor harvest, so their bodies were often placed standing up inside baobab trees instead. It was believed that this practice would increase rainfall and result in a good crop season.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): An ancient baobab tree in Senegal's Réserve de Bandia, where many Griots have been laid to rest.

    Modern-day Griots have managed to move up in society as much of West Africa has moved from a caste-based system to more of a modern income-based system. In spite of the social injustices they once faced, Griots have managed to significantly shape the form of society and popular culture, often occupying their birthright roles of musicians and storytellers. As playing music and singing were activities deemed inappropriate for nobles and restricted to the ñeeño class, Griots were the first people to become both financially and socially successful by producing popular music. They are considered 'manufacturers of a considerable part of the Senegalese artistic production' ^ , and even today, non-Griot singers often find success covering traditional songs traditionally sung by Griots.

    Johnson, John William and Fa-Digi Sisòkò. The Epic of Son-Jara: A West African tradition


    Linguistic Diversity

    Every Country has its own unique way of speaking, whether it is a different variety of the language spoken to the north or south, or a completely different language all together. Language diversity is what makes our world unique: it gives character to different cultures around the world and it is what makes us human as well. No other living organisms have what humans have; they have communication, but none have language.

    In America, we have plenty of different accents and dialects, but there are four main regions into which the country is divided. The Western, North, South, and Midlands dialects are the four regional dialects of America. This diversity is important to know and study because its what makes up America's linguistic variation. America is known as the “Melting Pot,” because we have people from all different countries. This shows when one travels around the country and listens to people speak. The differences could be as simple as saying “soda” instead of “pop,” or as diverse as elongating certain vowels to the point of what would be seen as 'unintelligible' speech for outsiders of the community.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): A diagram showing variation in the English language by region (the bottom axis) and by social class (the side axis). The higher the social class, the less variation.

    Gender Speech Contrasts

    Social dialect research has focused on differences between women’s and men’s speech in the areas of pronunciation and morphology.In Western societies, women typically have a more standard way of speaking than men. They are more likely to change the way they speak in order to elevate their status in the community. Women are more conscious of this social status, which explains their use of standard speech forms. They use language which reinforces their subordinate status. Women’s subordinate social status in American society is indicated by the languages women use, as well as in the language used to them. There are a number of linguistic features used more often by women than by men, which can express uncertainty and lack of confidence. Women use a feature called a “hedging device,” with such words as, “you know, sort of, well, you see.” These phrases make the speech of most women seem weaker than men’s speech, and therefore makes women in society sound less sure of themselves. There are also cases, like with the Weyewa people, where both men and women participate in ritual ceremonies but the role of each is very different. The rituals require very elaborate speech patterns in the form of poetic rhythm which the men are responsible for reciting and it is the responsibility of the man performing the ritual to be as precise as possible so as to prevent angering the ancestors. While the men are central to the ritual women are responsible for high-pitched ululations during the men's reading in order to encourage them to recite the ritual correctly and energetically.[33][34] For example,“Domo Arigato, Sensei” simply translated means “Thank you, Teacher;" the use of ‘domo’ implies the formality or politeness, rather than just saying ‘arigato’ by itself, which is equivalent to 'thanks' in English. It is also implied that the speaker is of a lower social status and education level than the person to whom they are speaking, and they address that difference respectfully by referring to their teacher by his or her title and not simply, and rudely, ‘omae,’ which is a less polite way of saying ‘you.'

    • Prestige

    Different accents here in America have different connotations when an outsider hears them being spoken. These different accents and ways of speaking have varying levels of prestige in society: much can be said about the speaker's social status, politeness and education from listening to their accent. For example, listening to the southern accent with its drawn out vowels and sometimes slower speech, one may assume that the speaker is easygoing and friendly; on the other hand, some may believe that the speaker is less educated and belongs to a lower social class. Each accent in English has a stereotype and therefore has a level of prestige or status associated with it. The accent with the highest prestige in America is known as the ‘Standard Accent.' The speaker of this accent is from the West Coast, where there is the most standard speech without much of an accent. Other accents to keep in mind that have lower levels of prestige are African American Vernacular English, New York dialect and the Southern accent. Although rare, there can be cases of covert prestige. This is when the major group usually speaking the standard variety, look down upon a specific variety, causing the members to speak it more as a way to show their membership in the minority group.

    • Standards in Language

    When looking at sociolinguistics, it is important to understand how different languages are judged against each other. The standard of a language is the variety seen as the purest and essential variety of the particular language. Although this term is used in different ways in sociolinguistic studies, one of the defining characteristics of a standard language is that it is codified in some way, a dictionary is an instrument that codifies language. This regulates the language and stabilizes it across a wider range of society. Because they are written and usually more stable than a contact language, such as a pidgin or creole, standards are used for higher functions. These higher functions often involve governance, ceremony, and education.
    Although differentiating standard and vernacular varieties of a language might seem unnecessary, it is extremely important to understand the distinctions made between the standard and other varieties of language. Because the standard is used in higher functions of society, those that speak the standard regularly are often seen as more prestigious than those who speak a vernacular or a less formal variety. Because a minority of the world languages are written, few can survive long enough to become a standard at all. Often, they are overshadowed by languages that are already established and codified. Relying too much on the standard used for the highest purposes of a society can lead to what is called linguistic ethnocentrism, where different groups and classes are marked through language. The standards of a language also have a history of imperialism, where natives are discouraged from using their own language in favor of the colonizing language.
    One historical example of this phenomenon is the boarding schools established throughout America in the middle of the nineteenth century. Created as a way for American Indian children to assimilate more easily into the mainstream of American society, these schools enlisted young children, took them away from their reservation, and attempted to educate them in a traditional Western manner. Although there were many concerns about children assimilating, such as dress and hairstyle, one of the most constant concerns regarding American Indian children retaining their culture was using their native language. Therefore, they were taught English and beaten if they spoke their native language. As a result, many children lost the ability to speak their native language, and, in doing so, lost a huge piece of their culture. The educators in the boarding school linked language to Indian culture, which, to them, was barbaric, savage, and unfit for American life. This is a prime example of linguistic ethnocentrism, where the language is linked with the culture, which becomes linked with harmful stereotypes.
    [35] [36]

    Language Ideology

    Language Ideology is a marker of struggles between social groups with different interests, revealed in what people say and how they say it. It is primarily studied in the field of linguistic anthropology. The study of language ideology allows evidence in which that the way we talk will always be embedded in a social world of power differences. They mark the struggles between social groups that do not contain the same interests or beliefs. This is reveled in what people say and how they say it. Language ideologies are very active and effective. We can tell this by the way people monitor their speech to make sure it is appropriate with a particular language ideology. Language ideologies are very important to many fields of study, some examples are anthropology, sociology, and linguistics. Language ideology has become a very good way for us to understand how human groups are organized, despite differences in beliefs and ways of life. For example, many different languages are spoken within one society, proving that the theory of linguistics regarding human societies as monolingual would be a very limited help. Instead of using language ideology we see speakers of different languages or dialects may possibly share certain beliefs or practice, or even a conflict involving a language.

    An ethnographic example of this is the language of African Americans. After studying the language ideology research revealed the perhaps the key element of their language is the importance of indirectness. The reason that indirectness was vital for the African Americans was because they were living under the conditions of slavery and legal segregation for a majority of America's history. Living under the conditions of this extreme inequality, African Americans had to follow a set of unwritten political rules, telling them how they were supposed to communicate with whites. For example only speaking when you are given permission to speak, or without contradicting or arguing over what whites said to them. By having to follow these rules it publicly confirmed the status of African Americans in the racial hierarchy. African Americans spoke differently to each other, and when not in the presence of whites than they did while they were in the presence of whites. This is showing how they change their language based on the audience around them, they are monitoring their speech to make it appropriate to whoever they are talking to.“The most highly valued instances of this counter-language were ambiguous speech performances that were usually puzzling or unintelligible to outsiders but easily understood by the African Americans who were present”.[37]

    • "Black English Vernacular" or BEV

    There are two theories behind the idea of Black English Vernacular and where it originated. The first is the Dialectologist viewpoint which states that Black English can trace its roots back to varieties spoken in the British Isles. The second is the Creolist viewpoint which says that the BEV dialect started as a pidgin language on the slave plantations in the southern United States and evolved into a creole as the next generation of children grew up in the U.S. There are distinct characteristics of BEV that are noticed through the study of speech in the black community. There are five noticeable differences in the BEV dialect Monophthongization, Word-final consonant cluster reduction, Absence of 3rd person singular, Multiple Negation, and the Habitual “be”.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): Area where Black English Vernacular began in the United States.
    1. Monophthongization: This is where words such as “pay” and “pen” become "pei" and “pin”. This is a linguistic switch from a diphthong vowel sound to a monophthong "pure" vowel sound.[38]
    2. Word-Final Consonant Cluster Reduction: In this feature, the final consonant in a cluster of consonants is dropped. In words such as “cold cuts” and “best kind” are transformed into “col cuts” and “bes kind”.
    3. An absence of 3rd Person Singular: Speakers of BEV tend to drop the “-s” off of third person words such as needs or wants. An example sentence of this would be “He need to get a book from the shelf”.
    4. Multiple Negation: This characteristic is the most noticeable and is the insertion of two negative words within one sentence. “I didn’t have no lunch” is an example of double negations and “He don't never have no lunch” is an example of triple negation. "A traditional prescriptive 'rule' in general American English states that 'double' negatives are not grammatical because they make a positive. The formula multiplying two negatives yields a positive does not work for AAE."[39]
    5. The Habitual “be”: This is a replacement usually of the word “is”. In Standard English, an example could be “The coffee is always cold” but in BEV it might look like “The coffee always be cold.” It is a simple switch that occurs in the speech of BEV speakers. [40] [10]

    Historical Linguistics

    Historical Linguistics is the history, interrelations, and evolution of language. As Contemporary Linguistics says1, Historical linguistics studies the nature and causes of language change. The causes of language change find their foundation in the physiological and cognitive makeup of human beings. Sound changes usually involve articulatory simplification as in the case of the most common type, assimilation [11]. Analogy and reanalysis are particularly important factors in morphological change. Language contact resulting in borrowing is another important source of language change. All parts of the grammar, from Phonology to semantics, are subject to change over time. Any slight change over time in either sound or form will spread word by word by means of lexical diffusion [12]. Sociological factors are used to determine if the majority of a linguistics community adopts the language change. Using sets of cognates, comparative reconstruction lets us reconstruct the properties of the parent or proto-language on the basis of systematic phonetic correspondences.

    Studies in historical linguistics help provide valuable views into relationships among languages and give light on prehistoric developments. Historical studies of language have great importance to our understanding of human linguistic ability. It has been said that language change provides one of the most direct windows into the workings of the human mind. The study of language change adds to our understanding of how social, cultural, and psychological factors work together to shape language. The combination of studies on language change, language acquisition, and language universals remains one of the most important challenges facing linguists today. ‘requirement 2a anthropological key term or concept’

    An ethnographic representation of Historical Linguistics is the evolution of the English language itself. The English language is Germanic and has its early origins in the tribes of North Western Europe, The Jutes from Jutland peninsular in Denmark, The Angles from Southern Denmark and the Saxons of North Germany before they invaded the Romano -Brythonic speaking Isle of Britannia in 449AD when it became known as Englisc. The tribes were so closely linked that up till the mid 11th century Norwegians, Danes, English and Icelanders could still make themselves understood to each other. English today greatly differs from English when it was originated. The language has transformed through the process of lexical diffusion and fits the cultural needs of today society.‘requirement 2b ethnographic example’ [41] [42]

    Semantics, Pragmatics, and Ethnopragmatics

    Semantics is the study of the meaning of linguistics expressions such as morphemes, words, phrases, clauses, and sentences. Often semantics is more narrowly defined as the meaning of expressions divorced from the context in which these utterances are produced, and from various characteristics of the sender or receiver of the message. The study of meaning derived from context and features of the communicators is called pragmatics. Pragmatics is the study of the effect of context on meaning. It is about the practical use of language. It includes the study of how people use language to establish their identities through cultural meaning, to express their emotions through effective meaning, to perform speech acts with performative sentences, and to carry on conversations with others. Ethnopragmatics is a different way of studying a language that focuses on the effect of one's cultural context and history to the meaning of words and language used.


    Symbolism is the occurrence of something that stands for or means something else. Symbols are devised to help remind people of their significant insights and their connections. They can signal the company and importance of given domains of experiences. There are two types of symbols: summarizing symbols and elaborating symbols.

    A summarizing symbol represents a semantic domain in its entirety and encourages us to consider the elements within those semantic domains. The American flag, for example, stands for a number of things including in U.S. culture including patriotism, democracy, hard work, free enterprise, progress, national security, apple pie, motherhood, and strength.

    An elaborating symbol is a way of working out complex undifferentiated ideas and feelings so that they make sense to the individual, they sort out experience and categorize the world. In her book Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions, Catherine Bell uses the example of a miniature garden representing how individuals can participate in the “totalization” of the cosmic order. According to Bell, “the miniature garden does not have pronounced communal dimension, even though it is a common public sight. It is not there to rally any group ethos. It is simply a highly aesthetic expression of the way in which the intimate and personal are linked to the cosmic and impersonal.


    Metaphors can be easily linked with symbolism. They are mainly known as attempts to answer the following question: What must the world be like for my experiences to be what they are? There are four types of metaphors:

    • Key metaphors are metaphors that serve as a foundation of a worldview. In searching for key metaphors one looks at areas of everyday experience that are most associated with order, regularity, and predictability.
    • Societal metaphors are worldview metaphors whose model for the world is the social order. A lot of the time human social relations provide great order, regularity, and predictability. Where this is true, the model for the world is the social order; or, put another way the universe and one's own society are understood to operate according to the same principles; a sense of order.
    • Organic metaphors are worldview metaphors that apply the image of the body to social structures and institutions. Organic metaphors are based on an understanding of living organisms. A number of nineteenth-century theorists of linguistic or cultural evolution used organic metaphors to analyze the life histories of languages or civilizations in terms of birth, youth, maturity, reproduction, old age, and death.
    • Technological metaphors are worldview metaphors that employ objects made by human beings as metaphorical predicates. This uses machines made by human beings as metaphorical predicates.

    Due to comparative research, it has been suggested that there are three important images of order and stability that have regularly provided key metaphors for worldviews. Societal and Organic metaphors are two of the three. The last is known as functionalism. This is a social scientific perspective in which a society is likened to a living organism in which different systems carry out specialized tasks; functionalists identify social subsystems into which a society can be divided, identify the tasks each is supposed to perform, and describe a healthy society as one in which all the subsystems are functioning harmoniously.


    Humor is a communicated art shared universally by all of the peoples of the world. It comes in many forms such as a simple pun to a more complicated metaphorical satire, working primarily to invoke laughter and amusement from a single conversation to a bigger audience. Humor, though universal, can be restrained by knowledge of a culture, as situational humor needs a reference in the cultural framework of a society to illicit the desired response. For example, a joke suggesting Hillary Clinton practices witchcraft would make little sense to cultures outside of the United States because other cultures would not understand this reference. This is an example of cultural relativism (the principle of regarding the beliefs, values, and practices of a culture from the viewpoint of that culture itself.). Likewise, certain humorous situations such as a man trying to jump over a stream, but falling in it instead, can be understood by a wider range of people as there is little specific cultural meaning attached to that specific situation. Humor has a tendency to change between audiences, as just as a cultural reference to an outsider would not be understood, humor between different demographics in a culture must be adjusted to allow correct interpretation of that audience. For example, teenagers often shift their humor when in the presence of parents. Adults also change or censor their humor when in the company of young children. Humor also serves several other auxiliary purposes, such as social and political commentaries meant to use humor as a vehicle to promote an agenda.[43]

    This page titled 4.7: Language Change is shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Wikibooks - Cultural Anthropology (Wikibooks) .

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