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  • Language, culture, and society: An introduction to linguistic anthropologyby Zdenek Salzmann, James Stanlaw, and Nobuko Adachi
  • Zuochen Zhang
Zdenek Salzmann, James Stanlaw and Nobuko Adachi. 2015. Language, culture, and society: An introduction to linguistic anthropology. 6thed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Pp. 525. US $52 (softcover).

This is the sixth edition of the book and it contains 15 chapters. Chapter 1, "Introducing linguistic anthropology", gives an introduction to linguistic anthropology, the scientific study of the universal phenomenon of human language. After explaining the necessity and importance of studying language, modern myths about languages (especially misconceptions regarding "primitive" languages), grammar, and vocabulary, it provides a brief history of anthropology, followed by a section on anthropology, linguistics, and linguistic anthropology. In this section, the authors justify why the expression linguistic anthropologyis preferable to anthropological linguistics, which is frequently used to refer to this subfield of anthropology.

Chapter 2, "Methods of linguistic anthropology", first addresses the difference between linguistics, "the analytical study of language, any language, to reveal its structure – the different kinds of language units – and the rules according to which these units are put together to produce stretches of speech" (p. 21), and linguistic anthropology, "the study of language in its biological and sociocultural context" (p. 21). Two tables are used to illustrate paradigms in modern linguistics and linguistic anthropology.

Chapter 3, "'Nuts and bolts' of linguistic anthropology I: Language is sound", and chapter 4, "'Nuts and bolts' of linguistic anthropology II: Structure of words and sentences", introduce basic knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of speech and how speech sounds are articulated. When introducing sentences and grammar, the authors use examples from different languages (e.g., English, Chinese, Latin, etc.) to illustrate that some languages have more inflectional forms [End Page 311]than others. The authors argue that the complexity of grammar "does not add to the prestige of a language" (p. 100).

In chapter 5, "Communicating nonverbally", the authors argue that, while spoken language is the most common and important means of communication among humans, messages can also be transmitted by nonverbal means. These may include voice qualifiers (e.g., volume, pitch, pace), voice characterizers (e.g., laughing, giggling, moaning, whining), and vocal segregates (e.g., uh-huhto indicate agreement and uh-uhfor disagreement). There are other nonverbal ways of communicating that do not involve human voice at all, for example, body gestures, facial expressions, spacing, touch, smell, whistling, smoke signals, drum "languages", and so on. Modes of communication in different cultures and different types of writing systems are also touched upon.

Chapter 6, "The development and evolution of language: Language birth, language growth, and language death", deals with the development and evolution of language, discussing the question "When does a communication system become language?" (p. 152). The latter part of the chapter pertains to the origins of language, and the life and death of languages, underscoring that language change does not equal language death. The authors emphasize that the relevant programs and activities related to language maintenance and reinforcement should be "further developed, organized, and administered by members of the societies concerned" (p. 176).

Chapter 7, "Acquiring language(s): Life with first languages, second languages, and more", covers language acquisition. It introduces different theories of language acquisition, such as behaviorist psychology theory, innatist theory, and sociocultural theory, which can help readers to become familiar with research on how languages are learned. It also discusses the relationship between cognition and language acquisition, the social aspects of multilingualism, code-switching, code-mixing, and diglossia in bilingual or multilingual communication.

Chapter 8, "Language through time", focuses on language change and demonstrates how the field of historical linguistics is related to anthropological research. It introduces different ways in which languages are classified, for instance, according to genetic relationships (e.g., language family) and typological characteristics (e.g., sound system, word order, etc.). The chapter also offers an explanation as to how and why sound changes occur, how protolanguages are reconstructed, how a protoculture is reconstructed, etc. The authors demonstrate that all languages change as long as they are being used.

Chapter 9, "Languages in variation and languages in contact", presents idiolects, dialects, styles, borrowed words/loanwords...


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