Anthro 33: Culture and Communication

  Study Questions for Key Terms in Language and Culture
Duranti, Alessandro, ed. Blackwell 2001.
[updated March 2, 2002]

For each of the terms assigned, you are responsible for:

  • a brief definition
  • an example
  • a way to connect the term to the themes of the course

How to find the definition

Read through the text of an entry or key word until you get to what looks like a definition. Sometimes you don't have to look too far because the definition is in the first paragraph. For example, "Meter" (by Giorgio Banti) starts with the definition:

"The formal features that typically mark poetic texts against ordinary discourse are called meter. This word may refer to recurring patterns of stress and other prosodic features or, in a wider sense, include also alliteration, rhyme, etc." (p. 150)

Other times the definition is harder to find because it is embedded in the text. For ex. in "Genre" (by Richard Bauman), you have to get to the second sentence of the second paragraph, where he writes:

"More specifically, a genre is a speech style oriented to the production and reception of a particular kind of text. [...] The invocation of a generic (i.e. genre-specific) framing device such as "Once upon a time" carries with it a set of expectations concerning the further unfolding of the discourse, indexing other texts intitiated by this opening formula." (p. 79)

From this you should be able to take off and think of other genres and other framing devices (e.g. "ok, let's see if we can get started ...").

Examples are crucial

Examples are very important for you to verify your own understanding of a phenomenon and also for displaying your understanding to others (e.g. in a discussion or in our case in a test). Use the examples found in each entry but also make up your own examples and share them with your classmates to check whether they understand them in the same way you do.

Make the connection between each key term and other readings for the course or concepts introduced in lecture

The idea is that every little piece should connect to a bigger whole. The biggest whole of all is the notion of communication as an essential element of what we call culture. Thus, being a member of a given community that shares certain cultural activities and a certain cultural understanding of those activities means to have access to key terms. There are key terms for each profession, including anthropology and linguistics. The idea of Key Terms is to teach you not to be intimidated by words but learn to master them, make them your own. At first, they are like the words of a foreign language, but with time they will become familiar and you will find yourself using them to explain a concept to someone or to write about a phenomenon you are analyzing for another class. When that happens, you'll know that learning did take place. You were able to transfer something from one domain to another and you went beyond memorization, toward elaboration. The road to creativity is open for you then.