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Chapter 5: Language and Culture

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Reading Assignment: Chapter 5: Language and Culture

In this assignment you will learn the basic principles of how the human brain functions in ways that make possible symbolic communication. You will learn to distinguish between symbols and signs and between verbal and nonverbal communication. You will learn to distinguish human communication from communication in other animals. You also will learn about the building blocks of language and the effects that language has on human thinking and culture.

Finally, you will learn about the processes of language change that have resulted in the contemporary diversity of human languages.

Assignment Overview

MCQ   ::  Matching   ::  True/False  ::   Short Essay

MCQ - Chapter 5: Language and Culture

1. Communication is synonymous with:

a. language.
b. using one set of objects and events to represent other objects or events.
c. the use of signs.
d. the use of symbols.

2. How do signs differ from symbols?

a. Signs are kinds of symbols.
b. Symbols are kinds of signs.
c. Signs and symbols have nothing in common.
d. Only symbols have meanings only because their users agree they do.

3. When Helen Keller began to use symbolic communication, her rate of learning:

a. increased dramatically.
b. decreased slightly.
c. remained about the same.
d. declined initially and then returned to its original level.

4. Which of the following is true of proxemics?

a. It is the study of unconscious nonverbal gestures.
b. Its meanings are the same in all cultures.
c. It is the study of the use of distances to communicate meaning.
d. It does not express feelings.

5. Which of the following is true of the use of personal distance in the United States?

a. Americans use a greater distance to show friendship than people in many other societies use.
b. It indicates that people tend to e close and personable in their relationships.
c. It is the same in the U.S. as in most parts of the world.
d. It has nothing to do with showing friendliness.

6. What does it mean when we say that language is an open system?

a. The rules governing the use of language can never be completely specified.
b. With a finite set of symbols and rules for combining them, an uncountable number of ideas can be communicated.
c. Language has no real structure--structure implied by written grammars is artificial.
d. People are free to change the rules of language.

7. What best characterizes language?

a. It relies on the acting out of meanings.
b. It expresses only feelings.
c. It cannot provide information abut things that are invisible or that do not exist.
d. It is a meta-communication system.

8. Speech differs from language in that:

a. It includes the sequence of sounds made by nonhuman primates.
b. It refers only to more formal uses of language.
c. It is the interpretation of sounds produced.
d. It consists of the symbolic sequences of sounds that people produce.

9. The number of phonemes in human languages is typically how many?

a. 10-20
b. 20-45
c. 30-60
d. 45-55

10. The number of human languages in the world today is approximately:

a. 600
b. 1,500
c. 3,000
d. 6,000

Matching Exercise - Chapter 5: Language and Culture

1. anthropological linguistics
2. language
3. symbols
4. proxemics
5. kinesics
6. cerebral cortex
7. American Sign Language (ASL)
8. creoles
9. International Phonetic Alphabet
10. phonemic alphabet

11. linguistic relativity
12. dialects
13. basic vocabulary
14. language families
15. Proto-Indo-European
16. glottochronology
17. sociolinguistics
18. prestige dialects
19. language nationalism



the study of how language is used and how the use of language conveys information about the social settings in which it is used



the idea that language influences thought processes



groups of related languages each of which evolved from a single, ancestral language that was spoken about five or six thousand years ago



a system of fewer than one hundred written symbols that can be used for writing any of the world’s more than 3,000 spoken languages



an alphabet made by using only one symbol for each phoneme of a language



new languages that are created by groups of people who did not speak the same language when they first came together



the words which children normally learn in their earliest years at home and use frequently in normal speaking



a method in the 1950s to estimate the minimum number of years since the divergence of any two related languages



prejudices concerning the elevation of one language or another to special legal status as a “national language” that is required for use in various settings



objects or events that have no inherent significance and whose meanings exist only because their users have agreed that they will represent certain other objects or events



the gestural language of the deaf in North America



the largest and most recently evolved part of the brain, which monitors the senses, controls mental activities, and initiates voluntary activities




dialects with a reputation of being inherently better than others



a system of communication that uses both signs and symbols to communicate



the study of language and the roles it plays in human social life



the study of the body movements that complement speech as a means of communication



the study of people's use of the space around them



ancestral language from which most of the languages from Europe through India evolved



mutually intelligible variants of a language shared by different social groups

True/False - Chapter 5: Language and Culture






1. A sign is a kind of symbol.



2. Homo sapiens is the only species of animals that communicates.



3. Nonverbal communication is composed entirely of signs.



4. Language is a synonym for speech.



5. Most commonly, the centers that control language are found in the left cerebral cortex.



6. The three structural components of language are phonology, morphology, and grammar.



7. The languages of all the world can be written with an alphabet of fewer than 100 symbols.



8. Dialects of the same language can gradually become so different that their speakers can no longer understand each other.



9. A large majority of English words today derive from an earlier Germanic base.



10. The basic vocabularies of different languages change at greatly different rates.

Short Essay Questions - Chapter 5: Language and Culture

1. In what sense is the very existence of culture based on the human ability to create and use symbols?

2. How is speech different from language?

3. What evidence is there that humans may have an innate tendency to acquire a language?

4. List and describe the functions of each of the four specialized language centers of the brain.

5. What may pidgins and creoles reveal about the origin of language?

6. What is the difference between a phone and a phoneme?

7. What is the difference between a phonetic and a phonemic description of speech?

8. How do dialects develop in a language?

9. What is a language family.

10. Why are glottochronological relationships among languages with a common ancestor more than about 10,000 years ago so difficult to prove?

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, January 04). Chapter 5: Language and Culture. Retrieved January 07, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License