Ethnoscience and Cognitive Anthropology

Powerpoint on the subject

Mercedes & Arturo

1. Is “thinking like a native” an achievable goal? Would this way of seeing a culture truly create more accurate ethnographic descriptions?

2.  Is it valid to claim that data collection by ethnoscientists is “more scientific?”

3. Conklin’s research with the Hanunoo set out to prove that color vocabularies influence color classification and they way people define color, contrary to the implication of the Sapir Whorf hypothesis which implies that color vocabularies determine color perception. To what extent was he able to prove his theory?

4. “Color terms are a part of the vocabulary of particular languages and only the intracultural analysis of such lexical sets and their correlates can provide the key to their  understanding and range of applicability. The study of isolated and assumed translations in other languages can only lead to confusion.” What does Conklin mean by this?

5. Would the “psychic unity of mankind” be correctly hypothesized if cognitive anthropology refuses the belief of a unitary theory of culture?

6. Is studying language and its connection to thought processes useful in correctly understanding a culture? Can it be done without it?

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  • jumpinhare  On March 21, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    I don’t believe that anyone of us can “think like a native”, I think that researchers l can be aware of their bias’ and strive to remain open and non judgmental but I don’t think it can be done. On the other hand if you become so saturated with the culture that you are studying you will also slant your findings. We are human not machines.

  • jumpinhare  On March 21, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Language is an integral part of the culture. The words and structure represent the views and thoughts of the people in the society. I don’t believe the two can be separated.

  • Peter  On March 23, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    It is impossible to “think like a native”. Why? My reasoning is that if you effortlessly tried to become a native, you’ll still have bias in you. However, the only way to understand the concepts, reasoning and so fort is to…well, have a native become the Athropologist him/herself. This way, we can have full understanding of how one’s culture think. Forexample, if I was to go to India, and learn the ways of the people and finally becoming one of them. I learned their ways, in turn, when a ritual or events occurred, I turn around and tell them that its not the proper way to do it, and that I know better. Funny thing is that, I’ve learned the culture etc. for a decade or less and acting as if I knew better than the people who was raised in it. So, to be ‘native’ is somewhat a joke.

  • Simara Vongthongdy  On March 24, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    Language is an important part of a culture. It must be understood to fully understand a culture because word structures connect to their daily lives. For example, when a person learning to speak English hears a joke in English, it is difficult for them to understand the joke. The reason is that they don’t fully understand the culture, which in turn makes it difficult to find the joke entertaining.

    • Momo  On March 31, 2014 at 10:31 pm

      Yes, not only is language an important part of a culture, but it’s what helps make sense of things. If people want to think like a native they certainly must learn the language and how words are used in different contexts. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible or not achievable, but it sure would take a long time to acculturate oneself. We have the ability to interpret other cultures based on what we learn from them, but to think like one would be difficult and hard to do. I think of it this way, people’s brains are static or fixed. We all continue to learn as we grow older according to neuroscientists. If our brains allow us to do such things while learning another language and if we were living with another culture for a long period of time, wouldn’t we be able to?

  • Kaleb Greer  On March 25, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    Language is very crucial to know. Words do not have the same representation within different languages and culture. Even if directly translated words never fully convert to adhere to the cultural view of the word. Telling someone “No” in English is an acceptable way to decline a question. In Japan, saying a direct no can cause difficulties and be rude for in the Japanese language it is probably to decline in a way that is not so direct. Words can show characteristics of the culture and many words fall into certain social norms.

  • mirrferr  On May 1, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    I think language really shows a lot about a culture in depth, by the way their words were created. For instance, some words cannot be translated into English because they hold a culturally specific set of data to them based on the cultures own understanding of the hypothetical word, The word “love” is hard to translate in certain cultures because we use it interchangeably for anything like friend love, familial love and romantic love, whereas other cultures have different words to describe those aspects. It says a lot about the culture and how they view love. Without studying a language, one would be taking a lot of things out of context, like if someone used the word “love” without explaining it in their language, the person may believe they are referring to romantic love when in an otherwise inappropriate situation. It is important as an anthropologist to study a culture in its entirety as to not take any sort of thing out of context in the slightest bit.

  • PT  On May 15, 2014 at 11:19 am

    I agree with mirrferr, I do believe that language is something that shows a lot about a culture. It is interesting on how languages are created and developed. Some words cannot be translated to English, but it can also go the other way around. There is no Hmong word for the word “need”. Because Hmong don’t “need” anything! but on a seriously note, there is no word for it in Hmong as well as the word “no”. Trying to translate the word “no” in hmong just translate to a lot of “don’t have, don’t do, don’t want”. There is no word for just “no”.

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