Barry J. Conn
This article illustrates the requirement of plants and their association with people. Since plants are a very important part of the material and cultural heritage of all communities, those who are interested in studying the culture of a people require an understanding of the plants associated with them. To understand plants and their association with the people, it is important to know the identity of the plant species used by them. Knowing the vernacular name of a plant used by a community assists with communication within that community but fails to provide information to a broader group. Furthermore, the information on how this plant is used by other communities remains inaccessible to most researchers. Therefore, it is important to link local plants to their scientific names so that all the information about these plants is available to everyone. However, the identification of plants is often quite difficult and requires careful examination of the features of the plant and comparison with other previously identified species. Therefore, carefully prepared botanical collections are always required to identify plants with certainty. The study provides a brief introduction to the techniques used for collecting botanical specimens that will enable fieldworkers to provide specimens of plants that are adequate for identification and valuable for scientific study.
Humans have a long history of watching the sky and incorporating the sky into their culture in the form of art and stories. This article tries to explore the importance of cultural astronomy for linguists. They developed uses for the sky such as for timekeeping and night navigation. As with other parts of their natural environment, humans continued to watch and learn about the sky to better their lives throughout their history, resulting in an aspect of environmental adaptation that is often overlooked by scholars today. This article begins with definitions presented as a first step towards thinking about the many ways that people relate to the sky. This crash course in cultural astronomy should enable the reader to collect relevant information with some rigor and confidence. The interdisciplinary field of cultural astronomy is currently dominated by astronomers, and the goal here is to increase linguists' awareness of astronomy as a topic in field research, leading to them attending cultural astronomy meetings and publishing in cultural astronomy journals. Cultural astronomy is broadly defined as the study of the relationship between humans and the sky. There are a couple of working definitions that provide details of this relationship such as that of Campion ‘the use of astronomical knowledge, beliefs or theories to inspire, inform or influence social forms and ideologies, or any aspect of human behaviour’.
This article resorts to ethnobiology for documenting biological knowledge represented in languages. Ethnobiology methods are undergoing a certain degree of standardization following Martin's very influential ethnobotany methods book outlining many of the basic field techniques. Among its many useful chapters is one on linguistic methods. The descriptions provided in this article are intended to build on Martin's procedures, but add recent trends that reflect recent important changes in ethnobiological research. It begins with a discussion of some of the sorts of research ethnobiologists are doing around the globe. The primary purposes of this study are to provide encouragement to field linguists considering working with biological materials, and to promote collaboration among scholars, particularly linguists and ethnobiologists. Ethnobiology is the scientific study of dynamic relationships among peoples, biota, and environments. This discipline was developed to understand and explain cultural differences and similarities in the knowledge and use of biota and environments. The study shows that how linguistics can benefit not only from recent developments in ethnobiological techniques, but also from the advances in scientific theory being generated in the above research. An area of past and future research cooperation between linguists and ethnobiologists is a focus on cognitive research. Further, the article outlines a general understanding of this area by ethnobiologists, and this is presented here as a starting point for further discussion and research. Finally, the study focuses on basic methodological aspects of ethnobiological research, particularly as they relate to linguistic researchers.
This article focuses on the subject of fieldwork research addressing mathematical concepts developed in elaborated traditional knowledge. Its goal is to give advice to fieldworkers from this particular point of view, and to draw their attention to methodological issues with respect to the completeness of data collection during fieldwork and the veracity of the interpretations and analyses subsequent researchers are able to undertake without visiting the field. The same holds for more recent books on a similar subject. One must distinguish a mathematical concept and its application. From an ethnomathematical point of view it is useful to make a few observations on the best way to record annotated new media while visiting the field, whether video or computer experiment, in order to make possible afterwards the exploration of their mathematical content. The study devoted to the question of completeness of data collection during fieldwork, a crucial point in ethnomathematics for checking the consistency of mathematical knowledge embedded in the data. The study tackles the question of vernacular lexicons used for numbers and measurement, and it will be seen that it only partly meet the general goals of an ethnomathematical approach. Furthermore, the article discusses the use of measurement terms. Finally, it addresses the question of mathematical operations on approximate quantities carried out in a society where there are no number words above five.
Andrew G. Turk, David M. Mark, Carolyn O'Meara, and David Stea
This article describes the influence of geography in documenting terms for landscape features. Documentation of a language includes investigation of the semantics of terms in the language. The landscape constitutes an important domain of human experience, which is sometimes inadequately covered in language documentation activities. By landscape the article means features such as mountains, rivers, valleys, and forests. Voegelin and Voegelin recognized topography as a fundamental domain for language documentation. It also includes large water and vegetation features in our idea of the landscape domain. Geographic objects tend to have fuzzy or graded boundaries, and there seems to be considerable variability in what gets delimited and how the objects are categorized and named. Another complication is that geographic objects are almost always very large and in fixed locations, hence it is difficult to elicit terms by showing real examples directly. These characteristics of the landscape domain provide the researcher with a number of methodological challenges regarding the elicitation of landscape terms. Since the landscape domain is a key aspect of place, and vice versa, it is an important component of culture and language for all people, especially for those indigenous peoples who have an unbroken intimate association with a particular area of ‘country’ that has lasted hundreds, perhaps thousands, of generations. However, the nature of landscape means that there is great potential for different types of classification systems to arise within different languages, even in very similar environments. Hence it is not possible to provide a generic template for investigation of landscape terms.
Fieldwork is the collection of primary data outside of the controlled environments of the laboratory or library, and is the province of many scientists: biologists, geologists, anthropologists, as well as linguists. Traditional linguistic fieldwork has relied heavily on elicitation and observation, with a view to producing a grammar, dictionary, and texts. This is often accompanied by mining texts, i.e., narratives by speakers, for naturalistic examples. This sort of data can fruitfully elucidate lexical and constructional resources within a language, their formal properties, the kinds of expressions that occur, and so on. The article sets out a guide to the various stages of constructing a non-linguistic stimulus set in order to investigate semantic categories within a language. This should furnish a novice to this field with some of the key concepts and issues so that they can construct their own study. The focus in this article is how to use non-linguistic stimuli for a more thorough investigation of local semantic categories. Semantics is at the heart of linguistic description. The field linguist attempts to identify the sound units that convey distinctions in meaning — the lexical and grammatical classes that can be grouped together and distinguished for function, and so on. The bulk of this article sets out a guide to the various stages of constructing a non-linguistic stimulus set in order to investigate semantic categories within a language. This should furnish a novice to this field with some of the key concepts and issues so that they can construct their own study.
Nancy J. Pollock
Food is a great conversation opener, whether at parties or in an academic forum, and a great topic for gathering data. The language of food is a topic on which most people have a view, whether subjective or objective, implicit or explicit, from the inside or outside. The field of food study exists down the street or in some distant community. An interested fieldworker can gather information from friends, neighbours, in schools, supermarkets, and restaurants, or just about anywhere, asking ‘What is your favourite food?’ and so on. This chapter explores the ‘languages of food’ as they communicate variations of messages about the meanings of food. The local or internal messages, exemplified in this article in Marshallese are contrasted with three external messages: ‘civilized eating’ as the concern of early outsiders such as missionary wives; economists' approaches largely concerned with production of food; and nutrition education messages about ‘good’ food. These alternative approaches reflect Douglas's idea that ‘every spoken sentence rests on unspoken knowledge for some of its meaning’. In order to focus on significant differences in approaches to food and eating that anthropologists have brought to the fore, the concept of gastronomy is elaborated upon stating that gastronomic protocols that govern the use of chopsticks or serving food on a palm leaf, or serving food in the correct hierarchical sequence, are all notable features that send messages about the wider society.
This article provides an overview on a few central concepts and processes that are required in the investigation of human kinship. The most classic and better-defined examples for the kinds of groups or categories that constitute a social organization are clans and lineages. A society, tribe, or ethnic group may be divided into a number of groups that are called ‘clans’ if their apical ancestor is mythical or ‘lineages’ if genealogical memory traces ancestry backs to one single human being. The membership of these clans or lineages is determined by explicit rules that belong to the realm of kinship. The clan and lineages are widespread and important types of social groupings but they are only two among the many other types of categories that belong to the domain of social organization. Some constitute actual and visible corporations of people and families, while others are limited to the domain of discourse and representation but are nevertheless significant in structuring social space and practice. ‘Patrimoieties’ or ‘matrimoieties’ are other quite common category systems. They divide society into two global entities that stand to each other in a relationship of distinction and exchange. In a patrimoiety system, belonging to one or the other moiety is defined through ‘patrifiliation’, while in a matrimoiety membership is defined through the female line. A moiety may encapsulate clans, which may encapsulate lineages.