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Watch your language. Remember whom you are speaking to. To the ladies. Speak Italian to the gentleman French to the birds. Intonation to the dogs German and Spanish should be spoken only to God. Load. A word in your ear. A study in language a program in the series ways of mankind. Presented under the supervision of Walter Goldschmidt of the University of California Los Angeles by the National Association of educational broadcasters. A series designed to show how human beings live together in different times and places. A study in language. A word in your ear.
All people have language with which to express their feelings but language is not the same as expressing your feelings. Some people think animals have language because they can often express their feelings as well in the Arctic wilderness we hear the wolf. There's all the difference in the world between that Wolf and this. A four legged Wolf Powell expresses its feelings there and then and so does the wolf whistle. But the whistling can back up his expression was language taken in a show on Saturday night. And that is a communication about another time and another place. It is true language not just expression a feeling. And all human beings have language from the Eskimo by the arctic sea warming his kayak with his to the first to the Patagonian by the end docked at sea shivering in his canoe with a fire in it because he wears almost no clothes the toll from one extreme to the other. All people who have language.
What's more all these languages are adequate. They all do the job communication but we often think that whenever we speak ourselves is the proper thing what the other fellow speaks is scarcely more than a string of grunt. I see by the paper there are over fifteen hundred different languages spoken in the world today. And it says there are more families of languages among the American Indians than in the whole of the world and everyone knows Indians don't talk property they just grant you aren't listening are you. Are you listening. I say Indians don't talk properly they just grunt grunt. Well what do you think languages language and grunt should grunts. One man's speech is another man's jargon but all people have
language and these languages are highly diverse in form but always we begin by speaking as we think and end by thinking as we speak our language is an expression of our culture shaped by the way we are brought up. And on the other hand the way we are brought up is shaped by our language. For us we know from our own language English language reflects place time age sex and circumstance and this is true of other languages. Language reflects place as everybody knows very often the most foreign thing about a foreign country is the foreign language and English speakers can't visit one another's country without meeting the great transatlantic rift. Look at Jack when you get off the street get off the pavement get on a sidewalk go to Black's time right there to the drug store on the corner take the elevator down to the garage you can't miss it right. You mean when I get off the train get off the road get on the pavement turning
to the right there's a chemist shop on the corner take the lift as a carriage. Well yeah I mean a language that is a function of place and language is a function of time. Listen to the Lord's prayer as it sounded nearly 600 years ago. Oh her father talked in heaven as how they were to busy Nama the kingdom coming to visit would have done as in heaven and in Athens. Afterwards this day old a braid or other substance and forgive a torso deafness as we forgive a to out of doors and let us napped into time types you know but deliver us from evil then quite soon after the Norman Conquest English had a tang of French to it but let's jump back beyond ten sixty six and listen to English and it's hard to tonic infancy as Anglo-Saxon. The Lord's Prayer in the year one thousand eighty feed us on shelf and I'm sniffin Mahal get to the cold within a week.
You water this in Willow new Austin's. We're going to get a look and he laughs today. And Fergie first I want to give this west where we forgive this sort of guilt at Nagle leads to some cost in the lease of stuff a fairly softly language there and it's a function of time and even modern English still keeps the record of that Norman Conquest the Saxons became the servants and looked after the beasts while they were alive and their names are still the Saxon ones. Ox cow sheep swine compare the German cull Shas shrine. But when they were killed their meat was served up to the Norman master and on the table. Those animals names are still the Norman ones. Beef veal mutton pork compare the French. This vote for
language reflects culture. Language is a function of age. We don't expect a child to talk like a college professor. Simple how money can Nephi be represented graphically by a sign you know what do we expect a college professor to talk like a child. What's the matter said the doctor was the medicine the nurse with the medicine the lady with the alligator purse. The language is also a function of sex among the cutter young Indians of Brazil. The women and the men speak different languages for example the word for girl is yet a coma in the women's language but yet Douma in the names and in English. Here's a travel to chewing his cigar in the smoking room of the Santa Fe chief. But he's speaking the women's language. I don't want to be catty but my dad was simply too terrible I really thought I should have
died. I just wanted to sink right through the floor. My gracious me I thought of Burton Charlie and worrying that same conning Homburg hat. Unfortunately in our society the men's language is taboo to women. That is to say they are supposed not to know it so I'm afraid we don't dare give you an example of a lady speaking the men's language saying as president. Language is a function of occasion. There is a time for one kind of speech and a time for another. So James Fraser tells us that inside him there is a special language to be used when discussing the Siamese King. When he eats or drinks or walks especially would indicate that these acts are being performed by the soften and such words cannot possibly be applied to the act of any other person whatever. We do not perhaps carry things quite as far as that but nonetheless a fellow may be greeted
when he comes into the office by Charlie was a kid when he got to save yourself but a few minutes later when the board meeting convenes here is nice and no child that we trust you have overcome the hardships of your journey. Would you be so good as to present your report regarding market conditions in the West. The Chinese of course are famous for their elaborate forms of greeting but other languages are far more complicated. For example the new Indians of Vancouver Island not only distinguished by the choice of woods the sex of the person speaking the sex of the person spoken to and whether the speaker is more or less important than the person spoken to but also on top of this have a special way of talking to a man who is left handed and a special way of talking to a man who is circumcised English cannot go this far. But even so language must be suitable to be OK. Queen Victoria certainly knew this when she expressed her dislike of Gladstone in the words of Mr. Gladstone always addressed is me is if I want a public meeting and imagine a politician proposing in the language he uses on the platform I'm accustomed as I am to a
private proportion of our new you before you to day on Willie marrow doctor George Tiller. The burdens of matrimony offered but none the less prepared to alter your opinion and dedicate myself. I'm selfish if I receive. I no mistake about. It. Language therefore by reflecting place time age sex and circumstance is a function of society. Language reflects culture. The easiest way to see this is through book can't be Larry the Eskimos have no word for coconut and the Samoans have no word for snow and neither do the Eskimos. I beg your pardon. We Eskimos have no word for snow. Ask me the word for snow and I ask you what kind of snow snow is to us Eskimo is too important to be dismissed with one word. We have many words telling us for instance when it fail
and describing its exact condition to us. The knowledge is vital in our lives may depend on it. Since language reflects society whatever is important in society has many words in the language. The Arabs have a thousand words for sword and the Siberian that live on the shores of the Arctic Ocean have 30 or so words describing the skins of the cannibal ice for example this one. This word means that the under leg of the caribou skin is great so that it is light gray and the growing pains but that the prevailing body color is brown. And there are innumerable similar examples. They were like Indians of California. Place a high value on woodpecker scalps and Obsidian blades. And besides the ordinary set of numerals one two three and so forth they have two extra sets one for countering what they could scalps and another one for counting obsidian blades. English is full of relics of vocabulary that remind us that other days thought other things important. There was a time when every
speaking men lived very much by hunting. They had special words for congregations of animals a flock of sheep and a herd of cattle. But a pride of lions a skulk of foxes and a gaggle of geese. They also had special words for the carving of each of the animals and birds of the chase. When they arrived on the table ready to eat. Nowadays if we saw a pile of game birds and one of them caught the cook might say hey Mac got up there with you when our days one game but it is much like another out of season. But to the Elizabethans game birds with the very meat of life and their carving required a special and ornate vocabulary you will set us on dismember that head an ungraceful L.A. that pheasant partridge display that quail on joint that fire that Woodcock lift that small and reel that boots as well that Curlew unlatch it.
Noble a handful but has been replaced by other rich treasures of vocabulary as a language. Like all other languages has changed to reflect our culture as we Eskimos found out when I was sent down to study your language and your languages like ours very often. Our Eskimo language like many other North American Indian languages is Polish synthetic How's that punishment it. Not Eskimo word. English word policy in one word means a whole phrase one word has in it the compressed wreckage of a phrase. Thus suppose we wish to say an Eskimo this when they were about to go out they would take the boot stretcher using it to thrash the dogs because they usually stay in the entrance passage. That is twenty eight words in English in Eskimo It is six words. Another Runic. When they were about to go out tell me what the boot stretcher thing was that they would take it and I thought along go using it to thrash with commit the dog's torso in a tail matter because they usually stay in the entrance passage but where does English contain words that are the compressed wreckage of
a phrase as you put it in English not exactly like Eskimo but nearly like the other day I saw a newspaper headline an rather deep lot UNESCO's Annorah the PCs laud us go back to my dictionary I go there I find the word lot nothing at the other words are missing then it is explained to me these other words are not normal English. They are instead the compressed wreckage of phrases and forwards on rugby PS laud UNESCO's means United Nations relief and rehabilitation agency displaced persons in all the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization 17 words compressed into four. Well that is about the average for Eskimo. Again language reflects culture as modern life sets up
more elaborate agencies and organizations. Modern Language adeptness itself and forms words and builds partly synthetic forms almost like the Eskimo. Other languages besides English have been doing this German for example. That book stands for good high Mish dots but it's a secret state police flack is the compressed record of its looked so it's very kind not an anti aircraft cannon as we think so we speak as we speak. So we think as we are taught reading writing and arithmetic as we are taught our manners and the way things are done in the world we live in. So we are taught our language and as we learn our language from our mother's lips we also learn the customs and attitudes of our society. Her language reflects these customs and attitude that his language reflects culture. Over here for instance. There's a. Child misbehaves and here comes this mother is going to tell him to behave properly. But let me just carefully what words he uses John because what good
the English speaking child misbehaves is bad it is naughty it is wicked. So was the Italian speaking Thai to the Greek speaking one. But listen to what the French mother says to her child SLAs. This was sad. Be wise. The French speaking child that misbehaves is not bad. It is foolish. It is important it is judicious in the Scandinavian countries things are different again. The Swedish mother says Yong and the Norwegian mother says yes. Place names both mean the same thing. Be friendly become kind so the misbehaving Scandinavian child is unfriendly unkind uncooperative things are very different in Germany Hans. So I asked him to be in line for the misbehaving German child is not conforming. It is out of step out of line. A mother of a Hopi Indians of the Southwest United States has the same idea only in a more gentle spirit. When she tells her child no no no that is not the who the Hopi is the right thing. The proper way to do things the way the affairs of a
tribe and indeed of the universe are managed. They hope the child that misbehaves is not bad nor imprudent unfriendly nor quite out of line. He is not on the Hopi way. He is not in step with the Hopi view of destiny and of life. So even in the words A mother says to her misbehaving child we can detect again how language reflects culture. Johnny be good be wise young vos now be friendly to us. Get back in step. You know that is not the who the real. East of New Guinea in the Southern Pacific live a cobra and islands. The people who live there are great Maton is lively and active but they take no interest in things
changing. If I think changes then it becomes something else and they call it something else. Just as we do not introduce an old gentleman with a long white beard as the bouncing baby boy Jim Jones very pleased to make you stay here isn't any more a bouncing baby boy than I am but he isn't now and in fact we don't think of him as a kind of modified infant but is something else an old gentleman a different kind of animal. Now they truthfully and island think like this all the time. They raise a yam crop at a first rate yeah miscalled but an overripe Yam is not overripe type 2. It's different it's Elena and you and I with underground shoots you don't want to anymore. But see Lisa though with new tubas on the underground ships it isn't of any kind but rather among the tribe and Islanders In short the name of a thing alone is all you need say about a tile different with us. Consider the case of a fellow being shown a new baby.
Red Cross driving school in the front there isn't one. If you like perhaps you have to say some. How intelligent looking but it looks like a moron. How beautiful. Just look at the ideas of the beast. How small and tiny for that they'll kill you he's 3 30 seconds of an ounce overweight he's a giant. How exactly like his father that now punch you right in the nose there's nothing you can say all you can do is shopping around from one foot to the other look as foolish as the baby. But in the Cobra and islands the whole thing is simple show what propre and I don't at the same messy bellowing brat and he says ha baby how baby. Which nobody can deny. And everyone's happy. Little. Yet our language is like the trouble and in some ways just as our society is like theirs in some ways they place a high value on yams and have an elaborate yam vocabulary.
We place a high value on other things and have an even more complicated and exact vocabulary to describe the special objects of our interest. Just look here. Standing on a downtown street corner we have a trouble an islander. He's come to study our society. He's talking to a guy. Yes what is the name of that thing on wheels going by now the green one. That's a plum ice cream. There's another green one also a Plymouth. No it's green but it ain't a Plymouth. That's a Studebaker city study has kind of a turd in the middle. Then here is a great big Studebaker. No the big one with the kind of target that's a Cadillac. Here's another big one that is a Cadillac No no. Look at the back. It's a Lincoln and so it goes on of course that try Brianna over there for a week and then we'll break it to him that there's a difference between the 51 model and the 52 week. You'll be there for a year. But when he does go home he'll talk to his friends just as our travelers come home and talk to us they are very peculiar people attaching fantastic importance to the little differences between their
automobiles so that a certain kind of small automobile is called Plymouth. But with a target in the middle it is not a pure math with a target but it's Studebaker quite a different way and a big thing like a sort of Studebaker with other differences here and there is not a big Studebaker but a different one again a Cadillac and so it goes on. They don't have any peculiar people outro Grande. But now we end with the most striking and interesting example of language reflecting culture the wonderful and very language of the Navajo Indians. Oh. The Navajo Indians live in the great red desert of the Southwest United States not very far from the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Their nomadic life is filled with uncertainties and they seek security and balance in ritual and ceremony by which they find their place in the natural harmony of the universe and health
and a sense of belonging. Now life on this vast On considering mountain desert is very much influenced by forces the Navajo do not command. The long drought sudden torrential rain the sweep of epidemic disease and the Navajo view of the universe seems to be connected with what they have learned from the country that is their home. We try to control nature. We seek to understand it and our place within it. To us the world is made up of beings and things that act on other beings and things to us Navajo. The world is one of actions and events associated with things among which our own acts are only a few among many. Our outlook is centered on things. Our language is centered on Mons which of the names of things the first words our children learn might well be the names of things and boat but they are Navajo. Outlook is focused on actions and events. Our language on verbs the first words our children learn may well be those expressive actions standing.
See why Navajo words like those of X or Eskimo are often partly synthetic. The compressed wreckage of phrases take a single word not and it means I am causing a round object to turn over Navajo has many words for what we speak of as moving a word for a round object moving a fabric moving and many more and pronouns and adverbs are only parts of the verb for the verb is central in Navajo speech. Just as actions are central in Navajo thinking we have a few verbs that are perhaps similar. The word shrug must carry with it the idea of shoulder. You can shrug your stomach in English we say. John is dying just as he said John is walking or John is working for we speak even of death as though it were an act performed. But the Navajo Code translated says something like dying is taking place with John. We are active toward nature. We think of our world is full of objects doing things to other objects.
Our language is centered on nouns the names of things we Navajo see ourselves as part of nature in harmony with it. Our world is one of actions to which we and other things are linked. Our language centers on the verb expressive of acting. Finally here is an editorial in a Navajo newspaper that the writer is angry. He wants to know why a school is not built at yet though other places have schools but he expresses his indignation in the Navajo way crash I think when he's been 100 caught. Yeah you know what I thought about her. They lead the way in the school in vain we are hoping courted many children here have no school to attend to one who comes here to see the three hundred or more children who are in this state who
have no school. Therefore let the school become a reality here at longer go this matter was brought up. Why is this so please. Did you notice how this Navajo was expressing indignation. The things he is angry about are described as occurrences something that just naturally happens. You and I wouldn't take this point of view. We look for the person I think responsible someone to blame. This difference is in our language just as it is and thinking. In English we emphasize nouns which are the names of things. The Navajo emphasizes verbs which indicate action and the noun is just incorporated in the verb itself. These cultural differences which are part and parcel of language are the real stumbling blocks to our
translation. As a matter of fact we lost some of the two Navajo flavor and translating the speech as you might well believe. Language is peculiarly human. No Animal Society has a language. I was startled spoke of man as a political animal. But the fact is that other animals don't have social systems and the distinction is far from clear. But animals though they can and do communicate like our ability to recreate experience in words they can't accumulate knowledge and transmitted from one generation to another and build there by the large and complex systems of behaving we call cultures. In fact it is fair to say that without this ability without this unique gift cultures would be impossible and therefore it is crucial one demands unique position in the world. The languages may differ widely from each other in sounds and vocabulary and grammar and
all are adequate as systems of communication within a societies in which they are found. The language of each society however sets for its speakers certain modes of observation and interpretation. And quite literally creates for them their own world of social reality. As a linguist an anthropologist Edward Sapir put it the world in which different societies live are distinct worlds not merely the same world. Different labels attached. Perhaps this fact can best be shown by pointing out that modern physicists like Einstein have had to develop a language not just new words in order to express what they now believe to be the true nature of of matter and of the universe. Different languages imply different worlds. When we think how easy it is to misunderstand one another within our own culture using the same language the problem of communicating from one world to another one culture or world to another is
seen in its true proportions. So it is important to remember that language is a part of culture and a very influential one and that in our own modern world of international affairs we need always to remember that other peoples in other times actually see things differently. Dr. Walter Goldschmidt of the department of anthropology and sociology of the University of California Los Angeles has concluded a word in your ear. A study in language a program in the series ways of mankind designed to show dramatically how human beings live together in different times and places. The script was written by Lester Sinclair and produced in the studios of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Toronto by Andrew Allen. Original music by Lucho Augustine E.. They consultant for this broadcast was Dr. Harry Hoyer a Professor of Anthropology University of
Ways of mankind
Word in your ear
Producing Organization
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program discusses the vast variety of extant languages, as well as the variables that exist within each language.
Series Description
This series is an exploration into the origin and development of cultures, customs and folkways in various parts of the world.
Broadcast Date
Languages, Modern--Inflection
Media type
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Advisor: Hoyer, Harry
Composer: Agostini, Lucio, 1913-
Funder: Fund for Adult Education (U.S.)
Host: Thompson, Ben
Producer: Allan, Andrew, 1907-1974
Producing Organization: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 52-39-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:46
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Chicago: “Ways of mankind; Word in your ear,” 1963-12-16, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 28, 2022,
MLA: “Ways of mankind; Word in your ear.” 1963-12-16. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 28, 2022. <>.
APA: Ways of mankind; Word in your ear. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from