October 30, 2005
I suggest everyone take a few minutes to check out www.bikertony.com, the website of a man who treks around various parts of the world on his bicycle. Besides being a simply beautifully-designed website, it includes some of best photos of Machu Picchu I've seen on the web (they make great computer backgrounds) and detailed travel logs and even stats he recorded while riding. The site says he's riding through Africa "sometime in early 2005" but he hasn't updated in a while.
Now to find a way to combine what Tony is doing with a degree in archaeology...
Posted by Will at 11:09 PM
Language and Thought
The question of whether or not language determines how humans think does not yield a simple, concise answer that accounts for all possible variations within reality. Few questions raised in the social sciences do. For this reason, the language-cognition debate in anthropology has been ongoing since its establishment as a discipline and continues to explore aspects of language, thought, and action. The two hypothetical extremes of each respective side of the debate are equally implausible: language has nothing to do with how humans view and act within the world or humans are subject to the rules of language and as a result their experiences and perceptions are inseparable from the dictates of this structure. The former does not take into account the validity of linguistic relativity while the latter seems to deny human ingenuity and creativity. This short paper will present brief overviews of representative readings relevant to the debate. It will be shown that while neither of the extremes mentioned above serve as an accurate synthesis of current linguistic evidence, arguing that language does indeed influence how we think will lead to the most reasonable conclusion.
Taking Sides (2005) presents the debate as if it were indeed a strict “yes/no” issue. By providing brief representative writings from each side, the authors allow the reader to compare and contrast at a broad level. However, after reading each of the sides and considering what is presented, one comes away with the notion that while we are not trapped within the walls of linguistic determinism there is certainly a degree of relativity between different human languages and the way their speakers think. Pinker admits there is a relationship between language and thought but that the former does not determine the latter in the way that Whorf hypothesized. Gumperz and Levinson are more generous in the various ways language structure influences thoughts.
If language does not determine how we think, how are we to describe what is happening within the heads of all humans when they process information and manifest these thoughts verbally? Pinker proposes a universal mental language, mentalese (Endicott and Welsch 2005). Teng (1999) contends that Fodor’s version, a Language of Thought hypothesis, is not supported by the systematicity of language and that “cognitive activity can occur without a language of thought.” If cognitive activity can indeed occur as Teng proposes then one is able to process sensory information without “thinking in English,” for example. I tentatively agree with this notion to the extent that it does not completely separate spoken language and all aspects of thought processes.
Hill and Manheim (1992) describe a shift in the linguistic paradigm to include the “fragmented and contingent nature of human worlds,” whereas previous linguistic research took for granted the “wholeness and persistence” of these worlds. Another central issue of the authors’ thesis is that the linguistic relativity espoused by Boas, Sapir, and Whorf is to be taken as more of an epistemological stance rather than a hypothesis in the traditional sense. As a result linguists are rethinking the ways in which they explore the connections between certain linguistic phenomena and psychobiology.
The authors go on to suggest that the traditionally-accepted version of the “Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis” is inconsistent with the writing of both men and that, as mentioned above, it is not a hypothesis. Several alternatives to traditional linguistic frameworks are explored, including cognitive linguistics and Silverstein’s interpretive rendering of linguistic relativism. Hill and Manheim’s central thesis of pulling away from universal relationships of language in favor of a focus on ideologies as they relate to specific languages signals that there is room (and perhaps a need) for a shift in thinking.
Hill and Manheim also make note of Sherzer’s (1987) discourse-centered approach to language studies. And like the previous article discussed Sherzer aims to reevaluate (then) current ways of looking at culture/language relationships. Essentially Sherzer believes that by looking at discourse, or grammar-independent oral or written interactions, one can reconceptualize the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. He gives a handful of useful examples that illustrate his point that discourse is manifested in the multi-dimensional aspects of word usage and sentence structure.
Finally, Mendoza-Denton (1996) describes an interesting and provocative examination of how Latina gang girls speak about and conceptualize their use of makeup in relation to their broader appearance and demeanor. She starts off by indirectly criticizing Geraldo's episode where he tries to "feminize" girls that don't fit into the popular ideal of what it is to be feminine in America. While this is indeed a valid criticism in my opinion, I fail to see the same type of subtle criticism of cholas that would seem to naturally come from the same or at least a similar line of reasoning.
Mendoza-Denton is critical of the Geraldo episode because it perpetuates the notion that there is a naturalized gender that should be achieved by all young females (if they are to be “girls” in the traditional sense). By not following these guidelines (appropriate makeup, tight clothes, short skirts, etc.) they are outside of the mainstream. Indeed, they are not subscribing to the ideals of “hegemonic masculine gender norms.”
Mendoza-Denton’s criticism seems to be based on an underlying contempt of this ideal, as indeed much of feminine philosophy is. Mendoza-Denton believes the cholas are resisting the gender ideal that is often forced upon girls (at least in America) from birth by creating their own form of unique femininity. From this, I inferred (either correctly or incorrectly) that she believes popularized gender ideals (i.e. girls are supposed to wear tight clothes and Barbie makeup) have turned girls into zombies so to speak, that they follow these roles like sheep in an attempt to fit in socially or in many cases, stand out by being more feminine (prettier) than the next girl. Overall, this article raises very important issues and observations about culturally manifested and perpetuated gender ideals and how these ideals are sometimes “hijacked” (not with a negative connotation) to suit the aspirations of a distinct subculture or group, in this case the cholas.
As these readings indicate, there are no clear answers to the relationships between language and cognition. While the traditional Sapir-Whorf model suggests, to at least two different degrees, that how we think is dependent on the language that we learn, is being challenged more and more I am hesitant to completely abandon it at this juncture. I feel that the evidence seems to show that there is indeed a relationship between language, culture, and worldview (or ideology) but that the use of the word “determine” is too strong. To say that our cognitive processes are determined by language structure devalues much of what makes us uniquely human to begin with.
Endicott, Kirk M. and Robert L. Welsch, eds.
2005 Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Anthropology, Third Edition.
Dubuque: McGraw Hill.
Hill, Jane H. and Bruce Manheim
1992 Language and World View. Annual Review of Anthropology 21: 381-406.
1996 ‘Muy Macha’: Gender and Ideology in Gang-Girls’ Discourse about Makeup. Ethnos
1987 A Discourse-Centered Approach to Language and Culture. American Anthropologist
Teng, Norman Yujen
1999 The Language of Thought and the Embodied Nature of Language Use. Philosophical
Studies 94: 237-251.
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Posted by Will at 02:35 PM
October 26, 2005
A belated Reply to my Guns, Germs and Steel review
Remember when I displayed just a tad bit of interest over the National Geographic/PBS special based on Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel that aired earlier this summer? Rick Matthews, who worked behind the scenes on the special, left an enlightening comment on one of my my posts about the program. To recap, I essentially said the producers and Diamond did a good job considering they had to condense such an expansive theory and supporting evidence into a three-hour television program that would appeal to a wide audience while at the same time representing Diamond's theory fairly. By default they fell short on the task because the book covers so much material (and, apparently, worked with a "budget from hell"), but for what they were hired to do I feel that Rick along with the writers, producers, and Diamond made a beautiful film that serves as a great introduction to the book. Anyway, here is a part of Rick's comments:
Jared is nuts - a genius , but nuts . A simple man with a concept that most folk dont understand until you stand and face the reality of what is going on beyond the shimmering TV screen . I read the book , the script and met the man and with a budget from hell we tried to make a film . If I had my way we would have done a Lawrence of Arabia multiplied 1000 times , as the story of colonization , disease , war , treasure and the untold stories of Africa , the far east and the Tintin fantasies of Central America , the moon and so on , can never be told and will never be understood - we all want to but will never be there ie as a voyeur or participant in word and pictures . Cassian , Jared , Sue and myself saw really bad stuff , good stuff and traversed a cultural minefield to make this film .We tried to open peoples eyes - damn hard these days !!
Posted by Will at 05:24 PM
October 25, 2005
2006 USF Honduras Field School Announced
I will be doing my master's thesis in Honduras next summer and this is the U. of South Florida field school that will be happening while I'm there. Although I won't be a part of the field school, I will probably play a role in some way or another (conscripting undergraduate labor, perhaps?;). Check out the website for some cool pictures.
PALMAREJO COMMUNITY ARCHAEOLOGICAL PROJECT Summer Field School in Honduras, May 29-June 24, 2006
This four-week summer research program will introduce students to the fascinating world of the ancient Maya and their neighbors through archaeological excavation of one of their villages, Palmarejo, located among beautiful tropical forest groves in northwestern Honduras. Through assisting archaeologists in the field and laboratory, participants will be trained in the methods, theory, and ethics of archaeology. Participants also will learn about the cultures and history of Mesoamerica through seminars and field trips led by USF faculty, and will experience a new way of life as a result of living and working in a modern Central American community.
The prehispanic site of Palmarejo, occupied during the seventh through tenth centuries A.D., is a sizable village composed of nearly 100 buildings that represent temples, palaces, and a ball court where an ancient ball game was played. Some of the tallest buildings surround plaza spaces where religious ceremonies were performed. There are also terraces bordering part of the site that were used for agriculture and for diverting rainfall into a large reservoir. The main settlement is surrounded by as many as 100 smaller towns and hamlets. Our excavations will focus on the elite residences at the site to learn how its inhabitants lived and how they were able to command the labor necessary to build their palaces and temples and to farm their fields.
For more information, including tuition, program costs, financial assistance, and application, visit the website: http://uweb.cas.usf.edu/~cwells/palmarejo.htm
Posted by Will at 10:57 PM
October 24, 2005
This GRE thing is pretty easy...
October 23, 2005
Wilma Cancels Classes
Well, all USF classes have been cancelled and all non-essential offices closed for Monday. Normally I would be delighted at this turn of events but my only class tomorrow, an undergraduate Linguistics course that I’m auditing, was cancelled several weeks ago because our instructor is out of town. I thought I had outgrown that “snow day” syndrome that plagues grade school kids, but apparently not.
Also, the picture is starting to emerge of what the rest of my semester is going to look like, and it’s characterized by several stretches of intense busyness punctuated by a few instances of possible free time and a beer or two. Because there are no classes tomorrow and I don’t have to report to campus to work, I will try to get started on the papers. Most would agree that the hardest part of a research paper is not the actual gathering of resources, the long nights of typing away on a computer, or the proofreading to make sure the sentences you typed at 2am are coherent. The hardest part is sitting down to start and defining the flow and tempo of the paper.
I wrote pretty well in undergraduate but there is more at stake here. Now, I’m not writing merely for a grade but for respect and acceptance as well. For one of my courses (that shall remain nameless) I am not motivated at all to put much energy into the final paper because I have not been motivated to learn what is being “taught” (I use the term loosely). In that respect, it’s going to be the hardest one to write and probably the least rewarding.
Posted by Will at 03:20 PM
October 21, 2005
"Indigenous Peoples Particularly Vulnerable to Disasters"
Full story here.
MEXICO CITY, (Tierramérica) - In the areas of Guatemala recently devastated by Hurricane Stan, which claimed the lives of more than 655 people, indigenous children last year played Kumatzin, a board game in the Maya language and with Mayan illustrations, used as an educational tool on how to prepare for and survive natural disasters.
Indigenous people in the region are included in official plans for disaster prevention, evacuation and aid, but without taking into account their unique cultural references and knowledge.
The howl of the coyotes, the way certain birds fly, the "sound" of the Earth and the position and shine of the moon are some of the manifestations of nature that can predict natural disasters, according to the indigenous "wise ones" and elders.
The governments recognise that the recent torrential rains associated with Stan worsened the marginalisation of the descendents of the ancient Maya Indians, who developed one of the most advanced civilisations in what is now Latin America. In Guatemala and Mexico, the vast majority of these indigenous peoples today live in poverty.
Posted by Will at 01:29 PM
October 19, 2005
Looks like we're next. Just when you thought the US of A had enough we get one more kick in the nuts while we're down. Wilma is bearing down on the the Yucatan and could make landfall in southern Florida as early as Saturday. What's my evacuation plan, you ask? If by tomorrow or Friday it looks like Katrina's sister then I'm driving the hell north until I reach Canada. I was lucky for four years on the North Carolina coast but this looks like the real deal...the thing exploded into a category 5 overnight.
Posted by Will at 08:28 PM
October 18, 2005
Just in the nick of time
The New York Times is reporting that the Graduate Entrance Exam (GRE) is being revamped for next year. This includes lengthening it to four hours (!) and implementing new methods to address cheating. The article is behind a subscription to the site, but here are some excerpts:
To enhance security, every question on the new exams will be used only once, and the test will start at different times in different time zones, so students who have finished cannot pass on questions to those in different zones.
As of next year, the test will no longer be "computer adaptive," with test-takers getting questions tailored to their performance on previous questions, so that each gets challenging questions that provide a clear picture of what they can do. Instead, every student taking the test on a particular day will get the same questions, and those questions will not be reused.
On the new exams, the verbal reasoning section will consist of two 40-minute sections rather than one 30-minute section, and will place less emphasis on vocabulary and more on higher cognitive skills.
The quantitative reasoning section will grow from one 45-minute section to two 40-minute sections, with fewer geometry questions and more on interpreting tables and graphs. And the analytical writing measure, which had a 45-minute essay and a 30-minute essay, will now have two 30-minute essays.
Posted by Will at 10:43 AM
October 16, 2005
Slashdot is reporting that HP is recalling 135,000 laptop batteries (including those of the Pavilion line) because they can overheat and melt. I would love to take this opportunity to remind everyone that HP makes crappy notebooks and that you shoulnd't buy one. My previous laptop was an HP Pavilion and it ran roughly at the temperature of a freshly baked pizza. I sent my system back three times over the four years I used it, twice for the cooling fan breaking. They couldn't get their design right four years ago and now their batteries are melting in the laps of their users. Either HP is getting Punk'd or they have a troop of primates designing their notebook housing. As you can tell, I'm still ill about my HP experience.
October 15, 2005
The Desert People
I AM from The Evangelical Atheist blog has posted a link to a very interesting and readable article that appears in Discover magazine about the relationship between environment, culture, and religion. Entitled "Are the Desert People Winning?," the article is based on a 3,000 page (yes, page!) paper written by Stanford U. anthropologist Robert Textor in 1967.
I won't summarize here because I AM does a good job on his blog, but it's worth a read and provides some interesting insights. Pure anthropology in case you were looking for some. The Discover link above is subscription only but Arthur magazine has published the entire article online.
Posted by Will at 12:40 PM
October 14, 2005
I get bored quickly so I decided to spruce up the walls of Nomadic Thoughts a bit. Makes things a little more exciting around here, doesn't it? And stereotypical too!
In other housekeeping developments, I'm getting an abnormal amount of hits because of a Ghostbusters logo I posted a while back. I've since deleted the post but Google image search is still directing a bunch of hits to NT. Now if my hits go up even more starting tonight then I'll know it's because of the new theme!
Posted by Will at 09:12 PM
October 13, 2005
I submitted my paper proposal/abstract and outline for Chiefdoms (my favorite course of the semester so far). I'll reproduce it here but I'll wait to hear back from my prof first so as to avoid posting something completely off the wall (I don’t want to be denied tenure ten years from now!).
My other two research proposals are due on Tuesday. The one for Archaeological Methods is to be sort of a mock National Science Foundation proposal for funding. I downloaded the forms and guidelines and I must admit I’m glad I’m not actually doing this for real yet. It’s good practice though and will surely come in handy down the road. The summary page that we have to turn in Tuesday must contain a “statement of objectives and methods to be employed, intellectual merit of the proposed activity, and broader impacts resulting from the proposed activities.” Yikes…
There’s no specific format for the graduate seminar research paper, although it will be treated as “an extended research proposal.” This paper will have an applied dimension because, well, I’m in an applied anthropology department. This shouldn’t be too hard because I would have trouble justifying a research project in the first place unless it had some real-world applicability rather than simply doing archaeology for the sake of digging up stuff and documenting it. Like the Methods paper, this one will be a project we won’t actually carry out (or at least don’t have to) but to make it good I’ll have to ignore that fact.
As I mentioned in another post, all three papers will focus on some aspect of Maya agriculture. The Chiefdoms edition is sort of my reference point with the two other papers building off of that to suit the particular needs. Besides being incredibly interesting, there are several applied dimensions that one can take with agricultural research. For an example, check out one of my favorite charities, Sustainable Harvest International.
Posted by Will at 05:07 PM
My blog is none of your business!
Another academic blogger is in the news (well, blog news at least) for being denied tenure. Daniel Drezner is apparently one of the most read political science bloggers and is also a professor at the University of Chicago. Although we don't know for sure why he was denied the coveted position of intellectual invincibility, some are speculating that his blog may have had something to do with it. The response from the chair of the political science department at Chicago is ambiguous: “I can assure you it’s no specifically about the blog.”
I’ve never read Drezner’s blog before and don’t know what’s lurking in his archives, but its stories like these that make me second guess my little endeavor here for a brief moment. But then I remember that I really never cared what people think of what I say. A strong position for a writer who doesn't have much controversial things to say in the first place. Since I started Nomadic Thoughts there have been a few stories about academics either coming under fire, being fired, or being denied tenure because of something they write on the internet (blog or otherwise). As I’ve said several times before here, there is a fine line between the appropriate venues in which to voice controversial opinions. On a public website where potential employers can literally read your thoughts it’s not necessarily a good idea to get controversial in the first place. Many academics would disagree with this but most of them are tenured anyway. Even then, I view it a bit inappropriate to publicly acknowledge your affiliation with an institution (either explicitly or someone being able to do a Google search of your name) and flaunt your political views as if you are free to do so. In America there is no such thing as truly free speech no matter what any document proclaims and anyone who hopes to advance in the academy must realize this. Either blog anonymously and spout of all you want or watch what you say. Nomadic Thoughts has never been politicized and even when a bit of my politics seep into a post here and there they’re usually in the context of current anthropological thinking (anthropology can be a highly politicized discipline).
Posted by Will at 12:42 AM
October 11, 2005
The Big One
I am starting tonight on my first research paper for graduate school (see this post), or I should say its abstract, outline, and bibliography. I have a stack of journal articles, book reviews, and library volumes surrounding my laptop and I must say, it's the greatest feeling in the world. It's only overwhelming in the sense that I want to read every word there is to read about Ancient Maya agriculture and ancestral land use, but there are only so many hours in the day. The hard part is going to be keeping each paper under the recommended ten to fifteen page limit (remember when a 10-page paper was daunting?). I'm ready to sink my teeth into the three papers this semester but not before the realization that I really am a very, very small fish just starting out in a very large ocean.
If I don't get sidetracked reading entire articles, by the end of the night I will have a 100-word abstract for the Chiefdoms edition of my research.
A photo of aforementioned workspace, taken with my new camera phone:
Posted by Will at 08:50 PM
"Hobbits" back in the news
Carl Zimmer, writer of one of my new favorite blogs The Loom, has a good post revisiting the H. floresiensis discovery last year on the Indonesian island of Flores (as well as a link to an archive of past posts). Peter Brown and company have published another article in Nature further supporting the classification of floesiensis as a human species.
In this week's issue of Nature, the scientists describe bones from nine individuals from the Liang Bua cave. Some of the bones--parts of the right arm and jaw--belong to an individual. Other leg bones, shoulder bones, and various bits of fingers and toes come from other levels in the cave. They were laid down in the cave over thousands of years, the youngest being just 12,000 years old--around the time when our ancestors were inventing agriculture.
The key conclusion of the paper is that these fossils look a lot like the original Hobbit bones reported last year. The new jaw, for example, has the same peculiar roots on its teeth as the old one, and both also lack a chin. If the original Hobbit was just a pathological human, the authors argue, then all of these new individuals would have to be pathological too. And the fact that these fossils span 80,000 years makes it even harder to hold the pathology argument. According to Harvard's Daniel Lieberman this pattern refutes the aberrant dwarf argument, which now "strains credulity," as he writes in an accompany commentary.
More: AP reports on the discovery of another H. floresiensis jawbone.
Posted by Will at 09:50 AM
Robot to climb Egyptian pyramid
A robot will be sent up narrow shafts in the Great Pyramid to try to solve one of the mysteries of the 4500-year-old pharaoh mausoleum, says Egypt's top archaeologist.
Dr Zahi Hawass say he will this week inspect a robot designed to climb the two narrow shafts that might lead to an undiscovered burial chamber in the pyramid of Cheops at Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo.
Full story here.
Posted by Will at 08:54 AM
October 08, 2005
Archaeology Position at USF
Released from the Department of Anthropology:
The Department of Anthropology at the University of South Florida seeks an Assistant Professor with expertise in North American archaeology to begin Fall 2006. The position is full-time and tenure-earning with benefits. Candidates must be committed to four-field applied anthropology, have experience in cultural resource management, and hold a Ph.D. in Anthropology at the time of appointment. Preference will be given to applicants whose research focuses within the Southeastern U.S. and who can teach undergraduate and graduate courses in archaeological methods and theory, historical archaeology, and applied or public archaeology. We envision the successful applicant being able to take a leading role in developing a concentration in museum studies or cultural heritage. Salary is negotiable. Send a letter of application with names and contact information of three references, a full curriculum vitae, and evidence of teaching effectiveness to Dr. E. Christian Wells, Search Committee Chair, Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Ave., SOC 107, Tampa, FL 33620. All applications must be complete and received by December 1, 2005. According to Florida law, applications and meetings regarding them are open to the public. For ADA accommodations, contact Sharon Lewis (813) 974-2145 at least five working days prior to need. USF is an AA/EA/EO institution.
Posted by Will at 05:16 PM
October 05, 2005
Finally, a purpose for archaeology
The funny thing is this is probably real:
Posted by Will at 10:47 AM
October 03, 2005
How to write an archaeology paper
The About.com archaeology page has a mini-course in how to write an archaeology research paper. Nothing new or revolutionary, but it's good to refresh your memory on the basics every once in a while, even if your career is writing archaeology papers.
I have three papers to write over the next few months, all of which constitute the bulk of my grades for this semester. In actuality, I will be killing four birds with one stone. I plan on using the same research topic/thesis for each paper and many of the same resources, expanding and rearranging as needed depending on the course. The fourth bird is that these papers will sort of be a preliminary survey of what I want to do for my research next summer and my thesis next year. Since my Belize experience last summer I have become very interested in Ancient Maya agriculture, subsistence, and land use. I spoke with my professor today and we narrowed that down to Maya relationships with the land, which really encompasses what I just mentioned and potentially an ideological/cosmological dimension. Essentially, in my papers I want to revisit one of Patricia McAnany’s discussions in her book Living with the Ancestors: Kinship and Kingship in Ancient Maya Society. I was pleased to learn that her chapter on land relationships has been widely praised but no one has yet done a critical evaluation of her basic arguments (according to my prof) or applied them to other regions. Once I get a better handle on what those arguments are (I just started the book today) I’ll relate them here, as well as post about the progress of the papers in general.
In Honduras, where I’ll most likely be carrying out my research next summer (and where my professor co-directs a field school) there are some uninvestigated field houses associated with Prehistoric agricultural areas that raise some interesting questions, some of which I plan on visiting this semester in my papers. Field houses were and still are essentially basic structures where farmers would keep their tools, rest, and maybe stay for extended periods of time if the plot of land with which the field house is associated is located some distance from the primary residence. There are so many dimensions to Ancient Maya land use that I still have quite a bit of narrowing down to do.
If any of you reading has an advanced degree, what was the process like for you in zeroing in on a research topic and commiting to it?
Anthropoloy Subfield Test
I took the following "test" that seems to be desinged for high school kids or new undergraduates. Some of the questions were obvious (and hilarious) but the results were only halfway accurate (the "bio" prefix isn't my bag). Leave a comment if you take the test yourself!
The best question:
Now that we're done, what are you likely to do next? (You can leave blank if none of these appeal to you...It makes me wonder, though, if you really are an anthropologist!)
-drink beer with my new pals
-drink beer until 3 am, get up and go to work at 5 am
-study the effects of alcohol on the human body (aka drinking beer)
| Bioarchaeologist |
You scored 22 living culture, 48 growing culture, 58 digging culture, and 12 talking culture!
|Your answers suggest you would be interested in bioarchaeology. Typically, bioarchaeologists are interested in what bones can tell us about past human societies. Often, bones are examined for age, sex, trauma and disease, burial treatments, and associations with grave goods. These can provide clues about social classes, population structure, and relationships to ancestral or descendant populations.|
|My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:|
|Link: The What Anthropology Subfield Test written by arlaniarch on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test|
Posted by Will at 12:17 AM
October 01, 2005
Photos show wild gorilla tool use
From National Geographic News:
Researchers have observed and photographed wild gorillas using sticks and stumps to navigate a swampy forest clearing in the Republic of the Congo. The images provide the first documented use of tools among wild gorillas.
In one instance, a female gorilla named Leah tried to wade across a pool of water but found herself waist deep after just a few steps. She retreated, grabbed a branch sticking out of the water, and used it to gauge the water's depth before wading deeper.
The use of sticks by gorillas for postural support suggests tool use can be triggered by other environmental factors. It also fits with the argument that tool use reflects ecological needs, Breuer and his colleagues conclude in PLoS: Biology.
Stanford, the University of Southern California anthropologist, said the tool use of gorillas is "lower order," in the sense that their tools are not modified like the sticks chimpanzees use to fish for termites. Nevertheless, he added, the finding is "very cool."
Posted by Will at 04:09 PM
The dictionary definitions of loot, find, and forage are as follows (American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition): Loot: 1) Valuables pillaged in time of war, spoils. 2) Stolen goods. Find: 1) To come upon, often by accident; meet with. 2) To come upon or discover by searching or making an effort. Forage: 1) Food for domestic animals; fodder. 2) The act of looking or searching for food or provisions.
Perhaps the most obvious and well-known example of the use of the terms “looting” and “finding” occurred in a set of news photographs published by the Associated Press (AP) and Agence France-Presse (AFP) in which citizens are shown carrying goods through chest-deep water. The assumption is that these good were acquired in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and without compensation to the vendors. Much was made of the usage of the two terms to describe what is happening in the photographs. There are only two apparent differences in the photos: the AP image is of one black male while the AFP image is of two light-skinned individuals. While the AP image uses the term “looting” to describe the scene, the AFP image describes the activity as “finding.”
This is just one many accusations of media bias in the wake of Katrina and as mentioned above, perhaps the most representative. A September 29th piece in the International Herald Tribune describes looting as varying “from basic thievery to foraging for the necessities of life.” The use of the term “foraging” in this context is more neutral than the use of “looting” and “finding” in the images described above. If one is to come to a relatively objective conclusion about a perceived media racial bias, one must consult the commonly-accepted dictionary definitions and their usages in a given linguistic environment.
Linguistically, it is hard to infer much from a short photo caption. The terms forage, find, and loot all have to do with acquiring something material. Broadly speaking, two are legal while one (looting) is against the law. They therefore they have different connotations and meanings when used in similar contexts, such as wading through chest-deep water with a bag of items. One would not describe a person walking off with a loaf of bread in a time of extreme circumstance such as Hurricane Katrina as “looting.” Similarly, an individual walking off with a television set when an entire town is flooded and without power cannot be considered finding when viewed in the context of the situation. It may indeed be the case that someone comes across a television by happenstance while searching for food, but to walk off with the television crosses the linguistic divide between a contextually-based definition of “finding” and one of “looting.”
Originally submitted as an exercise for Anthropology 3610: Linguistic Anthropology
University of South Florida
Posted by Will at 01:20 PM