The past century has been an enormously productive one in regard to the analysis and description of human communication. Building on the ideas of Ferdinand de Saussure, early structuralists delineated the phonological and morphological building blocks of speech by refining and applying the concepts of the phoneme and the morpheme. In addition to the rigorous description of hundreds of indigenous languages, anthropological linguists using this body of data worked on the problem of language histories and the division of current languages into families of related languages with the concomitant contribution to cultural history. Another achievement was the demonstration that not only was language separate from physical type, but also it was of equivalent complexity regardless of cultural complexity; in Edward Sapir's (1921) phrasing, “The lowliest South African Bushman speaks in the forms of a rich symbolic system that is in essence perfectly comparable to the speech of the cultivated Frenchman.”
The second half of the 20th century was dominated by those who followed Noam Chomsky (1957) toward looking at the processes by which sentences are generated from an underlying assemblage of semantic, syntactic, and phrasal elements and their (rearrangements through transformational cognitive processes. For both of these approaches-structural and generative-the symbolic role of communicative forms played little role. There was a concern with meaning, but it was limited to its employment:
1. As part of a method to uncover linguistic units
2. As a lexical tagging element to prevent the generation of semantically inappropriate sentences.
A sentence such as “He is not heavy he is my sister” should not be ge...
... middle of paper ...
...nd the strictures of life are absent, but it is the symbolic dimension that is of interest here. The symbolic values of creativity, spontaneity, freedom, and play are dominant. These symbolic attributes are present in real human interaction, but in a virtual realm there are no limits other than those of nondisclosure and abusiveness for which a member might be censured and even banned. The virtual realm is valued as an improved human condition. The technological ability to construct and maintain this kind of activity creates a new set of symbols or at least a new dimension to the symbols of human life. Presenting oneself as an animal avatar may be no different from performing as a mummer in an animal costume. According to Boellstorff, in Second Life there is a seriousness and commitment to the guises that appears to be a potential rejection of one's real visage.
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- Studies on Human Communication The past century has been an enormously productive one in regard to the analysis and description of human communication. Building on the ideas of Ferdinand de Saussure, early structuralists delineated the phonological and morphological building blocks of speech by refining and applying the concepts of the phoneme and the morpheme. In addition to the rigorous description of hundreds of indigenous languages, anthropological linguists using this body of data worked on the problem of language histories and the division of current languages into families of related languages with the concomitant contribution to cultural history.... [tags: Human Communication, Ethnography of Speaking]
2740 words (7.8 pages)
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