Flashcards for Language and Culture
Topics 5-6:  Language and Thought Processes and Hidden Aspects of Communication
(12 cards)

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Copyright © 2004 by Dennis O'Neil. All rights reserved.

The early 20th century idea that language predetermines what we see in the world around us. In other words, we see the real world only in the terms and categories of our language. This hypothesis was later mostly rejected by anthropologists.

Sapir-Whorf hypothesis

The field of anthropology that tries to learn about how people in different cultures categorize and interpret things in their environment. The focus is on emic categories.


The term referring to a classification of things according to some external system of analysis brought in by a visitor to another society. (Hint: this is the approach of biology in using the Linnaean classification system to define new species. It assumes that ultimately, there is an objective reality and that is more important than cultural perceptions of it.)

etic category

The term referring to a classification of things according to the way in which members of a society classify their own world. In other words, this is the way their culture and language divide up and interpret reality.

emic category

A term referring to sexual identity as male or female.


The term for auxiliary communication methods used by people talking to each other (e.g., variations in tone and character of voice along with non-verbal forms of communication).


The part of non-verbal communication consisting of gestures, expressions, and postures. (Hint: it is also known as body language.)


The term for the kind of paralanguage that includes interaction distance and other culturally defined uses of space.


The age at which North American children begin to master the subtle cultural aspects of time, such as when one should arrive at a party or a business appointment.

about 12

The common attitude In North America in regards to adults touching each other except in moments of intimacy or formal greeting (hand shaking or hugging).

It is discouraged, especially for men

The general functions and purposes of clothing around the world.

protection from the elements, modesty, supernatural protection, and communication of status, intentions, and other messages

The linguists general term for the distance our bodies are physically apart while talking with each other. (Hint: this is an aspect of proxemics.)

interaction distance