Anthropological Linguistics

Anthropological linguists study the languages of humans and the rules that make these languages work. Like culture, languages are learned and shared. When two people who speak different languages meet, they may not be able to communicate. The sounds one person produces may have no meaning in the other person’s language, or, sometimes embarrassingly, the sounds have very different meanings. Consider the word see in English and the word in Spanish. When an English-speaker makes the sounds for this word, they intend the sounds to convey the meaning that they can visualize or view something. The Spanish-speaker, however, makes these same sounds to indicate an affirmative answer, such as yes. Anthropological linguists also study how meaning is conveyed by people and the histories of languages.

From Staeck, J.P., 2001, Back to the Earth: An Introduction to Archaeology. Mountain View: Mayfield.