Language and World View
Annual Review of Anthropology
Vol. 21: 381-404 (Volume publication date October 1992)
Jane H. Hill and Bruce Mannheim
In lieu of an abstract, the publisher reproduces the first page of the article. (Link)

Letters to My Tutor…

My dearest lady,

It’s approaching the one-year mark on my friend’s death. May is the month of his birth and his death. For the last several months I’ve found myself repeating more frequently the phrase, “I feel his presence.” I have a feeling associated with saying those words. I find that I’m unsure what those words mean or what that feeling means. I don’t have the same feeling in saying, “I remember him,” or “This reminds me of him.” I wonder whether I have the same facial expressions and intonation as the people I observed saying those words in my childhood. Is the feeling the same feeling they had?

I am fascinated by the conversations people have without thinking, with how much of life is scripted. There are so many intimate and personal moments and interactions that have these settled upon words. When I was younger, I made bigger efforts to avoid the scripts with a surprising amount of “success.” I now often feel that I am missing shared cultural “stuff” because I didn’t wholly internalize some of the scripted phrases.

I do feel a certain comfort in saying, “I feel his presence,” despite not knowing what it means. I wonder what all goes into which scripted phrases are heavily internalized and which are not? We all have certain popular words and phrases with which we don’t identify, right?

In elementary school, kids often had discussions about confusing words/meanings in common cultural expressions. It seemed that by middle school, these conversations dried up. Kids were less concerned about what the expressions meant and more concerned with using them correctly.

I read “Language and World View” to get a sense of what types of things were being said and which names were being mentioned (the same as with every article). Of course there was much mention of Boas, Sapir ad Whorf – all on my to-read list for this topic. There was also mentioned of someone else who more recently made my to-read list, George Lakoff. Some time ago, I bookmarked a YouTube video of a lecture he gave somewhere (George Lakoff “The Brain and Its Politics”).   Haven’t watched it, yet.  I even checked out some of his books from the local public library, but I didn’t get around to reading them (still working on regaining the ability to devour books). Anyway, one of the nice things about reading these review articles is that I not only get a brief discussion of some of ideas put forth by Lakoff, the authors also pointed me toward someone, Naomi Quinn, who offers criticisms of Lakoff. So, there was a little bump in my excitement to read both scholars.

I’ve been saying for quite some time that I need to widen my reading. This is becoming more pressing. I enjoy reading the review articles, but I find that I’m growing more and more bored with the way that I interact with the text. I feel as though I’m having the same five thoughts over and over. I’m trying not to be overly harsh with myself since I said that I was giving myself a year to casually graze in anthropology. And, there is something building from doing this reading… I trust.

Ever enjoying the sweetness and light of you,