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Ethnographic Semantics: A Preliminary Survey [and Comments and Replies]

Author(s): B. N. Colby, Olga Akhmanova, Ethel M. Albert, E. Pendleton Banks, Wallace L.


Chafe, Harold C. Conklin, J. L. Fischer, Willem A. Grootaers, Dell Hymes, Paul Kay, Roger M.
Keesing, Edward A. Kennard, J. Knobloch, F. G. Lounsbury, Louise E. Sweet, G. L. Trager,
Francis Lee Utley, Roger W. Wescott
Reviewed work(s):
Source: Current Anthropology, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Feb., 1966), pp. 3-32
Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological
Research
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A Preliminary
Survey1
Ethnographic
Semantics:byB. N. Colby

DURING
THE LAST FEW YEARS semantics
marks
has figured detailsof meaningand meaningrelationships
prominently
in arguments
betweenanthropologists
who a new phase in descriptiveethnography.The
stressrigorousdescriptive
ethnography
are popularbecausetheyshowpromiseof
and anthropol- techniques
ogists-who
emphasize
selectivity;
thatis,
comparative
studies.Ethnograph- solvingtheproblemofethnographic
ers seek betterways to handle the semanticsof the theymaylead to psychologically
meaningful
elements
cultures
theyare describing
whileethnologists
look for of a culturewhichare analogousto psychologically
a cross-cultural
elements
of a language(e.g.,phonemes).
"language"in whichsemanticsis the meaningful

Anthropologistswith sophisticationin modern linmajorconsideration.


In thisreviewI shalllimitmostofthediscussion
to guisticshave emphasizedthe"innerview" in termsof
developments
in the semantic
aspectsof descriptivephonemicanalogywithsomeurgencyin recentyears.
ethnography.
The term"ethnographic
semantics"
will Butexceptforcomponential
1956:
analysis(Lounsbury
referto thesemantics
of a particular
cultureunder 191-92; 1962; Goodenough1956), the few analogies
study.It contrasts
with"ethnologic
semantics"
which actuallyattempted
fallshortof themark.Theydepart
refers
to thetheoretical
vocabulary
of ethnology
used fromthe strictnotionof clearlydefined,meaningful
in comparative
studies.2
Togetherthe 2 constituteunitsinterrelated
of the culturerather
in a structure
anthropological
semantics.
anthropologists
press
thanofthetheorist.'
Nevertheless,
"Ethnographic
semantics"
canbe defined
in
morespe- on towardcloseranalogies,and analyticaltechniques
cifically
as thestudyof thoseaspectsofmeaning
in a ethnographic
semanticsencouragethe excitinghope
languagethatare culturally
revealing.
It is directedthata breakthrough
towardan innerviewis near.
toward
wordsas a meansrather
thanan end.The-ulti- Now thatAmerican
andphilosophy
have
psychology
mategoalis an understanding
oftheevaluations,
emo- reboundedfromearlierbehavioristicbiases against
tions,
andbeliefs
thatliebehind
wordusage.
showmorcinterest
in
cognition
studies,
socialscientists
semantics.Their renewedconcernwith "man the
Ethnographic
semantics
hasattracted
anthropologists
recently
through
4 developments
inthesubfields
ofkin- thinker"extendsbeyondtraditionalsemanticsto the
of-meaning
bywhichmeanandtheprinciples
shipandfolkscience:
contrast-level
study,
componen-structure
1956: 162; Frake1962:74;
tial analysis,
programmed
specifications,
and various ingis organized(Lounsbury
may meaneitheran overall
usesof semantic
rules.The attention
givento minute Wallace 1962). Structure
B. N. COLBY is Associate Curatorat the Laboratoryof Anthropology (Research Division) of the Museum of New Mexico in
Santa Fe; and Director of the Field Institute in Ethnology,
supportedby the National Science Foundation.
Previously he was Research Associate at the Laboratoryof
Social Relations,Harvard (1960-1962) and Instructorin Social
Anthropologyat the Departmentof Social Relations, Harvard
(1961-1962). He studied at Princeton(B.A. 1953) and Harvard (Ph.D. 1960) and has done fieldworkin Mexico, Guatemala, and New Mexico. His main interestis in values and
world view. He is currentlydoing contentanalyses of folktales
and myths.
The present article, submitted to CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY16
iv 64, was sent for CA* treatmentto 49 scholarsof whom the
followingrespondedwith writtencomments:Olga Akhmanova,
Ethel M. Albert,E. Pendleton Banks, Wallace L. Chafe, J. L.
Fischer,WilIem A. Grootaers,Dell Hymes, Paul Kay, Edward
A. Kennard,Roger M. Keesing, J. Knoblock, F. H. Lounsbury,
Louise E. Sweet, G. L. Trager,FrancisLee Utley,and Roger W.
Wescott. The commentswrittenfor publication are printed in
full after the author's text and are followed by a reply from
the author.

Vol. 7 . No. 1 . February 1966

cognitivesystemwith an encyclopedicworld view


behindthe linguisticand semanticelementsa person
that is
carriesin his head, or a semanticstructure
independent
of sucha cognitivesystem.

1 I am indebted to Dell Hymes, Paul Kay, and Roger Keesing


for theircriticismsof a 1962 draftof this preliminarysurvey.I am
indebtedto Hymes,also, for manyideas fromhis lectureson ethnolinguistics. Margaret Currier and Alexandria Weinstein of the
Harvard Peabody Museum Library of Anthropology gave me
valuable bibliographicassistance.
2 I use the term "ethnology" as synonymouswith social anthropology, not in the restrictedsense used by British anthropologists
to denote conjecturalhistory.
3 Some regard a study to have emic status if it only claims to
have describedthe inneror psychologicalrealityshared by members
of a culture. But careful use of the emic analogy would require
confirmationfrom natives of the culture described. However, as
with other words in the anthropologicalvocabulary,the new term
emic has conversationalconvenienceand is used quite loosely. We
should not be much concernedabout this; an argumentover the
precision of an analogy assumes a perhaps spurious accuracy of
the original theoryand may impose unrealisticallyaustere restrictions.

I shall speak mostlyof the broaderconceptionof unitscannotbe describedin termsof itsparts,but mustbe
structure-that
whichincludesbotha semanticsystem treatedas a whole.
andan organized
worldview.Sucha structure
is usually
Nida's lexical unit is semanticallyexocentric; the
seen to consistof organizedmemorytracesof those meaningof thewhole is not deduciblefromthemeanings
aspectsofpreviousexperience
whichenablemantocope of the parts. Exocentricformsare contrastedto endomoreefficiently
withfutureevents.Part of thesystem centricones,in which the constituentparts do summate
is builtfromwhat one learnsfromthe experience
of to provide the total meaning (Nida 1958: 286). The
others.Witheachnewobservation
and instruction,
the distinctionhas been made by others(e.g., Seguy's prisystem
is revisedand expandedintoa mentalimageof mary and secondary formations,1953), but the exotheworld (Humboldt1836) thatencompasses
all im- centric-endocentric
expression has gained the widest
portantaspectsoftheindividual's
surroundings,
animal, acceptance. Context is sometimescritical in such disvegetable,or mineral.This mentalsystemhas been tinctions,as Nida illustrateswith the example he is in
in different
conceptualized
ways and givendifferentthedoghouse,which can be endocentricin meaningif it
names,no 2 withthesamedefinition.
Amongthemare: applies to one's pet dog but exocentricif it applies to a
cognitivemap (Tolman 1948), cognitivestructure man who is in troublewithhis wife (1964).
(Bruner,
Goodnow,and Austin1956),image(Boulding Exocentric expressionsor lexical units have been
1956; Lynch 1960), Umwelt (Uexkull 1957), eidos labelled as idioms (Hockett 1958: 171) and lexemes
(Bateson 1958), model (Whorf 1956; Robertsand (Conklin 1962; Goodenough 1956; Swadesh 1946).4
Sutton-Smith
1962), mazeway (Wallace 1961c), and Exocentric expressionsof more than 1 morphemeare
infra-structure
(Levi-Strauss
1951). Someof thesecon- called idioms by Weinreich(1963: 145-46), who sugceptsreferto individualthought-structure,
othersto geststhatstatisticson the distributionamong languages
thought-structures
shared(inwholeorinpart)bysever- of the morpheme-to-lexemeratio (index of idiomaal individuals.
ticity)would be theoreticallyuseful.Determinationof

exocentricexpressionsdepends in part on one's conception of polysemy (p. 146) and "dead metaphor",
whichagain is problematicand usually treatedarbitrarThoughtand meaningare notisomorphic,
yettheyare ily (i.e., withoutculturallybased validation) by linguoftentreatedas such.Meaningandwordformarenotin ists.

WORDS, MEANINGS, AND CONCEPTS

1-to-1relationship,
yet theyalso are oftentreatedas
such.We expresssurprise
when2 meaningsof a word
impinge
uponourconsciousness
and wonderabouttheir
"continuous"or "discontinuous"
relationship
to each
other.Withoutvalid etymological
information
forunwritten
we nevertheless
languages,
preoccupyourselves
withproblemsof homonymy
and polysemyat theexpenseofmoreanthropologically
important
inquiry(unless we are developinga semantictheory,a task for
linguistics
ratherthanethnology).
A pause to reflect
uponwords,meanings,
andconcepts
maythusbeprofitable,beforediscussing
specificstudiesand approaches.

PERCEIVED AND CONCEPTUALIZED REALITY

Perceivedreality,the uniquenessof the moment,is usefully distinguishedfrom conceptualized reality, the


memoryof reality after perception of it has ceased.
Units of the 2nd kind of reality have been imaginal
representation(Ranken 1963), engram (Ogden and
Richards 1923: 53; Lashley 1950), conceptual unit
(Swadesh 1960), trace (Quine 1960), or simplyconcept.
DESIGNATED REALITY

Designated realityis usually called the referent(Quine


1953; Ogden and Richards 1923; and manyothers),but
unlike
some usages of referentit will herebe restricted
is
which
a
The spokenorwritten
word,
simply physical
has mostoftenbeencalled(at different
levels to the unique event spoken about.
stimulus,
THE WORD FORM

of inclusion)a linguistic
form,an unboundmorpheme,
CONCEPTUALIZED DESIGNATED REALITY
or a wordform.It has also beencalleda signor sign
vehicle(Morris1955), signifiant(Saussure1915), free The greatestproliferationof termsseems to exist for
form(Bloomfield
1933: 181),andname(Ullmann1957; what is usually treatedas "meaningproper," the con1962). ThoughLounsbury(1956: 190) rightlystates ceptualizeddesignatedreality.5The followinglistis far
thatlinguisticformsare essentially
irrelevant
for se- fromcomplete:semeor sememe(Bloomfield1933; Nida
manticanalysis,theyare usefulfor classifying
and 1951; 'Wonderly1952; and Goodenough 1956), ethnothedatapriorto analysis.
arranging
sememe,macrosememe(Greenberg1954), engram(Ull-

mann 1957), reference(Ogden and Richards 1923),


signifi(Saussure 1915), sense (Ullmann 1957), indiWhenwordformsareconsidered
to a partic- cation (Russell 1940), designatum
according
(Morris 1955; Weinular meaningsometimessignifiedby them,Nida's reich1963), nominalrepresentation
(Ranken 1963), and
"lexicalunit"(1964: 95) is themostconvenient
label: semanticregularity(Ziff 1960).
Thought(whichsubsumesconceptualizedreality)and
Such expressionsfor which the meaning cannot be deterTHE LEXICAL UNIT

mined on the basis of the constituentparts constitutelexical


units, whetherthey are single morphemesor combinations
of morphemes,either so-called words (e.g. pineapple-and
jack-in-the-pulpit)
or phrases(e.g. bees in the bonnetand
bats in the belfry). These lexical units must be treated
essentially as units, even as the name implies, and a
semanticanalysis must deal also with themas with a single
word; for the semantically relevant distributionof these
4

4 Lexeme is not to be confused with Hockett's usage, which


defines a lexeme as a grammaticalform (1958:169).
Conklin speaks of lexemes as unitary simple (pine); unitary
complex where the word (pineapple) is exocentric; composite
where 2 words (pitch pine) referto a single species; and finally
non-lexemicwhere the phrase (cheap pine), is entirelyendocentric.
r See Ogden and Richards (1923: chap. 9) for many different
meaningsof "meaning."
CURRENT

ANTHROPOILOGY

Colby: ETHNOGRAPHIC SEMANTICS


reality)are notby
designated
meaning(conceptualized
anymeansthesame(Penfield1961: 15). The Russians,
Vygotsky(1926) and Zvegincev(1957). have empha- (withoutwrittenhistoricalrecordsfor decidingon
value.
ofno anthropological
as have manyAmericanthinkers. homonymy)
sizedthedifference,
for
referents
Treatingthinkand worryas continuous
base of
Whorf (1956) mentionsthe "sublinguistic"
thinking;Kelly (1955: 16) the "subverbalpatternof a singlewordformand blueand greenas discontinuous
without
foranotherword formis arbitrary
Lynch(1960)supplies referents
andconstruction."
representation
abouttheusageof thesewords.
informants
labels for unconsciouscategoriesof conceptualizingtesting
(1954),Lenne(Grundbedeutung)-which
spacein English.Brownand Lenneberg
The questionofcentrality
bergandRoberts(1956),and Van de Geer(1960) speak meaningofa wordformis primary-isa variantof the
of "codability"or the ease withwhichconceptsare same problem.Bloomfield(1933), Pike (1954), and
themeaninga child
namedin a language(whichis relatedto the"availabil- Nida (1949) preferto call primary
that learns1st.Frequency
(1956: 210) suggests
Goodenough
ofusagemightbe a moreobjective
ity"ofconcepts).
andprobablyless
to discovery
moreaccessible
"whilethevocabularyofa languagecannotbe expected criterion,
to deal readilywithconceptswhichdo notexistforits variablefromindividualto individual.Cazacu (1956)
speakers,it may also be unable to be preciseabout has usedteststo finda basiccoreofmeaning;Knudsen
conceptswhichveryclearlydo exist."Whiting(1939) and Sommerfelt
(1958) proposeothercriteria.
and French(1956) discussunnamedconceptualcatepolysemyfora wordform,such
As in determining
goriesactuallyused in a culture.Spiker(1956), Weir considerations
are of moreuse in machinetranslation
and Stevenson(1959), and Carroll and Casagrande (Delavenay1960; Edmundson1961; Locke and Booth
(1958) deal withways in whichconceptualcategories 1955; Ceccato 1960; Oettinger1960; Simmons1962;
Mathiot Hays 1962) than in ethnology,where criteriafor
interrelate.
representation
and theirlinguistic
perceptual establishing
(1962) explorestaxonomicclassifications,
validitymustbe derivedin some
descriptive
and formclassesinthePapagolanguage.Berlin way fromthe culture.Problemsof multiplemeaning
criteria,
studyof conceptualcate- becomemuchmorecomplexwhenaffectiveconnota(1962) has madea trenchant
of Tzeltal.
classifiers
goriesin thenumerical
tionsare included.
andmeanthought,
betweenreality,
The relationship
intosemantic
studyto an
philosophers
DEFINITIONS
inghas brought
philosophers
extent.Amongthe influential
increasing
orextensiondenotation
problemsare: Austin Thereare2 typesofdefinition:
who have workedwithsemantic
of
designated
a
representation
al
definition-simply
(1946),Carnap(1956),Goodman(1963),Naess (1957),
members)
individual
(i.e.,
tokens
of
a
listing
or
reality
Putnam (1960; 1962), Quine (1953; 1957; 1959; 1960),
definitionor intensional
signification
and
the
class
of
WittRussell(1940; 1948),Ryle(1953),Tarski(1944),
or
attributes,
properties,
the clustersof components,
(1953),and Ziff(1960).Theirviewsvarywith distinctive
genstein
a particulardefinifeaturesthatconstitute
theirpurposes.Quine'sis to developnotationfor,and tion (Morris1955; Lounsbury1956). Carnap (1956:
increaseclarityin, certaintraditionalproblemsof 233) describes
themas follows:
While he
suchas realityand analyticity.
philosophy,
betweena language-either
forms"in lan- The theoryof the relations
in "odd syntactic
indicatesan interest
whatlanguage
ora language
system-and
language
guage,he usuallyconsidersonlyusesof languagethat a natural
involve "observation,"and "theoretical"sentences is about,maybe dividedintotwopartswhichI call the
respecas eithertrueor falseand can theoryof extensiontandthetheoryof intension,
whichcan be considered
like
with
naming,
deals
denoting,
first
concepts
The
tively.
ignores
He
an
informant.
from
promptassentor dissent
theword
and relatedones.(Forexample,
truth
and many extension,
questions,
commands,
statements,
expressive
'B' in symand likewisethepredicate
'blau' in German,
philoso- bolic languagesystemif a rule assignsto it the same
whichhaveinterested
othertypesofutterances
phersof theOxfordschool,especiallyAustin.Because meaning,
is the
denote
anyobjectthatis blue;itsextension
thesephilosophers classofall blueobjects;
theirpurposeis entirelydifferent,
'derMond'is a nameofthemoon;
and do thesentence
'derMondistblau'is trueif and onlyif the
sacrosanctly
treatordinarylanguagesomewhat
dealswithconnotmakeallowanceforlanguagechange(Quine 1960: moonis blue.)The theoryof intension
and related
analyticity,
synonymy,
3). Katz and Fodor (1963), exposedto problemsof ceptslike intension,
"intension
us
call
them
let
discussion
our
for
present
ones;
machinetranslation
at M.I.T., offera morerealistic
term
forthe
a
technical
as
'intension'
use
(I
concepts."
much
with
and potentially
workablesemantictheory
for its
or morespecifically,
of
an
expression,
meaning
widerapplicationthan previousphilosophicalwork. designative
see below.For example,
component;
meaning
ofbeing
is theproperty
of 'blau'in German
theintension
POLYSEMY ANDHOMONYMY
if and onlyif they
are synonymous
blue;twopredicates
if it is true
is analytic
a sentence
havethesameintension;
Ullmann(1962: 69) has saidthat"... thelexicographerby virtueof theintensions
in
of theexpressions
occurring
more or less arbitrarilybetween it.)
has to distinguish
different
shades of the same meaningand different
The useof these2 definition
typesis a controversial
of thesameword... ." Wells(1958:662) and
meanings
about subjectin philosophy,especiallyin the writingsof
fordecisions
to setup criteria
Ziff(1960) attempt
(1963:142-44)usesthedisjunctive Carnap and Quine.6Nida (1964), briefly,and White
Weinreich
polysemy.
signin a notationforthevariousmeaningsof a word
form,but withthe exceptionof Stefflre(1963), who 6 Much of Quine's book (1960) is an attack on Carnap's theory
has detailedexperimentalmethodsfordealingwith ambiguity and polysemy which are more in line with
all theothermethodsare
anthropologicalrequirements,
Vol. 7.

No. 1 .February 1966

of intension.Wittgenstein(1953) and Ziff are also on opposite


betweenthe purported
sides of the fence: "One cannot differentiate
extension and the actual or correctextension (of a term) except
on the basis of the intensionof the term" (Ziff 1960:70). See also
5

(1956), extensively,discussthetypesin simplifiedterms;


Meyer has influencedmodern studies of semantic
fora moretechnicalaccount see Putnam (1960; 1962).7 fields,particularlyin Germany,but the Swiss linguist
Ferdinandde Saussurehad thegreatestimpactin Europe
SENSE
and is most often cited in linguistic studies today.
Saussure
(1915; 1959) viewed the problemof language
As semantictheorydevelops and attentionshiftsto informantresponseforvalidation,thedistinctionbetween in termsof what he called se'miologie.He saw semiology
the definitionsof lexical units and sense will assume as the studyof the commonreferenceplane underlying
increasingimportance.By "sense," I mean the interpre- both language and culture.Rites and customsas well as
tationof a messageor messagesegmentby a particular languagepropercould be treatedas signsand were subindividual, a process in which signification,syntactic ject to the laws of semiology.Belief in the existenceof
underlyingmyth,kinship,ritual,and
and semanticrules,feelingtones,and a knowledgeof an infra-structure
other
aspects
of
culture
has been subsequentlyreiterated
the non-linguisticcontextual settingare all utilized.8
by
a
number
of
anthropologists,
among them LeviMore inclusivethanthelaterWittgenstein's
equatingof
meaning with use (1953: 20), sense is defined by Strauss (1951; 1962).
Saussure's notion of value or contrast,similar to
Paulhan, as reportedin Vygotsky(1962: 146), as
Meyer's,was the focal point of his semiologicaltheory:
... the sumof all thepsychological
eventsarousedin our conceptsgain theirsignificanceas do what we now call
consciousness
by the word. It is a dynamic,fluid,com- phonemes-by theirdistinctiveness
fromotherelements
plex whole,whichhas severalzones of unequal stability. ratherthan by any positiveinherentquality residingin
Meaningis onlyone of the zonesof sense,themoststable each phoneme separately.Phonemesare consideredin
and precisezone.A wordacquiresitssensefromthecontext
in whichit appears; in different
contexts,it changesits relation to other phonemes in terms of negative or
Phoneme/x/differsfromphosense.Meaningremainsstable throughout
the changesof opposingcharacteristics.
neme
/y/
in
a
different
way
than it differsfromphosense.
neme /z/.Concepts,too, have this characteristic.Basic
meaning resides in differencesamong concepts more
EARLY STUDIES OF SEMANTIC STRUCTURE
than in any special inherentquality of the concepts
The emphasison semanticstructurehas a longerhistory themselves.This has recentlybeen re-emphasizedin the
in Europe than in America.Osthoff(1899) emphasized analysis of contrast sets by Frake (1962:78-79) and
the clusteringof meaningsin a systemwhere a single Conklin (1962) and in componentialanalysesof kinship
meaningwas definedin termsof structuraldelimitation termsby Goodenough (1956) and Lounsbury (1956).
vis a vis the other meaningsof its system(Kronasser See also Kelly (1955).9
1952: 134-35). Meyer (1910) presented a structural
theoryof meaningin which semanticchange at 1 point LEXICAL SETS, DOMAINS, AND FIELDS
in the systemaffectedother points. He spoke of an
orientierenderOberbegriff(Kronasser 1952: 134), a Philologistshave publishedmany special vocabularies
concept which is similar to Church's "mobilization" showing spheres of cultural interest. Among these
(1961), discussedlater, and which involves a kind of are vocabularies of cork and its technology(Chaves
semantic redundancy.He analyzed meaning systems 1948) and of grapes and wine-making(Oliveira 1959componentially-in 1 case by dividing the German 60; Ghirlanda 1956); a wide varietyof Indo-European
notionof movementinto 3 components:movementtype, studies (Buck 1949; Friedrich1964; etc.); special dicplace determination,and direction.Meyer was fully tionaries (Malherbe 1934; Franciscan Fathers 1910;
aware of the importanceof contextualconditionsand Hallig and von Wartburg1952; Voegelin and Voegelin
of the great variety and apparent inconsistencyof 1957) and the German picture dictionaries called
nomenclaturalprinciples.Pots, for instance,mightbe Dzsdens (BibliographischesInstitut 1958). There are
named accordingto typeof material,type of manufac- hundreds of interestingphilological studies of such
ture,form,or function,any 1 of which could be the "lexical sets." Anthropologists,
too, have traditionally
factor (bedeutungsdifferenzie-been involved with thesestudies.They usually provide
meaning-differentiating
rendeFaktor).
more cultural background-sometimes an entire ethnography.Examples of lexical set studiesare: Brooker
Putnam (1962) and Bambrough (1960-61). "Behavioristic" and
(1961-medicinal plants); Brough (1951, 1953-ethno"mentalistic"biases relate to these positions. Quine, who has been

influencedby Russell (1940) and Skinner(1957), is with Wittgenstein,closer to a behavioristicoutlook. Ziff (1960:54) includes the
behavioristicelement among the points of his attack on Quine's
position.
The currentswing away frombehaviorismand back to an interest
in cognitionis undoubtedlyinfluencedby the place computershave
in our society; a good example is Miller, Galanter, and Pribram
(1960). The great interestin generativegrammarsand the associated terminologynow being used loosely in anthropological
writingsmay indicate the same influence among anthropologists.
7 To add to the confusion,philosophers sometimesdepart from
the ordinaryusage of connotationand make it synonymouswith
intensional meaning.
8 A considerationof sense again leads us from the meaning of
specified semantic units to the conceptualizationbehind various
combinationsof semanticunits. Somewherein between it is convenient to posit rules-cognitive procedures for interpretingthe
syntacticand semanticrelationsbetweenmessage elements.The use
of rules in ethnologyis discussed later.

9 T'he major contributionsto semanticfield theoryby Meyer and


Saussure at the beginningof the 20th centurywere radical departures from earlier studies of meaning (Voigt 1874; Breal 1897;
Heerdegen 1890; and others). The earlier studies concentratedon
semanticchangesof what were conceivedto be isolated units rather
than elementsof a system.
The work of Ogden and Richards was a strong reaction to
Saussure's theoretical orientation: "Unfortunatelythis theory of
signs,,by neglectingentirelythe thingsfor which signs stand, was
fromthe beginningcut offfromany contactwith scientificmethods
of verification"(1923:6). On the otherhand, Ogden and Richards'
engram(p. 53) doesn't seem any less mentalistic.
Ogden and Richards, Morris, and Bloomfield were among the
American writers on semantics caught up with the Cartesian
dualism characteristicof behaviorism. The most behavioristic
theoryof semanticsyet to have appeared is recent(Skinner 1957)
but the author belongs to the earlier generation.See Chomsky's
unfavorablereview of Skinner'sbook in Language (1959).
CURRENTr

ANTHROPOLOGY

linguistics); Castetter (1944-ethnobiology); Conklin


(1958-betel-chewing);Da Silve Furtado (1960-ethnogeography); Dieterlen (1950-ethnobiology); EvansPritchard (1948-cattle); Kruger (1936-rural terminology); La Barre (1942-folk medicine); Malkin (1958ethnozoology); Man (1885-shell-fish,ages and life
stages); Marsh and Laughlin (1956-ethnoanatomy);
Messing (1957-soils, rains, ethnoanatomy); Hoernle
(1923-water); Malinowski (1923-boasting; 1935gardening); Musil (1928-ethnopsychology, ethnoastronomy,ethnometeorology,ethnozoology); Needham (1956, 1959, 1961-ethnoscienceof China); Oliver
(1949-human relations); Robbins, Harrington, and
Freire-Marreco (191 6-ethnobotany); Roys (1931ethnobotany); Towle (1961-ethnobotany); and VogL
(1965a-curing ceremonies).This list is only a small
numberof themany folk sciencestudiesnow published.
However, excludingthekind of ethnographicsemantics
reportedin thissurvey,it is doubtfulwhethertherehas
been any improvementin thiscenturyover folk science
vocabulary studies of previous centuries,particularly
when one considersthe 16th-century
work of Sahaguin
(1950-64), the world's firstand greatestmodern anthropologist.10
A "lexical set" can be definedrigorouslyas a groupof
contrastivewords with a definingfeature(or component) in common(Lounsbury1956). However, I shall use
lexical set more loosely to include association through
(1) commoncontexts,(2) familyresemblance(Wittgenstein1953) or rope linkage(e.g., itemx and y are linked
by definitionalattributeq, while itemy and z are linked
by attributer-a non-transitivelinkagebetweenx and
z, and (3) similaraffectivemeaning.I shall use theword
"domain" to indicatethe conceptualizedrealitydesignated by the lexical set-the semanticrange (Conklin
1962: 124). Among the many who have made this
distinctionis Trier (1932) who spoke of Wortfeldand
Sinnbezirk.By concentrating
on a domain (e.g.,kinship)
we keep meaningratherthan word formforemostand
excludethosemeaningsof theword formsthat fall outside the (kinship)domain.
Lexical sets coveringsome domains are comprisedof
relatively"autonomous" words that referto clear-cut,
tangible objects whose attributesare likely to be recognized in the vocabulary of most cultures having
contactwiththeobjects.There may be inherentcharacteristicsin somethingsthatimposerestrictions
or priorities on the way the domain is semanticallydescribed.
Folk science taxonomies occasionally fall into this

Colby: ETHNOGRAPHIC

category.Words appearingin the basic vocabulary list


used in lexicostatisticsprovide good examples of such
segregates.
In otherdomainsthesame generaloutsideboundaries
may existin nearlyall languages,but withintheboundaries thelexical divisionmay be quite varied. Color is a
well-known example (Brown and Lenneberg 1954;
Conklin 1955; Gleason 1961: 4-5; Goodman 1963;
Hoijer 1954: 96; Landar, Ervin, and Horowitz 1960;
Lennebergand Roberts 1956; Newman 1954: 87-88;
and Weisgerber1962). Such domains are particularly
vulnerableto distortionby ethnocentricprocedures.
A domain consideredin termsof its conceptualstructuremay be called a semanticfield. Ipsen (1924) used
this concept (Bedeutungsfeld)when he analyzed the
Indo-European vocabulary for metals, sheep, and
sheep-raising.Trier (1932) also emphasized the structural or systemicnature of meaning.Other studiesof
semanticfieldinclude thoseby Porzig (1934), who has
postulated 3 types of meaning relationships: linear,
radiating and complex; and Ohman (1951), who has
analyzed Germanand Swedish terminologies
of human
institutionsand arrangements(administration,
political
parties,militarytitles);education;moneyand measures;
formsof address; sense data; climate; and kin terms.
Ohman's observation (1953) that special domains of
vocabularysuchas themetricsystemor temporalsystem
are more difficultfor foreignersto learn than domains
whose constructmembersdepend moreheavily on context suggestsa numberof interestingleads for experimentalsemantics.For recentreviewsand commentson
European semanticfield studies,see Kronasser (1952),
Basilius (1952), Ohman (1953), Ullmann (1957), Leisi
(1961), Guiraud (1955), Schaff(1960). Hiorth (1960),
and Wiister(1959).
CONTRAST-LEVEL MAPPING

The way in which the phenomenalworld is "mapped"


by a language is the most anthropologicallyinteresting
aspect of semantics.Because the emphasis is on the
culture's,rather than the investigator's,view of the
world, the methods attemptto exclude ethnographer
bias. One of the most illuminatingmeans for seeing
how different
vocabulariessegmentrealityis the "contrast-level"analysis of selecteddomains.
Lexical sets can be arranged hierarchically,word
formsreferring
to specificobjectsat thelowestlevel and
word formswithmoregenericdenotationat the higher
levels. E.g., themappingof thefurnituredomainbegins
with furnitureat the highestlevel. The next level consistsof mutuallyexclusiveor contrastivewordsdenoting
types of furniture:chair, table, desk, lounge, etc. The
furnituresubsumedunder each of these words can be
denotedmore specificallyat still lower levels, a sofa is
a typeof lounge,a chesterfield
a typeof sofa.t"
The differencesbetween native taxonomies and
scientifictaxonomiesare ethnographicallyinteresting.
Though thescientificmodel is duplicatedin few,if any,
native languages,themodel is a usefulreferencescheme.
Gregg (1954) definesscientifictaxonomic structureas
having (1) hierarchy,(2) a 1-manyrelation,and (3) a

Sahaguinknew the language of his Aztec informantsand was


careful to record all data in their own words. He used their own
art and picturewritingto elicit information,
thus insuringthat the
data he collected were presented in terms of Aztec mentality,
rather than Sahagun's own Western European thought patterns.
Sahaguin'sinformationis thorough.He collected over 3,100 words
and expressionsin Nahuatl, the Aztec language, describingparts
of the body. In addition to this vocabulary list of what can be
called folk anatomy, Sahagun provided Nahua terms and associated beliefs for Aztec botany, zoology, medicine, astronomy,
meteorology,psychology,sociology, anthropology,geography,and
many other sectorsof Aztec culture.
Other early contributorsto ethnographicsemantics are: 17th
century,Pomo de Ayala (1936); 18th century,Krasheninnikov
(1764); 19th century,Hahn (1881) and Man (1885); and early
20th century,Spencer and Gillen (1927); Tessmann (1913); Junod
(1927); Malinowski (1922); and manyothers.All these men gained unicue beginner (See also Conklin I962:
some degree of familiaritywith the language and used native terms
in theirreports.
11 See Wittgenstein1953:14.
10

Vol. 7

No. 1

February1966

SEMANTICS

12).

The ;rrl

in
in nativetermin- This typeof'analysishad itsAmericanbeginnings
characteristic
may be least frequent
ologies(Frake1962),thoughthissometimes
dependson theworkofMorgan(1871) and Kroeber(1909),where
werediscussed
in termsof
systems
how highone goes in the system.At highercontrast kinshipterminology
or components.
levelsthetermsusuallybecomefewerin number,
but a limitednumberof discriminations
notalways.Sometimes
a higherlevelmaybe moreex- Takingtheterminologies
of 12 NorthAmericantribes,
haustiveand may involvemoretermsthanthe level Kroeberdistinguished
8 components
servingto define
generation;
immediately
below(Nida 1964).12
termsin someorall ofthe12 terminologies:
sexof relative;sexof
Much can be learnedfromthe analysisof various marriage;degreeof collaterality;
and vitalcondition
typesof synecdochic,
in speaker;relativeage in generation;
or part-whole,relationships
folk classifications.It is theoreticallyinterestingof connecting
relative.
analysisofEnglish
(whether
or space
oneis dealingwithobjects,relations,
Later,Sapirmadea componential
or timeunits)to distinguish
classinclusion
or "kindof" totalizers(1930). A "totalizer"is any termexpressing
judgment". . . whosefunctionit is to
from"partof" or "part-whole"relations a quantitative
relationships
thequantifi(Conklin1962: 129).
emphasize
thefactthatinthegivencontext
e.g.,
of as capableof increase,
Contrast-level
studiesshow that languagesdiffer able is notto be thought
moreat eachhigher
of totalizers,
levelofcontrast.
Wordsat thelower all,thewholeflock."Using16 categories
levelsusuallyadhereto the"perceptually
based on the following4
distinguish-Sapir made a classification
able objects,"whilehighercontrast
levelsreflect"con- componentdimensions:general(abstract)-specialized
ceptuallybased classifications"
non-evaluative(pure)(Nida 1964). Inves- (concrete);direct-calculated;
tigators
Sapir derivedthe
usuallyhaveworkedat thelowerlevelsandhave evaluated; and simple-modified.
experinot appreciatedthe ethnological
insightsthatcan be notionoftotalityfrom2 kindsofpsychological
of theway wordscon- ence:
gainedfroman understanding
trastat higherlevels,as suggested
by Hockett(1954: 1) thefeeling
to proceedaftera count,
ofrestor inability
113,118-19).
has beenmadeof a set or seriesor
formalor informal,
Of specialinterest
is theoccurrence
ofthesameterms aggregation
or unof inability
of objects;2) thefeeling
at different
hierarchical
levels.At 1 levelin Englishthe willingness
to breakup an objectintosmallerobjects.
termanimalsubstitutes
forsuchtermsas wolf,sheep, Thesefeelings,
to as
whichmaybe schematically
referred
respectively,
are correladog,cat,etc.,butat a higherlevelanimalcan substitute the'all' and the'whole'feeling
fromexperience
for man, fish,bird,and insect(Nida 1964). Frake, tiveto each other.Theyarisenaturally
studying
diseaseclassification
in theSubanunlanguage, withobjects(1930:7).
discovered
thatthetermnuka,meaningskineruption, This paperand Sapir's"Grading:a studyin semanexistedat morethan1 contrast-level
(1961). An erup- tics" (1951b) are importantlandmarksin semantic
tionof thistypemayhealwithoutcomplication,
butit theorythat deservemore attention.(See Weinreich
may also go on to developinto 1 of 23 moreserious 1963: 128-29 for a recentlinguisticdiscussionof
diseases.Thereforenuka is used forboth a terminal quantifiers,
and Quine(1959) fora logicaltreatment.)
diseasecategoryand a developmental
stageforother
Though linguists(Jakobson1936; Harris 1948;
diseases,as botha generaland a specificterm.What Wonderly1952) and others(Lounsbury
1956: 161-62)
differentiates
thistypeof stagefromotherstages,such analyzedpronounsand affixescomponentially,
the1st
as a stagein plantgrowth,
is thefutureindeterminacy.anthropologists
to publishrigorouscomponential
analThe progression
is stochastic,
withvariousalternative yses of meaning,followingKroeberand Sapir,were
possibilities
at each diseasestage.Such a classificationGoodenough
(1956).Their
(1951; 1956) andLounsbury
doesnotspecifysucceeding
stages;it merelylimitsand papers,whichappearedin thesameissueof Language,
structures.
It is botha description
and prediction.
arenowtheworksmostoftencitedin reference
to comof taxonomiesimportantin ponentialanalysis.
Anothercharacteristic
theanalysisof contrast-levels
was underlined
by Nida
thepurposeof
Beyondbettersemanticspecification,
(1964): termsat thesameleveloftenoverlapat many componential
units(Goodanalysisis tofindconceptual
points;thesamedesignated
realitycan be identified
by enough1956: 196, 198) or ". . . to revealthestructure
2 different
terms.Nida offerstheexampleof shipin of thelogicalcalculuswhichis employedin thegiven
English,whichcan occurwitheitherit or sheas a sub- taxonomyassociatedwiththe terms"(Wallace 1962:
stitute,dependingupon the context.Nida mentions 353). Anotherobjectivementioned
is to
by Lounsbury
othercharacteristics
revealedin chainanalysis.Colors discoverthestructure
behavior:"The
of non-linguistic
and numbers
can be brought
in linearrelation- systemof discriminatory
together
behavioris thenrelinguistic
shipsby thistechniqueto showoverlapping
areasand latedto thesystem
beof discriminatory
non-linguistic
and shifting
indistinct
boundaries(1964: 69). See also havior" (Lounsbury1956: 189). Goodenoughand
Conklin(1962).
Wallace emphasizepsychologicalcorrelatesin componentialanalysiswhile Lounsburyspeaks more of
COMPONENTIAL ANALYSIS
correlates.13
sociological
in componential
analysisis
The mappingof a domainin whichthe conceptual An additionalpossibility
embodiedin a
and hierarchical
segmentation
levelsare indicatedby to go beyondtheconceptualdistinctions
lexical unitsis a preliminary
step for another,more set of lexicalitemsto conceptsthatare not lexically
detailed,analysisin whichtherelevant(i.e., domainof each uniton a givenlevel is 13 Of course there is a trivial sense in which language relates to
related)signification
analyzed into componentsor distinctivefeatures.

See also Simpson's (1961:13-15) distinctionbetween a hierarchyand a key in which the idea of priorityis important.

12

behavior, in that all terms denoting some type of behavior are


"related" to behavior. Though Goodenough uses this trivial sense
in his example of behavioral criteriafor the meaning of football
hero, this is not what he and Lounsburymean by sociological or
psychologicalcorrelates.
CURRENT

ANTHROPOLOGY

Colby: ETHNOGRAPHIC SEMANTICS


objectivized(Goodenough 1956: 210). By knowingthe
semanticcomponentsof a lexical domain it is possible
Attemptsat componentialanalysis in a single lanto studylatentpossibilitiesnot expressedin the vocabulary. This would be useful especially in studyingse- guage outside the domain of kin termsor grammatical
mantic changes indicating the presence of cognitive paradigms have been unsuccessful,if we define comorientationsor a "cognitive style" (Hymes 1961b: ponential analysis with austerity.A parsimoniousset
of componentsfor any large vocabulary domain must
40-41).
Anthropologistsshow great enthusiasmfor the se- be abstractand generaland would identifytermsonly
manticanalyses of Goodenoughand Lounsbury.Some, if an inventoryo,fthe domain is available. If a term's
however,have been disappointedby therelativelysmall membershipin a contrastset is known,thenthe distincnumberof published componentialanalyses following tive featuresoperatingwithinthatsetare sufficient.15
Componentshave been classifiedby Burlingas prithe 1956 papers or by the somewhatarbitrarynatureof
the methodin the absence of elicitingand testingpro- mary, "significantover the entireset of terms;" and
cedures (Burling 1964)."4 Part of the disappointment secondary,"significantfor less than the total number
may stemfromoveremphasison componentialanalysis of itemsof the set. . ." (1964: 21). Wallace and Atkins
as an indicatorof basic principlesof non-linguisticbe- (1960) made a similardistinctionin theirdiscussionof
havior or of cognitivestructure.It seemsto me that the orthogonaland non-orthogonalcomponentialanalyses.
greatestsignificanceof componential analysis is lin- In an orthogonalanalysis, each term is defined by 1
guisticratherthan anthropological-in its delineation value from each dimension,and all possible combinand clarificationof semanticproblemsratherthan in ations of values are represented.In a non-orthogonal
its revelation of psychological reality (Wallace and analysis,not all possible combinationsare used, so that
in a paradigmatic scheme there are gaps or empty
Atkins 1960).
Some Americanexponentsof descriptiveethnography spaces. Wallace and Atkins divide non-orthogonal
have seized upon componentialanalysis as an example spaces into 2 types:
of the rigorand depthof analysisthat can be achieved ... in the firsttype,all the
dimensions
span the same set
in the careful study of a single culture.Such analysis of referents
A, but at least two values fromdifferent
excludescross-culturalwork,whichtheyconsiderto be dimensions
are mutuallycontrary... in the secondtype,
synonymouswith superficialityand "softness."How- each dimension
overlapsat leastone otherdimension,
and
ever, the componential analyses of Lounsbury and all dimensions
can be arrangedin an interlocking
chain,
span different
setsof referents
Goodenough rely very much on cross-culturalstudies but at leasttwo dimensions
of kinship.The discoveryof culturallyrelevantcom- (Ai and A2), and henceat leastone value on one dimension
witheach of then valueson another
ponentsrequiressome advance knowledgeof what to is mutuallycontrary
... (1960:71).
look for. Knowledge of the possibilitiesof variation dimension
(corresponding,e.g., to knowledge of possible speech
As Wallace statesin a laterpaper:
sounds, a prerequisitefor phonemic analysis) derives
shouldnot, and in fact do not any longer,
from cross-culturalstudy. The greater the range of Ethnologists
expectthe shape and othercharacteristics
of the logical
behavior studied,the more new discriminationsforce space on whicha folk taxonomyis mappedto be necesthemselveson the analyst.Once cognitiveinertiain the sarilythe simpleand convenient
orthogonalclass-product
perceptual process is overcome, discriminationsare space so familiarin textbookexpositions
of social science
possibleeven wherethecharacteristics
existin attenuated methodology
(1962:353).
form. Hidden or little-emphasizedmeaningfulcomOrthogonal or non-orthogonal(type I) analyses are
ponents in 1 culturemightbe overlooked if the same
virtually
impossible for a vocabulary list exhaustive
componentswere not morepatent in othercultures.
of a domainotherthankinshipor grammaticalelements.
The value of cross-culturalsemantic analysis was
demonstratedat a conferenceon the Mayan languages A non-orthogonal(type II) componentialanalysis can
sometimes
of Guatemala and southernMexico (Nida 1958). Mem- be quite arbitrary;elegance and symmetry,
used
as
a
are
the
here
validity
criteria,
lacking;
problem
bersof theconferencemade a cross-culturalstudyof the
of descriptivevalidityis critical.These difficulties
were
singlebroad concept sbaman, listingall Mayan words
recognized
by
Lounsbury
(1956:
194):
that approximatedits meaning.When the moreprecise
definitionsof thesewords were diagrammed,the result In some areas of lexicon,semanticstructure
may be so
to approach
was a more detailed and wider groupingof concepts complexthatit is impossibleor unprofitable
than the one originally conceived. This procedure is it in this manner,with Aristotelianclass logic and the
pragmatictestas the principaltools.
very useful in field eliciting.It helps the analyst to "same or different"
necessaryto abandon the Aristotelian
clarifythe meaningsof the words used and provides a It may become
dichotomyof A vs. not-A; and the clear distinction
cross-culturalframeworkfor elicitingotherwords and between"essential"and "accidental"features.Continuous
shadesof meaningpreviouslyoverlooked.Such a process scales may be introducedin place of thesesharpdichotis similar to Lazarsfeld's "substructionof property omies;degreesof "criteriality"
maybe measuredforvarious
spaces" (1961).
semanticfeatures;and testsotherthan the simple"same
or different"
may have to be devised.
14
Among the authors of componentialanalyses (all of kin term
An example of what mightbe called "limited" com
domains) since the 1956 papers are: Grimes and Grimes (1962),
Conant (1961), Romney and Epling (1958), Epling (1961), and ponential analysis is Conklin's classificationof HanuBurling (1963). Wallace and Atkins (1960) is a good review and noo termsrelatingto,timeand space measurement.
He
discussion of the method; so is Nida (1964). For an interesting
classifies
them
into
versus
"point."
These
are
"span'
cross-culturalstudy see Edmonson (1957). Unpublished papers
emphasizing the methodologyof componential-analysis are Kay
(1964) and Romney(1964). For a historicaltreatmentsee Friedrich
(1964).

Vol. 7 . No. 1 . February 1966

15 See Frake's descriptionof 3 high-levelplant lexemes according


to woodiness and rigidityof stem (1926:83).
9

as endocentric
the
to avoidtreating
versus"non-proximate"phor."It is difficult
brokendowninto"proximate"
exointo"known"versus"vague" meaningfora lexicalunitthatis psychologically
and in somecasesfurther
fromthesumof the
(lecture,Harvard University,1962). It is difficultto centric(wherethemeaningdiffers
of thewordparts),butmayonce have been
determinehow much of such classificationis native, meanings
thedead
Hockett(1954: 111) exemplifies
and how muchis imposed endocentric.
learnedby the ethnographer,
part of theanalyst'sthought-structure.metaphorproblemwith the Chinesetermfor train,
by a pre-existing
This is, of course,the most fundamentalethnographic hw6che.Hw6 "fire" and che "cart" were combined
steamlocomotivewas firstinproblem. Conklin spent enough time speaking the whenthe fire-spitting
language in the culture to have learned some of its troducedinto China. But hwocheno longerhas this
bythetermfor
as is demonstrated
meaning,
psychologically significantaspects. But whether the endocentric
in whichdyanltsignifies
representcrypto- electrictrain,dyanlt-hwoche,
aspectsof timeand space measurement
power."
types (Whorf 1956) of the native or of the ethno- "electric
The same processundoubtedly
occurredin Wissegrapher's language must be specified by the ethnographer.Approximationto implicitnative categoriesof mann'sstudy(1958; see Ullmann1962: 52) and is the
of
of Whorf's(1956) demonstration
timeand space,maynotbe necessaryif theethnographer chiefshortcoming
The same
literaltranslation.
relativity
through
can generatesentencesabout time and space which are linguistic
to demunderstandableto the natives,but then the problemis erroroccursin Ullmann's(1962: 122) attempt
onstratethatFrenchis more"abstract"thanEnglish
to determinewhen a native "understands."
If objectswere named exclusivelyaccordingto phys- or Germanin thatsuchwordsas ashtrayand Aschenwordforms
teapotandTeekanne,arecomposite
ical properties,theircomponentialanalysis would not becher,
and the'iere
arenot.
be such a problem.But if objectsare recognizedalso by whileFrenchcendrier

function,analysisbecomesinfinitelymorecomplexand
more culturallyrevealing.If we are tryingto find the
particular attributesimportantin the perception of
coins,we may concentrateon type of metal, condition
of edges, and size. This is not likely to be culturally
revealing.But if we add a fewfunctionalor experimental attributes-thesound of a coin when droppedor the
desiredresponsefroma slot machine-we move into a
area of investigation.
less scrutablebut moreinteresting
Silver dollars signifygood luck to childrenand may
recall Las Vegas for adults. This is still trivial but
approaches what mightbe classed as a culturallyimportantbit of Americana.
of definitionby attributeis much
The indeterminacy
increasedfor entitiesmore abstractthan coins. Studies
of child behaviorsuggestthat size, shape, and color are
not properties by which objects are 1st identified
(Church 1961: 5). Perceptual attributesof color and
formstabilize in the child's identificationalapparatus
at later developmentalstages-at least as a basis for
concept formation(Church 1961: 11). The most imof criterialattributesis undoubtedportantdeterminant
ly the particularpurpose behind the symbolizationsof
a situation.The learningprocessmay involve thebuilding of a seriesof theoriesconcerningtheworld of reference and the words which symbolizeits many aspects.
We categorizeeventsand objects and pick ready-made
words fromthelanguageforthem.The learningcriteria
for such categoriesare probably differentfor each individual. A baby learnsthata rattlemakesa noisewhen
shaken, and that a cat scratcheswhen squeezed. He
learns otherthingsabout rattlesand cats; but does he
use noise and scratchingas criterialattributesfor the
restof his life?Meaningmay be learnedin thesameway
large buildingsare constructed.A scaffoldis necessary
at the beginning,but on completionof the buildingthe
scaffoldis removed and forgotten.How then can we
analyze meaningentirelyon the basis of attributescaffolds? Clearly, learningabout objects for the 1st time
and identifyingthem subsequentlyinvolve different
attributes.Word meaningsdevelop; they are not immutable (Vygotsky1962: 121).
In determiningthe componentsof a conceptualized
designatedreality,anotherproblemthat is particularly
serious for the non-nativespeaker is the "dead meta10

SEMANTIC RULES
1963b)and genTransformation
models(Levi-Strauss
erativegrammars(Chomsky1957; 1961) offernew
as well as in
semantics,
in ethnographic
possibilities
generalsemantictheory.Basic to thesenew developmentsis theidea of rules,in manyrespectssimilarto
treatment
(1953).
Wittgenstein's
is
The mostrecentand complexworkon semantics
basedon semantic
rules:Katz and Fodor(1963) present
constituents,
objecdescribing
a semanticmetatheory
of a workablesemantictheory.
tives,and constraints
Accordingto theauthors,a semantictheoryaccounts,
ornonto thecontext
(eitherlinguistic
withoutrecourse
a senforthespeaker'sabilityto interpret
linguistic),
tenceofhislanguage.A theory
whichaccountsforconof an utterance
on theinterpretation
textualinfluences
of
all thespeaker'sknowledge
wouldhaveto represent
untheworld,a requirement
whichtheauthorsconsider
realistic.

Katz and Fodorstatethata semantictheoryshould


accountforsentence
through(1) deterinterpretation
readingspossible,(2) detecting
miningthe different
semanticanomalies,and (3) decidingon paraphrase
relationsbetweensentences.This, togetherwith a
morphonemics,
(phonology,
description
grammatical
a completelinguistic
phology,and syntax)constitutes
description.

has2 basiccomponents:
Theirtheory
(1) a dictionary
whichsupplieseverypossiblemeaningof a lexicalitem
in anysentence
and (2) projection
ruleswhichselectthe
meaningofeachlexicalitemin eachgramappropriate
of thatsentence
maticalstructure
by takingaccountof
thesemantic
relations
between
morphemes
andtheinteractionbetweenmeaningand syntactic
structure.
Lexicaldefinitions
in thedictionary
have2 parts:(1)
2 typesof componential
(e.g.,
markers:grammatical
malenoun,verb) and semantic(e.g., human-animal,
whichare specificdefifemale)and (2) distinguishers
nitions(e.g.,a distinguisher
for1 meaningof bachelor
is "whohas nevermarried";foranother,
"whohas the

1stor lowestacademicdegree").Thus thevariousmeaningsof each lexical itemare subjectedto a limitedcornponential analysis plus more specific definitions.The
CURRENT

ANTHROPO

LOG

Colby: ETHNOGRAPHIC SEMANTICS


by the commonmormeaningdomainis determined
Projectionrules
phemesharedby thevariousmeanings.
anomalous A method developed by Metzger and Williams
entries
to eliminate
combinewithdictionary
(1 963a), modelledto someextenton programmedlearnin a givensentence.
ofmeanings
combinations
practicalusefor ing techniques,aims at reducingambiguityand ethnogmaynothaveimmediate
The method
in rapherbias by forcingthe ethnographersystematically
as a seriousattempt
butis important
anthropologists
fromthesophisticationto learncorrectword usage in a specifieddomain of the
semantic
theorywhichbenefits
language.The ethnographer'squestion(elicitingframe)
grammars.
aboutgenerative
oftheories
Recently,Lounsbury(1961) has developeda new comes frompreviouslyrecordednative textual materiamongCrow als, to insure that the phrasing is indigenous. The
relationships
formalmethodfordescribing
rulesto process, in the form of verbatim statementsof both
usingrewrite
andOmahakinshipterminologies,
termswithinthe ethnographerand informant,is presentedas evidence
bringout equivalencesof different
termina so that the reader can judge for himself(Metzger and
as a connecting
E.g.,"Mother'sbrother
system.
as brother"and Williams 1963a: 216):
compoundkintypeis to be rewritten
so on, untilall thetermsare reducedto a focaltype. The establishment
of specifiableeliciting
and employment
usesfortheseequivalences
bypoint- frames,formulatedin the informants'
Lounsbury
suggests
language and in
in socio- terms "entertainable"by informants,constrainstheir
of statusinheritance
ingoutparallelsequences
analysisof Ramko- responsein somegreatdegreeto a focusor fociwhichare
logicaldata. In a similarreduction
terms,ratherthan by
Keesing(1962) findsa parallelbe- in turndefinedin the informants'
kamekrakinterms,
names. the categoriesof the investigator.
ofinherited
rulesandtransmission
tweenrewrite
over
ofdistinct
a number
advantages
The methodoffers
As an example,Metzgercitesan interviewwitha law
analysisin theparticularcase of Crow studentin whichtheframe"Does theAttorneyGeneral
componential
(e.g., reductionto a focal take cases to court?"eliciteda negativeanswerat 1 time
and Omaha terminologies
type),butmuchmoreworkis neededamongotherso- and an affirmativeanswerat another(lecture,Harvard
cietiesbeforereductionanalysiscan be adequately Center for Cognitive Studies, 1963). The investigator
assessed.
reworkedthe questioninto 2 revisedframesno longer
in semanticssimilarto ambiguous to the informant: "Does the Attorney
Anothernew development
analysisand someaspectsof thetransform-Generalpresslitigation?"Informant'sresponse:"Yes."
reduction
His "Does the AttorneyGeneral try cases?" Informant's
ational approachis Nida's theoryof translation.
procedureis to reducemeaningsor semesto 4 funda- response: "No." The investigatorcontinuesto interof symbol view until all his frame-responsesets are stabilized.
structure
in thesemantic
mentalcomponents
and relational. These are enteredin the terminalethnographicdescripobject,event,attribute,
combinations:
Many wordshave semesbelongingto morethan1 of tion.
these classes (particularlyin highly agglutinative The most detailed and complete specificationof a
forms);e.g., kin termsspecifyboth an objectand a variety of ethnographictopics in the native language
of a word(whereits of a culturealien to the anthropologistwas recorded4
Semanticcomplexity
relationship.
semesbelongto morethan1 basicclass) is reduced,in centuriesago by Sahaguin.Though it will probably be
parallelin manymoreyearsbeforethevolumeof his data is matchto "semanticprimitives"
specificsentences,
gram- ed (beyondtextsof folkloreor myth),we at last have a
in generative
manyrespectsto kernelsentences
mars.This method,
basedon a theoryof theuniversal- significant
overSahaguin's
methodologicalimprovement
ityofthe4 semetypes,can be appliedin manyanthro- techniquesin the programmedspecificationof Metzger
pologicalanalysesand can be of greatuse to ethnog- and Williams, in which the exact questionsput to the
raphers.
informantare added to the recordof his answers.

ELICITING PROCEDURES
AND PROGRAMMED SPECIFICATION

VALIDITY
validity is best attained throughsuch pro-

of Descriptive
one can learnsomething
Workingwithinformants,
ceduresas
specification.But once the data
or related have beenprogrammed
theboundaries
of synonyms
and dimensions
recorded and arranged for analysis, other
tech- kinds of validity assume importance.Much of the litframe-and-substitution
wordsby distributional
niques(Nida 1964; Stefflre1963). These techniques, eraturethesedays is concernedwiththe"emic problem"
in use and shouldbe or psychologicalor cultural reality.'6Are the compothoughnot new, are increasing
the "rapportbetweenwords" nents in a componentialanalysis really indigenousto
helpfulfordetermining
conceptsthatare thepeople usingtheword forms,or are theysimplycon(Whorf1956: 67) or fordiscovering
being venientconstructsof the analyst?Are we searchingfor
relatedina waypeculiartotheculture
cognitively
analyzed.
somethingthat really exists,for "God's truth,"or are
is to use deliberate
error we simplyrearrangingthingsat will forpurelypractical
Anotherelicitingtechnique
re- ends?". . . theGod's truthman doesn'tbelievehe'll ever
to stimulus
in reference
objectsto evokecorrective
plies, presumablyon the same contrastlevel as the find God's truth,but he does believe it exists,and that
used lexeme(Frake 1962: 81-82).Landar by tryingand workinghe can gradually approach it
erroneously
foreliciting.
See Kelly asymptotically"(Householder 1952: 261). During the
(1960) has useda matrixsystem
of semanticmap- last decade, emphasis has been on the "God's truth"
discussion
(1955: 59-60) forfurther
of promptingposition,thoughthenew interestin generativegrammars
pingand Quine(1960: 30) fordiscussion

translation(i.e., of a language
and elicitingin "cradical"~
with littleor no contactwith any language already described).
Vol. 7

No. 1

February1966

16 Much of thishas been stimulated


by Pike (1954),,thoughthe
basicpaperis Sapir(1951a, originally
publishedin 1925).
11

as a modelforanthropological
analysismay bringa appointing.Frake (1961) brieflyhintsat social contexts
shifttowardthe"hocuspocus"or pragmaticdirection. that relate to skin disease and its terminologybut does
The new emphasisis on informant
responsesto pro- not specifythemin therigorousdetailneededto validate
ductionsor behaviorsthatare generated
by a seriesof the arrangementof his lexical units. More relevantis
rulesorcalculiwhichthemselves
arenottested.
Fenton's description (1940) of the classification of
Burling(1964) hasattackedcomponential
analysisby medicinalplants into a hierarchyof formsimilarto the
showingthevirtually
infinite
numberofwaysa lexical sequentialpatternin prayersto the spiritforces.Both
set can be componentially
divided,if thereis no way are based on the principleof relative stature.Though
of checking
whichcomponents
represent
"God's truth" Fenton omits detail, he indicatesthat such a principle
and whichare constructs
of the analyst.Answering also seems to underlie the Iroquois conceptionof the
Burling'sattack,Hymes (1964) stresses3 meansof treeof life."9
validatingcomponents
in theprocessof approximating
"God's truth":elicitingprocedures,
use of context, CONTEXT
and prediction.
It is perhapssignificant
that,withthe
exceptionof elicitingproceduresin Conklin (1962) In Hjelnmslev'sview, meaningdoes not existapart from
and Frake(1962),noneofthesehasreceivedsubstantial context (1961: 45).2? Many linguists,anthropologists,
treatment
in eithertheclassic1956papersofLounsbury and humanistsshare this emphasis on context rather
thanwords in isolationor in paradigms.The contextual
and Goodenough
or laterworks.
valid- viewpoint emphasizes (1) the influence of adjacent
The primary
meansofestablishing
descriptive
to words, sentences,and paragraphs on the meaning of
ityis simplyinformant
response.
Hymes(1964)refers
the "questiondependent"aspectof semanticanalysis. specificlexical units-textual or linguisticcontextand
in thefieldprovide1 means (2) theactual situationin whichthe speecheventoccurs
Propereliciting
techniques
of alternative
ofeliminating
a largenumber
componen- -non-linguistic or behavioralcontext.2"
contextin whicha heareris situatto arriveat whatis assumed The non-linguistic
tialanalysesin theattempt
ofthenatives.When ed already limitshis expectancy.He becomesmobilized
thecognitive
torepresent
processes
he meansmainlyan af- (Church 1961: 28) or "set" to make certain interpreHymesspeaksof prediction,
informant
firmative
responseto thecorrectnamingof tations rather than others in a continual process of
experience." In a particular sphere of
objectsin theenvironment,
showingthatthemeaning Ccthematizing
activity
he
expects
to encounterconceptsdirectlyrelathasbeenattainedbytheinvestigator.7
is thatthevarious ed to that activitymore than he expectsto encounter
The drawbackto sucha criterion
semantic
principles
and components
appliedby thein- conceptsalien to it. Non-linguisticcontextthusprovides
he
decides
whether
objectis desig- a kind of semanticredundancy(pp. 57-58, 97).
when
an
vestigator
Bateson (1960) outlinesa sequence of contextsin an
natedby a specificlexicalunitmaynotalwaysbe conopen
and possiblyinfiniteseries.One contextmay comsciousto him.Chomsky'sremarks(1962: 528-29) on
theunconscious
contributions
a readermakesto a tra- pletely reverse the meaning of a message normally
whilelearninga foreign
ditionalgrammar
languagecan given in another context. To indicate the messagebe appliedequallyto theinvestigator
whenhe predicts clarifyingfunctionof contextBateson uses the term,
and testswordusagein an alienlanguage.Even if the meta-message.22 Here we are dealing with what Vyinvestigator
is fullyconscious
ofall-thesemantic
criteria gotskyand Paulhan call the sense.23
he usesin testing
wordusage,an affirmative
informant "A word in a contextmeans both moreand less than
doesnotnecessarily
meanthecriteria
response
arethose
19 Principles of classificationinvolving religious beliefs are cerusedby nativespeakers."8
among the more interestingand revealing relationshipsin
Predictionof correctword usageis different
from atainly
culture.An example worthfurtherstudyis the possible relationof futureeventsor data characteristics
in- ship between Hindu dietaryconcernand classificationof birds by
prediction
accessibleto theinvestigator
at thetimeof prediction. the way theyhandle food.
correlates
Lounsbury's
sociological
validatecomponents 20 See also Chao's "principle of total accountability"(1953:379).
discover the extentto which relatively"autonomous" words
ofthislattertype.It is probablythe areToindependent
through
prediction
of contextfor theirmeaningrequiresan ambitious
promiseof thistypeof validationthathas attracted programof experimentalsemantics(see Stefflre1963).
to componential
many anthropologists
analysis.Un- 21 The division of contextinto linguisticand non-linguisticaspects
itis precisely
fortunately,
inthisareathatcomponential follows Morris' division into pragmaticsand semantics-syntactics
(1955). Wittgenstein(1953:5) includes both contextsas essential:
analysisand contrast-level
analysishavebeenmostdis- "I
shall also call the whole, consistingof language and the actions
See Hoijer (1958) and, again, Sapir (1951a).
Predictive validity concerns representativenessor replicability.
If data have been elicited from a single informantand analyzed,
what are the chances that anotherinformantwill produce the same
results? Obviously the answer depends upon the nature of the
data and the inferencesmade. Most linguisticwork is done with
a handful of informants.Other types of work require a much
larger sample before the data "stabilize." We have very little
systematicinformationon the degree of semantic sharing (see
Quine 1960:8, 13, 272).
18 Hymes (1964:117)
refers to this as the sorting problem.
Replication of semantic componentsis the goal of many anthropologists but usually not the concernof those who use a generative
grammaras a model. Katz and Fodor, e.g., are interestedonly in
economical and correct interpretation,with the emphasis that
semanticmarkers(components)or projectionrules be judged not
alone but in combinationin specificapplications.
17

12

into which it is woven, the "language game."


Greenberg(1954:15) uses linguisemefor meaning derived from
linguistic contextand ethnosemefor meaning derived from nonlinguisticcontext.
22 Humor (Burke 1957), irony (Knox 1961), metaphor (Burke
1957; Asch 1955), and euphemisms,all dependentupon linguistic
and non-linguisticcontextsof situations,have yet to receive substantivetreatmentin this connectionby anthropologists.
23 Ortega y Gasset speaks of the need for "a theoryof the particular silences observed by differentpeoples. The Englishman
leaves unsaid countless things that Spaniards normallysay. And
vice versa!" (1957:246). Such silences can be categorizedinto the
silent message conveyedvisually (proxemic behavior, Hall 1963);
the shared contextualinformationnever sent by any means; and
intonations,pauses, etc., in speech (paralinguisticmeaning,Trager
1958; 1960; 1961; and dictive meaning,Empson 1952). Recently
Hymes (1962) has detailed many of these aspects of contextin a
paper on the ethnographyof speech.
CURRENT

ANTHROPO

LOGY

Colby: ETHNOGRAPHIC SEMANTICS


thesamewordinisolation:more,becauseitacquiresnew
context;less,becauseitsneaningis limitedand narrowWhen one attemptsto describethe contextof a
1962:146).Thisadditionand
ed bycontext"(Vygotsky
one mustdecidewhatpartsto selectfordeof meaningmay lead eventuallyto better situation,
subtraction
thestreamof behavior.
and whereto segment
between scription
of the complexinterrelation
understanding
units
selectedmustaccount
Various
combinations
of
the
in
been
interested
have
Linguists
and meaning.
thought
theoryaccountsfor
as grammatical
contextanalysisprimarilyfor delimitingpolysemy. fornew situations
Weinreich
(1963) hasuseda notationforhandlingcon- newutterances.
in this
Goodenough(1963) has madea contribution
textcomponents.
so haveBarkerandWright(1955) andBarker
Componentsof linguisticcontext,however,are of direction;
when comparedto and Barker(1961), thoughthelatter2 worksdelimit
significance
minorethnographic
withoutculturally-based
arbitrarily
componentsof non-linguisticcontext. Bloomfield behavioralsettings
(1933: 139) oncesaid: In orderto givea scientificallyvalidation.Fischer(1963) has analyzedsemanticdoamongpairs of Japanese
of meaningfor everyformof a mainsin personalreference
accuratedefinition
accu- familymembers.
paper,Stefflre
In his programmatic
language,we shouldhaveto havea scientifically
of contexts
in the speaker'sworld. (1963) has treatedtheformalspecification
rateknowledgeof everything
Otherexamplesare Brown and Gilman
extensively.
Malinowski(1923: 301) wrotein a similarvein:
word (1960),Conklin(1959),Geertz(1960),and Kluckhohn
an English
simply
ofinserting
Insteadoftranslation,
fora nativeone,we are facedby a longand not al- (1961: 902-3).25
of context
widefieldsofcustom, Anotherapproachto thecharacterization
ofdescribing
process
simple
together
which would be to compilea list of grammatical
categories
and of tribalorganizations
of socialpsychology
to onetermor another.
correspond
thatis part
Information
languages.
frommanydifferent
in the
Boas and Sapirare amongthemanyanthropologistsof thecontextof 1 languagemaybe recognized
a
another.
E.g.,
perof
categories
formal
grammatical
thesameviews.
whohaveexpressed
tone
revealed
are
often
by
son's
social
and
sex
position
ensomehow
must
that
a
semantic
theory
The idea
Yet in
features.
or otherparalinguistic
compassthetotalcontextof thelivesof the speakers of voice,gesture
differences
are
such
situational
expressed
some
cultures
discussions
toininformal
ofa languagehasbeenreferred
structure.
Languagesexist
as the "encyclopedictheory."Because as part of thegrammatical
by Chormsky
are
forms
of
address
usedaccording
in
which
different
contextof speech
ofthetotalnon-linguistic
description
of
or
both.Other
to
sex
the
the
hearer,
speaker,
the
either
manylinguists
eventsis regardedas impossible,
differences
sometimesformalizedin
or declarethata se- speaker-hearer
in semantics
renouncean interest
and obviatives.In European
mantictheorycan be developedwithoutconsidering grammarare honorifics
thefamiliarand politeformsof addressare
languages,
context(Katz and Fodor1963).
non-ling,uistic
of behavioralsituations(Brown and
semanticsmustultimatelyinvolve formalizations
If ethnographic
can be conthesameinformation
Gilman
1960).
Thus
ofgenerative
thegreatattraction
context,
non-linguistic
or notat all. Lanof a para- veyedin syntax,lexicon,intonation,
is something
foranthropologists
grammars
"chanviewoflinguistics guagesvaryin utilizationof theseinformation
toa Chomskian
dox.Forcommitment
distinction
between
can
be
that
the
nels."
It
seen,
then,
theory.
of theencyclopedic
entailsrejection
context,while useful,is
con- linguisticand non-linguistic
But thereare 2 waysof viewingnon-linguistic
Weinreich
See
(1963: 123-27) for
language-bound.
from
viewis quitedifferent
text.The anthropological
and Hymes
of
deictic
indicators
further
discussion
assume
to
reason
thelinguistic
one.Actually,thereis no
categories
grammatical
the
relation
between
(1961b)
for
contextof speech,as conceptualthatthenon-linguistic
styles.
and
cognitive
is so uniqueand rootedin particized by thespeakers,
thatit cannotbe characterizularityoftimeandsetting
faith TRANSLATION
The anthropological
ed relatively
parsimoniously.
thatnon-linguistic
contextneednotbe treatedencycloanalysisrests
it can be mademoresimple- At bottom,practicallyall ethnographic
pedically-thatsomehow
to "cognitivestruc- on translation:
references
is reflected
in frequent
tures"and relatedconcepts.
or specchevents that model or representbehaviorsoccurringin othersettings."The
No 2 people,contextualsituations,
themselves model array in any one culture may include representationsin
areexactlythesame.Ratherthanpreoccupy
diverseformsas graphicart, sculpture,drama, literature,toys,
thatno 2 in- such
withwhathardlyneedsdemonstration,
maps, plans, folktales,games, and many more" (Roberts,Suttonmostethnol- Smith,and Kendon 1963).
dividuals"cognitively
share"all elements,
ogiststurnto thoseaspectsof culturethat,like lanThe work of Robertsand his associates,with Levi-Strauss'conby a signifi- ception of transformationrules (1963:235, 333) and projections
and understood
guage,are communicated
can be reduced of schemas of institutions(277, 132), representa departurein
cantpartof societyand thathopefully
thatmay eventuallytie in with semanticmodels along
to componentsor elementsof a reasonablysimple anthropology
the lines suggestedby Saussure long ago.
structure.24

These uses of models are not to be confused with the type of


model developed by Kay (1963). Kay's model, which has consider24 Anthropological emphasis on shared patterns has had early
able power, relates to ethnologicrather than ethnographicsemantics; he calls it ethnographicbecause it organizes data from a
success in kinship studies. Recently there has been headway in
single society.Kay's paper merits extensivediscussion but is outother areas. Robertsand his colleagues have used a conceptionof
culturalmodels in a conflict-enculturation
hypothesisthat has far- side the scope of this survey.
reachingpossibilities.It is being validated in an increasingnumber 25 If more attentionwere given to context(e.g., Haugen 1957),
of -studies(Roberts, Arth, and Bush 1959; Roberts and Sutton- it mightbe possible to speak of degrees (Wells 1958:655), probSmith 1962; Sutton-Smith
and Roberts1964; Roberts,Sutton-Smith, abilities, or contingencies(but not in the artificialsystemof Marand Kendon 1963). Robertswrites of differenttypes of behaviors tin's theoryof subjectiveintensions,1963).
Vol. 7

No.

February 1966

13

and traditionof a
The attitudesand values,theexperience
people,inevitably
becomeinvolvedin thefreight
of meaning carriedby a language.In effect,
one does not translate
languages, one translatescultures. Ethnography
may, in
fact,be thoughtof as a formof translation
(Casagrande
1954:335-40).

logical descent is conjectural; there are more than 2


degreesof relationship;and the language of analysis
(English) tends to distortthe data. In the Saussurian
view of semanticvalues, thislast limitationmay not be
so serious.In fact,it maybe themethod'sstrongest
point
-just thosevalues of Englishword formsclosestto the
Hebrew are likelyto be broughtout.
When a singleword formis translatedout of context,
errors(such as mentionedby Nida, cited earlier) are
likelybecausethemultiplicityof meaningsand meaning
nuances for the word formare usually ignored.When
whole sentencesand largersegmentsof a textare translated (not literally;literaltranslationsare less accurate
-!see discussionon dead metaphor),thereis muchmore
precisiondue to the contextualnarrowingof meaning
(see Vygotsky'sremarks,citedearlier).
In the translationprocess,the text is reduced consciously(Nida 1964) or unconsciouslyto semanticprimitives beforebeing transformedinto the 2nd language.
The loss that occurs throughtranslationis probably
due more to lack of cultural experiencethan to the
linguisticprocessitself.The fluentreaderof even Latin
or ancientGreekbuildsup a residueof vicariouscultural
experience through his readings. This experience is
drawn upon to an increasingextentas his fluencyand
readingprogresses.

Curiouslyenough,while anthropologicalwork is intimatelyinvolvedwithtranslation,few anthropologists


have given it extensiveattentionin writingwith the
exception of Casagrande (1954), Phillips (1959), and
Greenway (1964). Philosophershave been much more
interestedin the process lately, particularly Quine
(1960), who illustrateshis principleof the indeterminacy of translationwith the language of a hypothetical
jungle tribe never before contacted by Westerners.A
reading of Quine should be useful for alerting the
anthropologistto the many problemsof translationproblemsthat he is mostlikely aware of but that have
never been made explicit in a systematicway. By far
the most illuminatingand exhaustivework on translating, however,has just been published (Nida 1964).
Nida surveys the field, presents his own theory of
translation(see thesectionon semanticrules),and delves
into semanticproblemswith a refreshingclarity. The
bibliographyalone containsover 2,000 entries.
The descriptionof semanticdistinctionsof an alien
language is necessarilygiven in the analyst's language.
But by controllingthe context,the analystmay present CONCEPTUAL RELATIONSHIPS
his definitionso thatwordsin his own languagetake on
similar semanticvalues to those in the alien language Anthropologistsseek to understand the cultural ex(Newman 1954). To achieve a specificgloss, values in perienceand reduceit to a patternor a structured
world
the analyst's language which approximatethose of the view. But one need not assume the existenceof only a
alien word are broughtout in the context.Such a con- singlepattern.Dilthey held that differentculturesare
text can be presentedas a diagram which redefines characterizedby differentworld views with theirown
English glosses to give them approximatelythe values innerlaws; he also pointedout thata singleculturemay
found in the originallanguage-at least as interpreted have severaldifferent
world views,each equally imporby the analyst.
tant.In any event,one of the challengesof the futureis
Nida (1958) presentssuch a diagram in a semantic to see if a limitednumberof logical systemsappear in
of the Biblical Hebrew root kbd, which differentculturesall over the world, as do a limited
reconstruction
occursin a wide rangeof contextsrequiringsuchglosses numberof kinshipsystems,or whetherlogical systems
as heavy, much, many, slow, abundant, burdensome, are unique, as are languages. The answer will depend
difficult,grievous,sluggish,dull, riches,respect,honor, in part on the austeritywith which a systemis defined.
classes:
and great.These glossesfall into4 different
In ethnographicsemantics,where the goal is to find
1) thosewhichdesignatequantitybut withoutany value culturalpatternsratherthan develop a semantictheory,
in termsof massand number,
judgement
e.g.,heavy,much, the bestprocedureis to selectthedomainsthat are most
many,abundant.2) thosewhichdescribecertainaspectsof culturallyinterestingor that have the widest ramifiinertia,slow (withoutevidenceof value judgment)and cations.Space is one such domain.26The vocabularyof
sluggishand dull (withoutdisapproval).3) riches,respect, space can give us hintsas to whetherspace is conceived
honor,greatand 4) thosewhichdenoteabundanceas a as a seriesof pointsand lines,areas and districts(Lynch
sourceof features
whichhave onlynegativevalue: burden- 1960), or habitats. Eskimos conceptualize largely in
and grievous.
some,difficult,
terms of edges or shorelines(Carpenter 1959). The
These 4 groupsrangealong a continuumfromcultur- Iroquois thinkin termsof habitatssuchas beechforests,
ally favored throughneutral to culturallydisfavored oak and hickoryridges,and swamps(Fenton1940). Not
meanings."Sluggish" and "dull" are at the culturally only is there cultural variation in the ways space is
disfavoredend; "slow" falls betweentheneutralmean- conceptualized,but thereis considerablevariationin a
singleindividual,dependingon his interestof the moings and the culturallydisfavoredones,etc.
Nida's diagrams show how meaningsrelate to each ment.Much of this can be discoveredthroughcareful
semanticstudy.
other,not in English,but in Biblical Hebrew
Orientation in space acts as a mental reference
in whichthe nomadicbackgroundof the people was an structure.
Sometimeselementsof the structurecan be
factorin givingriseto a seriesof meaningsin
important
whicha quantityof substancewould be eitherthe basis elicitedsimplyby having the informantdraw a map of
for wealthif it had culturalvalue, or the cause of great his territoryand explain it in his own language. The
ethnographerthus tries to ascertainwhich characterinconvenience
if it were relativelyvalueless(1958:289).
Nida indicates the limitationsof the approach: 2dimensionaldiagramsare an oversimplification;
etymo14

26

Silverman (1960) has made a general survey of conceptions


of space in anthropologicalwritings.
CURRENT

ANTHROPOLOGY

Colby: ETHNOGRAPHIC SEMANTICS


isticsof thecultureaffectthechoiceof 1 part of the
ratherthan-anotheras a mental"peg"
environment
inthelanguagedoesnotfittheinvestigator's
(involvingmore"codable"lexicalunits)in a structure vocabulary
whichincludesmorethan the mereorganizationof language.Thus,lackingthemeansforelicitingor describingsuchabstractterms,he deniestheirexistence.
space.27
He
mayelicittermsat thelowestlevelandfinda hiatus
of
space
the
use
regarding
question
important
An
analysisis: To whatextentdo the at thenexthigherlevel;he failsto noticethat,at still
conceptsin scientific
for
principlesunderlyingorientationin space underlie higherlevels,generaltermsthatcan be substituted
Whenwe speakof "socialdistance," thoseat thelowestleveldo exist.Aftergivingtheseand
socialorientation?
about primitive
or does it actuallyrelateto other reasons for misconceptions
is thismerelymetaphoric
in themindofman? thoughtand terms,Nida goeson (1964: 80):
distancein spaceas conceptualized
maylead to easierreadingand comprehen-Thoughno extensivecomparative
It certainly
analyseshave beenmade
elegance,if an ethnographicof the vocabularyof languages,a systematicstudy of
sion,as well as theoretical
by differ- translation
together
brought
description
is harmoniously
problemsin severalscoreof languagesseemsto
someofthemmore pointto thefactthat,in termsofthevocabularyin common
entkindsofspaceandtimeconcepts,
1940). To use, languagesdo not exhibitstrikingdifferences
in the
"metaphoric"
thanothers(Evans-Pritchard
oflowerversushigherlevelvocabulary.
magic,and to relativepercentages
whatextentis thismerelyethnographic
whatextentdoes it reflectsomekindof reality?PreDespiteerrorspointedout by Nida and otherlinusingnative guists,
sumablythestudyofculturalorganization
psychologists
still perpetuatethe "primitive"
terms,phrases,and conceptsshouldhelp the analyst misconception
when
they
extrapolatefromstudiesof
resolvethis.
childpsychology
as Browndoes
to "primitive
cultures,"
Componentialanalysis,as describedby Lounsbury in an otherwise
excellentbook (1958).29 French(1963:
appearsto have beena contribution413-15) has criticizedsimilarmisconceptions
and Goodenough,
by other
moreto semantic
theorythanto culturalunderstanding.psychologistsin an excellentreview. Levi-Strauss
studies,thoughless an innovationthan (1963a) suggestsa psychological
Contrast-level
motivefor viewing
analysis(what is importantis not the some culturesand theirlanguagesas primitive.For
componential
mayhavemore recentdiscussionof anthropological
butitsemphasis)
noveltyofthemethod,
use of the term
utility.Amongotherthings, primitive,
anthropological
immediate
seeTax (1960) and Mednick(1960).
studiescan provide systematicinforcontrast-level
The abilityto thinkabstractly
and themechanisms
about operating
mationto correctconjecturalpronouncements
"codable"than
to
make
some
concepts
more
usually
Such pronouncements
"primitivethought."28
othersare relatedto thecapacityand cognitivelimits
describea seriesof wordformsforparticularconcrete of
thehumanbrain(Miller1956).Wallace (1961a) has
objectsandobservethatgenerictermsfortheobjectsdo formulated
An
a "PrincipleofMaximalOrganization":
meaning
in
of
not exist.Whenwordswithwide areas
seeks
to
his
environment
cognitively
organism
organize
"primitive"languages,are pointedout to thosewho to themaximum
of his ability.Wallace proposesthat,
theresponseis thattheyare "too in any culture,folk
denytheirexistence
taxonomies
will notcontainmore
the
in
a lack of precision
loose" and demonstrate
than
or
willnotrequire
64,
26,
entities
and
consequently
severalreasonsfor morethan6 orthogonally-related
language(Nida 1964).Nida suggests
dimensions
(or
binary
aboutgenericand specificthought components)
wrongassumptions
fordefinitions
ofall terms(1961b).It will
low-level
1st,
concrete,
languages.
in non-Western
be interesting
if Wallace can explaincaseswheremore
than than
an informant
vocabularyis easierto elicitfronm
64
terms
ina folkscience.The Aymarapotato
exist
Thusoneobtains taxonomywithover
or abstractvocabulary.
highlygeneric
200 termswould be 1 case (La
oflow-levelterms.
Further- Barre:1947).To' testthis
at firsta greater
percentage
of
wouldrequirea knowledge
thinkthetermsgathered contrast
more,manyfieldinvestigators
64
terms
withsets.
Presumably
Wallace
means
becauseofthespecificcontext in the same contrastset. Conklinelicitedover
arelow-levelvocabulary
1,800
inwhichtheyaregathered;
theyfailto discoverthatthe
at
the
lowest
level
contrast
terms
of
Hanunoo
plant
wordshave widerapplications.Finally,thehigh-level
morethan1,400termsinthe
(1962) andFrakementions
of
Eastern
Subanun(1962: 83). In
the
plant
taxonomy
27 A strikingexample of specialized vocabularyfor the organizathere
sometimes
of
area
this
analysis
appearsto be a
tion of space is thatof the Marshall Islanders,describedby Winkler
betweentaxonomicorganizationinvolving
(1901). In the relatively featureless space through which they confusion
travelled,the Islanders could detect and orient themselvesby the levelsof contrast
and paradigmatic
organizationat a
waterflowfromlagoons at low tide, sometimesas far as 15 miles singlecontrast
level.Wallace is to be admiredforhis
away. Even more remarkablewas theirabilityto detectthe position
boldness.He has providedanthropology
of islands from swells. (Swell is an incorrectapproximation;ap- theoretical
stimulus.
However,empiricaldata
parentlyno English word exists to describe the phenomenonin witha much-needed
which the water is arrestedto formbarelyperceptibleripples, not substantiating
areyetto appear.
Wallace'sspeculations

unlike the visible currentaround a bell buoy during the height of


tide or around a stone in the middle of a stream.) These swells
have differentstrengths,according to location of the islands, the
east swell usually being the strongest.An elaborate vocabulary
describingthese differentphenomenaenabled navigatorsto discuss
orientationswith theirproteges.Chartsmade of special stickswere
used as mnemonicaids but, because of special characteristicsinherentin theirstructure,usually only the chart-maker
or owner was
able to interpretthem. The charts indicated island positions and
their associated swells and swell intersections.
28 A penetratingcriticismof writingsabout "primitive" thought
and primitivetermswas published by Hill (1952). See also Hoijer
(1953:560-61) and Hockett (1954:112).

Vol. 7

No. 1

Febrmary1966

AFFECTIVE RELATIONSHIPS
Osgood and his associates(1957) have experimented
of objectsalonga seriesof bipolar
withthedescription
In spite of misguidedextrapolationssometimesfound in studies
of cognitivedevelopmentin children,much can be of interestto
anthropologists.For a short review of writingson child development,see Solley and Murphy (1960: chap. 7); for a recentextensive treatmentsee-Luria and Yudovich (1959).
29

15

dimensions
suchas hard-soft,
are beyondthescopeof thissurvey.Yet
good-bad,fast-slow,
etc., inadequately,
whichis calledthesemantic
which
Factoranalyses theyarepartofthevastcultural"encyclopedia"
differential.
of theresults
havesuggested
thatamongtheunderlying lies behindword usage and whichis presumably
the
factorsare an evaluative,a potency,and an activity basisforanthropological
concernwithsemantics,
word
factor.The evaluativefactor(by far the strongest) formsand theirsignificata
beingvehiclesforthe desuggeststhat the semanticdifferential
is a measure scription
of culturalstructures.
primarily
of theaffective,
or evaluative,meaningthat
objectsand conceptshaveforindividuals.
CONCLUSION
Affectivemeaninghas rarelybeen treatedin the
anthropological
literatureexceptin termsof general In thissurveyI have hardlytouchedupon theintercognitivestructuring.
Barnett(1953) is amongthefew relations
betweenultimate
goalsand method.Whatwe
anthropologists
who have consideredat lengththe will learnfromethnographic
semantics
is treatedonly
degreeof affectin partsof thecognitive
and brieflyand generally
structure
in mostof thestudiescitedwith
howaffectcan sometimes
reinforce
to thepoint the notableexceptionof Nida (1964). The answeris
rigidity
ofan austistic
disregard
ofimportant
neweventsin the important,
though,becauseit has a directbearingon
environment.
Degree of commitment
to the existing theeffort
and complexity
ofoursemantic
analysis:
cognitivestructure
is 1 of Barnett's3 mainfactorsin
without
anyfurther
explanation:
"What
culturalchangeand process(theother2 beingthefre- If I tellsomeone
menowis composite,"
he willhavetheright
quencyand claritywithwhichrepeatedeventsaliento I seebefore
For there
thecognitivestructure
are perceived,and theimport- to ask: "Whatdo you meanby 'composite'?
are
The
all
sorts
of
things
that
that
can
mean!"
question
anceorutility
oftheevents).The degreeofcommitment"Is whatyou see composite?"
makesgoodsenseif it is
dependson the degreeto whichsubstructures
are em- alreadyestablished
what kind of complexity-that
is,
beddedin an overallstructure
and on the degreeof whichparticularuse of the word-is in question...
emo,tional
investment
in substructures.
Quine (1960) (Wittgenstein
1953:22).
and Festinger
in
(1957) have treatedthischaracteristic
Complexity keynotesthe situation in ethnography
is deeplyembeddedin the
detail.If the substructure
overallcognitivestructure,
thena changein the sub- today. We are in a positionsimilarto the linguisticone
structure
is morelikelyto have extensive
repercussionsa numberof decades ago, beforephonemicsbut afterthe
throughout
the entiresystemthan changesin sub- greatproliferationof phoneticsymbols.Linguistsbegan
to realize that the numberof sound distinctionswhich
structures
lyingmoreat theperiphery.
The studyof affectas revealedthroughsemantics could be recordedfora languagewas virtuallyinfinite.
has been primarilyin the hands of literarycritics. The distinctionsselectedin a notationwere thus quite
Hymes(1961a: 337) has calledtheattention
of anthro- arbitrary.But with the advent of phonemics,the numpo,logists
to the writingsof Burke(1957), and Arm- ber of symbolsnecessaryforrecordinga givenlanguage
strong(1959) has used Burke'sschemein analysisof was reducedto the phonemesin that language,ranging
folktalediscourse.Richards(1936; 1953) is an out- anywhere from 13 to 45 (Hockett 1958: 93), and
standingliterarycriticfromwhosewritingsanthro- arbitraryselectionwas no longer a major problem.
pologists
canprofitconsiderably.
Ofparticular
semantic Ethnographystill lacks anythingcomparable to the
is Empson'sbook(1952),w-hich
interest
describes
many phonemicprinciple. As in the early linguisticperiod,
kindsof denotativeand affective
meaningin various new methodsforrecordingthe overwhelmingdetailsin
combinationsand permutations.
He indicateshow the streamof humanbehaviorboth by tape and filmor
singlewords or sentencescan simultaneously
carry by complexnotations(Pittenger,Hockett ,and Danehy
severaldifferent
denotativemeaningsin 4 kinds of 1960) have concentratedattentionon,the question of
"equations."The equationsare combinations
of the which ethnographicfactsare importantand which can
followingmeaningtypes: head, or main meaning; be safelyignored.Unless the ethnographercan gathera
centralmeaning;rootmeaning;primarymeaning;and prodigiousamountof data, usinga teamof ethnological
topical meaning.Idiosyncraticfeelingsare distin- specialists,he must be quite selectivein recordinghis
guishedfrom shared feelings,and "emotions"are data.
Determiningwhat factsshouldbe notedand analyzed
definedas whatis leftwhensenses,implications,
and
is less bothersometo the hypothesis-minded
investigamoodsare eliminatedfroma word.
Someof thesetypesof meanings,
are called "hyper- tor,who entersthe fieldwitha limitednumberof variables already in mind and recordsonly what is useful
semanticized"
by Weinreich
(1963: 118):
in his hypothesis-testing.
It is theethnographer
entering
in the"standard"
Whereas
useoflanguage
thereceiver
of an unknownor inadequatelystudiedarea who feelsthe
a message
mustonlydecodeit,notdecipher
it (crackthe problemof ethnographicselectivitymostacutely.Fearcode),in "hypersemanticized"
thecommon
language
code
thatsuchcataloguingsas theHuman RelationsArea
is modified
ad hoc,and thefavorably
inclinedreceiver ing
of themessage
mustguessthecodemodification
before
he Files are no less arbitrarythan what he would do himself,he falls back on the 1 index specificto the culture
canproperly
decodethemessage.
he is studying,the 1 least likely to omit important
Weinreich
thinksit pointlessto concentrate
on such elementsof theculture-the lexicon.
specialeffects
without1staccounting
forthesemantic While the procedure of the hypothesis-mindedinof languagein morestandarduse. Neverthe- vestigatoradvances anthropologicaltheoryat a faster
workings
ina morepatentformmayalert pace, the materialgatheredis likely to be of less use to
less,suchspecialeffects

us to characteristics
thatare also part of standarduse.
more sophisticatedfuture anthropology.Conversely,
The conceptual and affectiveaspects of cognitive the ethnographerconcernedwith detailed cataloguing
structurewhich relate to semantics,here touchedupon of the culturethroughits lexiconwill contributeless to
16

CURRENT

ANTHROPO

LOGY

Colby: ETHNOGRAPHIC SEMANTICS


theorybutwill be morelikely
current
anthropological
th-atwill be anthropologically
to recordinformation
Williams'workis evidentespeciallyin thepapersby
usefulin thefuture.
specifisemantics Frakeand byBerlinandRomney.Programmed
in ethnographic
The new developments
Semantic cation is of particular importance in providing the
mayprovidea partialsolutiontothedilemma.
thathave beenmissingin
theory;
yet validatingnativestatements
analysismayrapidlyadvancecontemporary
semantics.
Validation
of nativewordsand state- previousworksof ethnographic
emphasison therecording
moreattention,
e.g.,in thepaperby
ments,
productsof themindsof an alienculturerather is now receiving
willinsurehighlyusefuldata D'Andrade and Romney,where various tests for
thanoftheethnographer,
psychological
realityarereported.
An interesting
crossincenturies
tocome.
meaningby Osgood and a
impor- culturalstudyof affective
recognizethe tremendous
As ethnographers
are also
studiesby Sturtevant
which, reviewof ethnoscience
tanceoflanguageas evidenceforinterpretation,
An insightful
articleby Hymesdiscusses
as McQuown(1956)haspointedout,is muchmorethan noteworthy.
of transformational
grammars
on current
of speakingthe languageto under- theinfluence
the commonplace
in anthropology.
standtheculture,
we mayenvisionWhorf's"greatand theory
The otherpublication
I havejustreceivedis a bookof
well-equippedlaboratoriesof linguistics"(McQuown
in
1956),usedwitha new rigorand precisionin ethnog- essaysin honorof GeorgeP. Murdock,Explorations
CulturalAnthropology,
editedby Goodenough
(1964).
raphy.
Amongthe ones of specialrelevanceto ethnographic
semantics
andrelatedfieldsarethosebyConklin,Frake,
ADDENDUM
and
Friedrich,
Gladwin,Goodenough,
Pospisil,Roberts,
of thispreliminary
survey,2 im- especiallyLounsbury,who presentshis systemof
Sincethecompletion
haveappeared.Transcultural equivalencerulesin "A FormalAccountof theCrowportantnewpublications
kinshipterminologies."
StudiesinCognition,
editedbyRomneyandD'Andrade and Omaha-type
one thatto do
papers.The section This fieldis sucha rapidlyexpanding
(1964),includesa seriesofexcellent
on linguistic
ofthissurveywould justiceto theseexcellentpapers and othersthat are
unitsat thebeginning
fromLamb's "The Se- comingalongwouldinvolvean additionalpublication
have benefitted
substantially
However,I hopethatcommentmemicApproachto StructuralSemantics,"and the delayofmanymonths.
otherpapers are all directlyconcernedwith ethno- atorsfamiliarwiththeseand othernew paperswill
graphic semantics.The influenceof Metzger and drawuponthemwhererelevant.

Abstract

not preoccupyhimselfwithproblemsof homonymy,


whicharesterilein theabsenceof informant
validation
of semantic and writtenrecordsof thelanguage.Culturallybased
semantics
is the description
Ethnographic
characteristics
thatare culturally
experimental
semantics,
withcarerevealing.In anthro- validationthrough
pologyit has cometo includea numberof differentfulattention
to thevariouswaysin whichthought
and
and how they"comethrough"in
typesof analysiswhichhaveso farbeenusedmostlyin meaninginterrelate
studiesof kinshipand folkscience.Theseare contrast- translation,
will reducearbitrariness.
of
The treatment
level mapping,componentialanalysis,programmedsemanticproblemsby philosophers
(e.g.,Quine'sprinof translationand the
andvarioususesofsemantic
rules,notably ciple of the indeterminacy
specification,
studyis themapping Quine-Carnapcontroversy
reduction
analysis.Contrast-level
over intensional
meaning)
of nativewordsin hierarchies
in this
levels of can be illuminatingto the anthropologist
of different
of respect.
analysisis thebreakdown.
generality.
Componential
terms
Withthebeginning
of the 1960's,I feelthatsocial
features
thatarenecessary
and
intothedistinctive
sufficient
to distinguish
has entereda newphaseof development.
themfromeach other.Pro- anthropology
is a carefullycontrolleduse of Higherstandards
grammedspecification
ofexcellence
arebeingbrought
tobear
nativephrasesand statements
native in ethnographic
to elicitfurther
and semantics
has come
descriptions,
statements
abouta giventopicin a way thatpreserves to occupya largerplacein them.The greatest
emphasis
as muchof thenativethought
patternas possible.The now seemsto be on ethnographic
semantics-theseuse of semanticrulespermitsone to "generate"state- manticdescription
of the communicative
codes of a
mentsthatare acceptableto nativespeakersor allows particularspeechcommunity.
As more investigators
thereduction
of a seriesof termsor phrasesto a focal becomeinterested
in generalethnology,
however,there
in ways thatare the- shouldbe an increasing
typeor to semanticprimitives
interest
in ethnologic
semantics,
offurther
semantic
andethnologic whichdealswiththetheoretical
oretically
productive
vocabularyand syminsight.
bolicmanipulations
ofethnology,
an areawhichremains
In working
should undeveloped.
withsemantics,
theanthropologist

Vol. 7

No. 1

February1966

17

edges: "I shall speak mostlyof the


broaderconceptionof structure-that
Winston-Salem,N.C., UvS.A. 31 iii 65
whichincludesbotha semanticsystem
Colby has demonstrated1 of thepoints and an organizedworldview" (p. 4).
By OLGA AKHMANOVA*
that emerges from much of the reto be told thatatIt is discouraging
Moscow,U.S.S.R. 18 iii 65 search that he reviews: the extent to temptsto find emic unitsin culture
Colby's "EthnographicSemantics" is a which one's categories,implicit or ex- have been failures"except for comvery interestingand useful survey,for plicit, determine one's perception of ponentialanalysis" (p. 3) and later
which one cannot but be trulygrateful, what is real and important.By con-- that"attempts
analysis
at componential
ceptualizing the key problem of de- in a singlelanguageoutsidethedomain
of a complex and importantfield.
1. If "ethnographic semantics" is scribing and analyzing cultures as a of kintermsor grammatical
paradigms
"the semantic descriptionof the com- problemin semanticshe has guaranteed have been unsuccessful
. . ." (p. 9).
municativecodes of a particularspeech that certain writersand works will be
to
As one who is fullysympathetic
community,"then it is indistinguisable included and others, many no doubt the aimsof Colby and t-hescholarsof
from what linguists call (linguistic) well known to him, excluded. Quine, whomhe writes,I mustadd thatI am
semantics(semasiology,etc.). This sense Empson, and I. A. Richards are here; encouragedboth by the amount of
of the term is also borne out by Benedict, F. Kluckhohn and M. E. work goingon and by the varietyof
contents of the article, which is Opler are not.
approachesbeing followedto believe
The most useful thing he has done thata "breakthrough"
hearteningbecause of the promise it
is near.Whether
holds for closer co-operation in the is to call attentionto parallels and con- it will come on the frontthat Colby
field between the differentvarietiesof vergencesbetween researchfamiliarto has so thoroughly
mappedfor us re"CurrentAnthropologists."
American anthropologists and work mainsto be seen.

Comments

By E. PENDLETON BANKS*

2. Modern researchappears to have


achieved (a) renunciationof the earlier
(unscientific)hasty conclusions about
"mentalities" from superficially conceived linguistic data-after many
warnings and much research (cf.
Greenberg1954; also, for a survey of
the earlier steps, Akhmanova 1957);
and (b) a considerable increase in the
number and scope of "lexical sets,
domains, and fields" (see pp. 6-7);
it took considerable time to break
through the exclusive addiction to
colour-termsand termsof kinship.
3. One would naturally expect
surveys of this kind to be world
surveys. In quite a few cases, and in
the presentcase particularly,they turn
out to be U.S. surveys (with a sprinklingof West European classics?).Why
was the now so handy and abundant
information on work in the Soviet
Union and Eastern Europe-a volume
of some 700 pages richly documented
with splendid bibliographies and
reviews by leading authorities,all in
no
English (Sebeok 1963)-taken
account of whatsoever?This makes the
allusion to "the Russians" (p. 5) par-

done in other fields (and in other


countries).Whetherthe benefitsgained
fromthisoutweighthelossesoccasioned
by the exclusions is not apparent.
Selection always implies distortion.
Even within the self-imposedlimits
of Colby's surveythereare unexpected
omissions.I am puzzled, for example,
by the slight attentiongiven to Pike,
who has undertaken 1 of the most
ambitious effortsto devise a scheme
for the emic analysis of culture (Pike
1954). While Pike avoids the use of
termslike "meaning" and "semantics"
in his discussion,his insistenceon the
necessityfor correlatinglinguisticand
non-linguisticbehavior and his painstaking attentionto the context of utteranceswould seem to qualify him for
inclusion. The fact that Pike insists
that what he is studyingis "behavior"
does not prevent him from making a
real contributionto cultural analysis.
Another omissionperhaps defensible
in termsof Colby's frameof reference
is Marvin Harris' attempt (1964) to
describeand analyze culturallyrelevant
behavior without reliance on linguistic
cues. Yet surelywe must face the issue
between the point of view exemplified
by Harris and that of the semanticists.
Harris proposes a scheme for describing and classifyingnon-verbalbehavior
and specificallytakes issue with Pike's
approach. He also criticizes (chap. 8)
the reliance on "ethnosemantics"native taxonomies-by those who
valid
would arrive at a cross-culturally
understandingof culture patterns.
The basic issue, of course,is whether
"meaning" is a more useful focus
for cultural analysis than, say,
"value," "cognitive structure," "implicit pattern,"etc. As a matterof fact
Colby has obscured this issue by refusing to stay within his own limits.
He beginsby declaring: "In thisreview
I shall limit most of the discussionto
developments in the semantic aspects
of descriptive ethnography" (p. 3).
But a fewparagraphslaterhe acknowl-

ticularly disappointing.

4. In view of the great number of


American works covered, one hesitates
to speak of omissionsin this particular
field. Nonetheless, a more up-to-date
idea of the linguist's approach-particularly his frustrationsand headaches-might have becn achieved if
the work of Weinreichhad been more
closely studied; for example,Weinreich
(1964) presents,in the modest garb of
a review, a clear and concise exposition of the elementsof a trulyscientific
and up-to-datelinguisticsemasiological
theory.
By ETHEL M. ALBERT*
Berkeley,
Calif.,U.S.A. 15 iii 65
This is a superbinventorypaper, and I
add my hopes to Colby's that increasing work will be done in the field.
18

By WALLACE L. CHAFE*

Berkeley,
Calif.,U.S.A. 29 iii 65

I will makejust2 comments


on Colby's
survey,althoughobviouslythereis a
great deal to be said regardingthe
topicsmentionedin it. My comments
involve the unclearboundaryof the
field which is here labeled "ethnographicsemantics,"and the questionableness of separatingethnographic
theory.
fromethnographic
description
Let me elaborateon boththesepoints.
Afterreadingthe article I found
myselfdoubtingthat the inclusionof
thesevarioustopicsundera singletitle
The picturegivenis that
was justified.
there exists an aspect of language
whichhas to do with "meaning"and
is called "semantics."Ethnographers
in "the studyof those
are interested
aspectsof meaningin a languagethat
are culturally
revealing."The implication is that thereare also aspectsof
meaningin a languagewhichare not
but it is not clear
culturally
revealing,
can validlybe
thatsuch a distinction
made. It does not help to add that
"theultimategoal is an understanding
of the evaluation, emotions, and
beliefsthat lie behindword usage,"
for it must be true that all the
evaluation,emotions,and beliefsof a
culturelie behindthe use of its language.
It does seem possible,however,to
betweenthe "mentalsysdistinguish
tem"whichis partof languageand the
systemswhichlie outsideit. For example,thereis a basic and extremely
commonitem of men's clothingin
Westernculturefor which my own
languageprovidesno ready name. I
may call it a "jacket,"a "coat," or
"the upperpart of a man'ssuit,"but
the first2 namesrefermoreoftento

other items,while the 3rd is complex


and awkward. The point is that our
clothingsystemis not, in this instance,
well reflectedin our language system.
CURRENT

ANTHROPO

LOGY

Colby: ETHNOGRAPHIC SEMANTICS


We can theorizethatthereis present
in someformwithinhumans-something
that might be labeled "experience" Ultimately,a patternand a viable functionalmeaningis probablyprior.
But whena kinshiptermis used in a
(or "cognition").Selectionsfromthis theoryare indistinguisable.
senseit is notalways
purelyfunctional
universe of experience are comin a genealogicalsense,
used correctly
amonghumansby meansof By HAROLD C. CONKLIN*
municated
and we say thatthechilddoesnotyet
language.Languageprovidesa subtle,
New Haven, Conn., U.S.A. 27 iv 65
knowthemeaningof theterm.E.g., a
complexway of linkingexperienceto
sound,whichformsthecommunicationAn importantaddition to published child learningto speak may use the
languages, word "mother"for unrelatedwomen
on Austro-Asiatic
channel.At the same time,language literature
necessarilyorganizes, differentiates,and to the arrangementof ethno- or forwomenwho "should"be called
in by someotherterm.In studiesof the
terminologies
significant
bothsound graphically
or "structures"
crystallizes,
however,
use of kinterms,
and experience.But languageis only dictionaryform, is the continuing genealogical
A reference the coverage of a term which inwhich workof Paul Guilleminet.
1 of manyculturalfocithrough
is structured.
Non-linguistic to his and Alberty's Dictionnaire formantsfind acceptableis typically
experience
(1959) couldbe added quite precise,and it is this precise
interested Bahnar-Franqais
are Primarily
ethnographers
and veryuse- genealogical meaning-which is in
to Colby'swide-ranging
in all the others.
some sense "primary"or "central"Wherelanguageand therestof cul- ful bibliography.
that
is developedin the fashiondisin
disis
interest
ture meet, there
cussedabove.
coveringthenatureand degreeof cor- By J. L. FISCHER*
which
If we acceptthesehypotheses,
relations.To what extentis the nonNew Orleans,La., U.S.A. 16 iv 65
admittedlyremainto be testedadereof experience
structuring
linguistic
or vice versa? An interestingquestion raised by quately,the studyof ethnologicand
flectedin thelinguistic,
semanticsbecomeshighly
The bestanswerthatI knowof is that Colby'ssurveyis therelationof what ontogenetic
We
semantics.
semantics"(the relevantto ethnographic
there is a strongtendencyfor the he calls "ethnographic
of non-linguis- semanticsof particularculturesunder are also providedin somecaseswitha
elementalconstituents
betweenalternate
forchoosing
tic culture to be reflectedin the study)to "ethnologicsemantics"(the criterion
vocabulary analyses of the same terminological
of thetheoretical
elemental constituentsof language. semantics
and of both system,both of which are logically
ethnology)
Brown (1958:236ff.) has writtenof of comparative
the adequate:namely,thatanalysisis presemantics,"
the relative codability of cultural of theseto "ontogenetic
or learningof the mean- ferablewhichdevelopscomplexethnoWhileit maybe possibleto development
categories.
in a language,somethings ing of words in the individuallife graphicvariablesalong the linesmost
say anything
followedby nativespeakers
frequently
are surelyeasierto say thanothers;the cycle.
As the title of the articlesuggests, in learningtheirlanguage. I would
linguisticresourcesare more readily
thatthiswillprove
hypothesize
available. The linguisticallymore ethnologicand ontogeneticsemantics further
codable aspectsof experiencetend to are touchedon only briefly.Yet I to be thatanalysisin whichthespecific
variablesmay be most
be thosewhichare extralinguisticallywould suggestthatin orderto achieve ethnographic
of ethno- elegantlyderived from the general
the fullestunderstanding
moresignificant.
Of the 4 majorkindsof studiesin- graphic semanticswe will need to variablesused by the comparativist.
as explicitlyas we can the
cludedin thissurvey,2 (componential understand
the semantic variables By WILLEM A. GROOTAERS*
of
relation
to
have
semantic
and
rules)
analysis
of particularculturesto
of characteristic
do with the linguisticstructuring
Tokyo,Japan.18 iii 65
whiletheother2 (contrast- those variables used by the comexperience,
I
read
this
withgreatinterest,
survey
development
Lounsbury's
parativist.
level studiesand programmed
specifime to
cation)have to do withextralinguisticof certaincomplexvariablesinPawnee and I wishthatspacepermitted
of
the
be
comments
on
some
make
a
few
may
(1956)
terminology
kinship
if
through
even approached
structuring,
partsof Colby'sreview.But
language.My questionis whetherit takenas 1 exampleof the relationof theoretical
is possible to categorize all 4 as culturallyspecificsemanticvariables I mustconfessthat I was especially
which
"semantics"withoutmakingit difficult to general variables, the general fascinatedby his bibliography,
to say wheresemanticsends,shortof variables being analyticallysimpler shedsa glaringlightupon the "paper
later curtain" erectedbetweenthe North
and few in number.Lounsbury's
thelimitsof cultureitself.
I noticeat severalpointsinthearticle work (1964a, 1964b) providesfurther Americanand the Europeanlinguistic
and I will limitmycomhemispheres,
an orientation
whichis statedonceex- examples.
plicitlyas follows: "In ethnographic Moreover,I suggestthatthegeneral mentto thisaspect.
are
Althoughthegeneralworkscitedby
semantics,wherethe goal is to find variablesusedby thecomparativist
(BloomColby fromboth continents
ratherthandevelopa involvedat somepointin thedevelopculturalpatterns
the field,Breal,Carnap,Chomsky,Hallig
in
of
words
meaning
of
the
ment
semantic
theory.. ." Sucha dichotomy individualnative speakerduringhis and von Wartburg,and so on down
and acquisitionof the language.In other the alphabet)are also knownto me,
is no longeracceptedin linguistics
oughtnot to be in therestof anthro- words,the languagelearner,in order he cites only 2 factual surveysby
truethat to generatethe set of items(relatives, European scholars: Ghirlanda and
pologyeither.It is perfectly
we are interested
in discoveringcul- kin-types)
whichis generallyaccepted Seguy; I hastento add that I myself
turalpatterns,
but theycannotbe ex- as includedundera givenkinshipterm, could quote equally few studiesby
pected to emergein all their glory mustprobablyfollowa routeaccept- NorthAmericanscholars.Thisbrought
fromthedata. Theyare able to thecomparativist,
spontaneously
i.e., he must me to the conclusionthatmy reading
in them- come to some sort of recognition
unobservable
characteristically
of in theNorthAmericanfieldneededa
in the same generalvariablesbeforehe generalbroadening,and also that I
selves,and theymay be manifested
disparateand unexpectedways. The can recognizethemoreculturallyspe- wishedColbywouldread morewidely
and testingof theoriesis cificvariables.To be sure,thisstageof in the European field and then give us
tormulation
really the only way we have of getting awareness
ofuniversal
variablesis prob- a syntheticsurvey.I suggesthere a few
to know them. It is thereforeidle to ably not the 1st stagein learningthe bibliographical lodes in which a little

suppose that semantic pattern-finding meaning of kinship terms.At least for


is separable from semantic theorizing. nuclear family terms a sort of global
Vol. 7

No. 1

February 1966

diggingwill furnisha greatquantityof


material.
19

(1963), which gives on pp. 21-23 a


Generalsurveys:
in die bibliographywith 27 works of similar
1. Iorgu Iordan,Einfiihrung
Geschichteund Methodender roma- nature in the Gallo-Roman field alone.
A 2nd tendency is representedby
(1962); this
Sprachwissenschaft
nischen
is an augmentededitionof the Ru- Jaberg's Aspects, cited above. It was
manian work of 1932 and of the Jaberg's work that suggested to the
Englisheditionof 1937. See pp. 308- initiators of the Japanese linguistic
11 for the geographicalvariationsin atlas (work on which was begun in
folk poetry;also pp. 440-42 and the 1955) the insertionof the so-called S
workscitedthere,especiallyC. Bally, (semantic)-questionsin their questionLinguistiqueGene'raleet linguistique naire. A word is suggested and its
meaning asked from the informants.
(1944).
francaise
Of the 285 itemsof the atlas, 40 are of
de
tot
2. B. E. Vidos, Elandboek
this
kind. Although the publication of
Romaansetaalkunde(1954); thereis
of thiswork. the atlas is expectedto take a few more
also an Italiantranslation
See pp. 65-68 and the worksquoted years, provisional results show the
there,especiallyM. C. Wagner,"Das range of some semanticfieldsand their
lIndlicheLeben Sardiniensin Spiegel fluctuations.Because of the relativeinaccessibilityof Japanese works, I shall
der Sprache"(1921).
3. V. M. Schirmunski,Deutsche quote some of these early results. For
(1962); originallypub- instance,the word akai, "red," is also
Mundertkunde
lishedin Russianin 1956. See pp. 99- used in the meaningof "bright"in the
105, and the workscited on p. 101; whole territorywest of the Japanese
also,on p. 150,theworkscitedin notes Alps, while easternJapan distinguishes
2 and 3, especiallyF. Stroh,Probleme akai, "red," and akarui, "bright" (Shibata 1963). Shibata has also reported
(1928).
neuereMundartforschung
Dialect- on the semanticfieldsof kado, "corner,
4. A. Weijnen,Nederlandse
kunde(1958). See pp. 25-29; also pp. open place, garden" (1962) and on
the mutually exclusive fields of nuka,
244-45and theworkscitedthere.
Die Schwei- "rice bran" and ruka, "rice-husks"
5. StefanSonderreger,
1800- (1959).
zerdeutscheMundartforschung
1959 (1962). The works numbered Other regional dialect surveys in
794, 795, 800,and 803 touchuponour Japan have started to investigatethe
as do thelongerworks same field. A. Kagami (1962) has
subjectdirectly,
cited in the section"Onomasiologie," studiedthe structureof the word group
used for "yellow" in Central Japan. I
pp. 169-242.
6. K. Baldinger,"Semasiologieet have studied the structureof the word
group for "the day afterthe day after
Onomasiologie"(1964).
7. Bruno Quadri, Aufgaben und tomorrow', and for "the day after
For- that"; I have shown that in western
Methodender Onomasiologischen
to Japan one starts counting "today" as
guide
basic
is
a
This
(1952).
schung
thegreatnumberof workson oursub- the 1st of a series of 5 days, while in
eastern Japan one starts with "totpct.
morrow" as the 1st day and stops
Detailedworks
giving names after the 4th day
Originalresearchinto the relation- (Grootaers 1964).
In conclusion,I suggestthatthe title
ship between geographical,ethnographic,and semanticfieldshas been of Colby's very interestingstudy be
especially successfulin: K. Jaberg, changed to "PreliminarySurvey of the
Aspects ge'ographiquesdu langage American Field."
(1936) and J. Goossens,Semantische
Vraagstukkenuit de taal van het By DELL HYMES*
landbouwbedrijf
in Belgisch-Limburg
Berkeley,
Calif.,U.S.A. 18 iii 65
(1963).
One may perhapssay that 2 dif- It is good to have the rapidly developin the ing field of ethnographic semantics
are represented
ferenttendencies
works of European dialectologists:
1 broughtsystematicallyto the attention
is theexhaustive
probingintoa limited of CA Associates. When one considers
semanticfield; Colby quotes Seguy's the range of issues which the field
work.Thereare about100 suchworks, entails, and the number of significant
and someofthoseof recentdecadesare writingsthat are now appearing or in
outstanding.
Theyconsistof wordlists press,one cannot but admire as daring
with comparisonof semanticfields. Colby's willingnessto serve the subject
Some scholarshave attempted
to start by publishinga survey at the present
froma "Sitz im Leben" situationand time. I hope that his paper, and the
1 humanactivityin the commentsupon it, will not only inhave,described
speaker'sown wordsin orderto deter- form readers of CA but also help
mineand to probethesemanticrange. encourage more of the empiricalwork
Colbyquotes1 ofthiskind:Ghirlanda. that is needed.
Anotheris G. Dumezil, L'ide'ologie There are so many individual points
tripartitedes Indo-Europe6ens
(1958). on which one mightexpressan opinion
The mostrecentexampleis A. Lerond, that a paper of equal length would
L'habitationen WallonieMalme'dienne resultfroman effortto deal with them

20

all. I shall limitmyselfto 1. Those


in the problemof
readersinterested
context(pp. 12-13) will want to read
EinarHaugen'spaperon thesemantics
of Icelandicorientation(cited in the
bibliography,
but not in this connection).Haugen'spaperis a fineexample
of theway in whichordermayemerge
when appropriatesocial contextsof
The questionof the
use are recognized.
of strucdependence
of therecognition
turalsetson recognition
of contextsof
use is treatedsomewhatin a general
way in workof Metzgerand Williams
and in Hymes(1962), bothalso cited
in the bibliography,
but not in this
connection.My own views in this
regardare elaboratedmorefullyin 2
recentpapers(Hymes1964b,1964c).
By PAUL KAY
Cambridge,
Mass.,U.S.A.29 iii 65

The followingcomments
are intended
not as criticism
of Colby's paper but
as supplement.As Colby is aware,
advances
therehave been significant
in the fieldof ethnographic
semantics
since his paper was drafted(see his
to review
addendum).It is appropriate
someof the resultsof thisworkhere,
howeverbriefly,becausetheylead to
certainreinterpretations
and clarifications of the literaturecovered in
Colby'sexcellentreview.
On thetheoryside,thefieldof ethnographic semantics now contains a

relativelysmall number of clearly


understood,related notions.The 1st
and most important2, domain and
lexeme,will not be discussedin detail
in these comments.Problemsremain
both with the theoreticaldefinition
and operational isolation of these
units. Nevertheless,we assume for
presentpurposesthata basic problem
ofethnographic
semantics
is thefollowing:givena finiteset of lexical units
(lexemes)(Conklin 1962) that share
some feature of meaning, we say (a)
that the set of lexemes forma domain
(Lounsbury 1964b) and (b) that our
task is to discoversomethingabout the
formalpatternof meaningsunderlying
the domain (Colby, pp. 6-7).
The remainingbasic notions of ethnographic semanticsare componential
analysis, paradigm, taxonomy, key,
tree,dimensionof meaning,featureof
meaning, inclusion of reference,level
of contrast,etic grid, and contrastset.
The 1st useful distinctionis between
(1) componentialanalysis and (2) the
formalstructureof the domain under
analysis.Componential analysis is best
conceived as an analytic process in
which the investigatorsearchesfor (a)
the dimensionsof meaning underlying
thedomain and (b) the mapping of the
values
on thesedimensions(the features
ofmeaning) onto the set of lexemes.
Theprocess of looking for these map?ingsis not to be confusedwith partiCURRENT

ANTHROPO

LOG

cular typesof suchmappingssuch as


paradigm,taxonomy,and tree (pp.
8-9).

Colby: ETHNOGRAPHIC
was made by Conklin (1962:135) but

analysismay be, and for one reason anotherseems frequentComponential


with or without ly to have been ignored (cf. Colby pp.
has been,performed
theaid of an a priorieticgrid.All of 7-8).
the well-knownkinshipcomponential A characteristicof all taxonomiesis
analysesuse the kin-typeetic grid. that they contain levels of contrast.
Examples of ethnosemanticcom- The notion is familiar to workers in
ponentialanalyses not employinga the field of ethnographic semantics
priorieticgridsincludeHanunoo and (see, for example, the expositions in
Tzeltal pronominals(Conklin 1962; Frake 1961, 1962; Conklin 1962).
Berlin 1963, respectively).Frake's However, a problem connected with
(1961) analysis of Subanun disease this notion that does not seem to be
terms is in part a componential generallyappreciated is the following:
analysis(withoutetic grid)in thathe in taxonomieswherethe featuredefiniincludesa partial discussionof the tions of the lexemes are not known,
featuresof meaningon which the there is no established procedure for
assigning levels of contrast to all the
diseasenamescontrast.
A lexical domainmay be analyzed lexemes on the basis of the inclusionwith or without referenceto the of-referencerelationsalone. (There are
of meaning(and theircom- several alternativeformal solutions to
dimensions
thatunderlieit.When this problem, which I have partially
ponentfeatures)
an attemptto discovertheunderlying treated elsewhere [Kay 1964a]. Apdimensionseitheris not made or is parently, the best solution requires
not successful,the semanticanalysis allowing for overlap in level of conis not, properly speaking, compo- trast in pairs of lexemes in which the
nential.In this case, the major con- significatumof one includes that of the
cept ordinarily used to represent other.) The existence of the problem
about the formalpattern is easily illustrated: the reader is in"something
the domain" vited to finishdrawing in the affinal
of meaningsunderlying
is the notion inclusionof reference. section of the partial taxonomic
When a lexical domain is organized diagram of English kin terms(Fig. 1),
the thus settlingthe question of the levels
accordingto inclusionof reference,
is a taxonomy(pp. of contrastat which the affinal terms
structure
resulting
7-8). When there are many levels operate. I thinkthat if the reader finds
of inclusion,
as in thecase of Hanunoo a solution that satisfieshis intuitions
plants or Subanun diseases,we may concerningthe notion "level of consay thereis a deep taxonomy.Deep trast," he will probably also find that
taxonomiesare probablyempirically it is based explicitly or implicitlyon
interestingthe feature definitions-(componential
rare but are nevertheless
like prescriptivematrilateralcross- definitions) of the lexemes. The recousinmarriage.
Inclusionofreference, lations of inclusion of referencealone
definitions do not in general solve the level of
notabsenceofcomponential
featureof taxono- contrast problem (pp. 7-8).
is thedistinguishing
or not thefeaturedefini- In some, but not all, ethnosemantic
my;whether
tions of the lexemesare known is studies of lexical domains, the signito the questionof fication of each lexeme can ultimately
logicallyirrelevant
whether
a taxonomy
exists.An example be referredto a finiteset of semantic
of a taxonomyin whichthe feature dimensions each containing a finite
definitions
are knownis the complete number of values (features, comdomain of Americankin-termsin- ponents). The dimensions may be
cluding such subsetsas ["relative," obvious functionsof an etic grid (e.g.,
"blood relative,""ancestor,""grand- generation,sex of referent)or functions
in whicheach of an etic grid which are not obvious
parent,""grandfather"],
lexemein the sequentce
properlyin- (e.g., agnatic rank, Lounsbury 1956;
cludesthedesignatum
of thefollowing generalized cross-parallel,Kay 1965),
lexeme(see Fig. 1). The basic point or they may involve no a priori etic
FIG.

SEMANTICS

of membership,
grid(e.g.,minimalness
Conklin 1962, inclusionof speaker,
Berlin1963). The followingcomments
apply regardlessof whetheran etic
grid is in any way involvedin the
settingup of thesemanticdimensions.
of semantic
(Isolationand justification
in the case wherethereis
dimensions
no readily available etic grid is an
extremelyimportantmethodological
in this
problem.Major contributions
area have beenmade by Metzgerand
Williams[1962; 1963a,b, c].
However, the discussionhere is
limitedto the formalrelationsof the
and doesnot
lexemesto thedimensions
problemof
cover the veryimportant
operationsfor obthe ethnographic
[see p. 11].)
tainingtheserelationships
of all
When the featuredefinitions
thelexemesare known,thebasicprobthe cognitive
lem for representing
of the domainis to decide
structure
whether,or to what extent,informantsapply the semanticdimensions
simultaneously as against sequentially.

amongthe comFormalrelationships
can providesugponentialdefinitions
gestive,but not conclusive,evidence
on this point.

andmostelegantformal
The simplest
consonantwitha psychologstructure
application
ical theoryof simultaneous
of dimensions
is theparadigm.In order
to definethe notionof paradigm,we
1st considera set of thingswe may
events."If
call "minimalclassification
we selectany 1 featurefromeach of
and take the
the semanticdimensions
intersection
(conjunction)of all the
we have selected,theresultis
-features
a minimal classificationevent. For
A
example,with2 binarydimensions
and B, thesetof minimalclassification
events is [albi, alb2, a2bi, a2b2] (where
concatenationsymbolizesintersection).
The semanticstructureof a domain
is characterizedby a perfectparadigm
if and only if each componentialdefinitioncorrespondsto a unique minimal
classificationevent,and conversely.An
interestingresult of this definitionis
that in a perfect paradigm, for any
pair of features (ai, a2) on a given
dimension A, there exists a pair of
lexemes in the domain whose com-

1. A partial taxonomicdiagramof 1 dialect of AmericanEnglish kinshipterminology.


Relative
Blood Relative

Descendant

Nonlineal

Child

Consanguineals

Vol. 7

Son

Grandchild

Ancestor
Parent

In-Law

Grandparent

Daugh- Grand- GrandGrand- Grad- Father- Mother- Son- Daugh- Sister- Brotherter
rdauh- Father Mother father mother in-law in-law in-law
ter- in-law in-law
son

No. 1 . February 1966

21

FIG. 2.

A perfectparadigm.

Domain: [L1, L2,...,

contains8 lexemes)

L8] (i.e. the domain

Dimensions:[D, A, B, C], wherethe featuresare givenby


D

A
B

=
=

[d]

[a,, a2]
[b,, b2]

[c1,

C2]

Componential
definitions:
L1 > d a, bi cl
L2 > d a1 bi c2
L3 > d al b2 cl
L4 > d a1 b2 C2
L5 > d a2 bi cl
L6 > d a2 bi c2
L7 > d a2 b2 cl
L8 > d a2 b2 C2
Box Diagram:
a1

a2

cl

L1

L5

C2

L2

L6

cl

L3

bi

C2

L4

L7
I

L8

~b2

ponential definitionsare identical except for differing on that pair of


features(al, a2).' (See Fig. 2.)
Perfect paradigms have zero redundancy in the sense that a change in
a single featureof a componentialdefinitionchangesit intothe componential
definition of another lexeme in the
domain. It is probably for this reason
that perfectparadigms are empirically
rare. Naturally evolved symbol systems-as opposed to self-consciously
inventedones-seem usually to contain
a fair amount of redundancy (see, for
example, Shannon 1948; Greenberg,
Osgood, and Saporta 1945, Colby
1958).
In polar oppositionto the minimally
redundant (paradigmatic) system of
featuredefinitions,thereis a maximally
redundant systemin which no 2 componential definitionscontraston more
than 1 dimension.Such a systemmay
be called a tree (Fig. 3b). A tree requires representation by a key. A
semantic key is a branchingstructure
(similar to the "tree diagrams" of
stochastic processes) where the 1st
node indicates the "root" or domain
feature (Lounsbury 1964b) and each
succeeding node representsa selection
of a singlefeaturefromsomeparticular
dimension.(Paradigms can also be represented by keys, but there is no
reason to so represent them unless
there is behavioral-as contrasted to
(ci, S?):
1 e.g., pair of features
Lexemes
Componentialdefinitions

G?', lineal, <3) < "father"


(kinsman,
(kinsman,
G?1, lineal,$?) < "mother"

22

that the FIG. 3a. Key diagramof a perfectparadigm


linguistic-cultural-evidence
dimensionsare in fact applied se- (without taxonomy). The structure diaquentially[see Fig. 3a, especiallyNote grammed is exactly the same as the one
diagrammedin Figure 2.
2].)
It shouldbe clear thattaxonomies, Key:
d
paradigms,and trees are kinds of
semanticstructures
whereasa key is a
kind of representation
of a semantic
a2
a,
structure.
It is a particularly
interesting
kind of representation
because,by reb2
b2
bi
bi
presentingthe 3 major kinds of
semanticstructure
on a key,it is easy
to displaytheirdifferences.
In brief, C1
C1
C1
C1
C2
C2
C2
C2
a perfectparadigmis represented
by a L1 L2 L3 L4 L5 L6 L7 L8
occurs
keyin whicha givendimension
in only1 row (horizontalslice) of the Note:
diagram and a given row contains 1. In each row of the tree, only 1 dimenonly 1 dimension
(Figs. 3a and 3c). A
sion occurs, and that dimension occurs
only in that particularrow.
perfecttreeis represented
by a key in
thereis a 2. There is no reason to diagram this
which,for any dimension,
structureby this particularkey in preunique node at which it is applied
ferenceto any of the other 5 keys that
(Figs.3b and 3d). A perfecttaxonomy
could be constructedby interchanging
is represented
by a key in whicheach
rows! This feature is characteristicof
nodecorresponds
to a lexeme(Figs.3b
paradigmsand makes the representation
and 3d). In summary,
paradigmsand
of any empirical paradigm by a key
trees are logically incompatible,
but
quite misleading (unless there is some
kind of evidence for a relative primacy
eithermayoccurin a taxonomy(Figs.
3b and 3d respectively).2
Thestructures of dimensions).
discussedhere and picturedin Figure 3. Only thebottomrow of nodes is labeled;
hence no taxonomy.
3 are, of course,ideal types.All sorts
of intermediate
typesoccurempirically.
Thesebriefcomments
in no way ex- FIG. 3b. Key diagram of a
perfect tree
haust eitherthe knownproblemsor
(without taxonomy).
the known solutionsin the field of
formaltheoryin ethnosemantics.
In Domain: [Ll, L2 . *., L8]
particular,
limitation
of spaceherehas Dimensions: [D, A, B, C, D, E, F] where
precludedany systematic
attemptto featuresare given by
relatethis discussionto previousdis- D = [d]
cussionsof the same topics(especially A = [a,, a2]
Wallace and Atkins 1960; Conklin
1962, 1964; Lounsbury1964b). Some F = [f1, f2]
of the topicscoveredin thosepapers Componentialdefinitions:
are coveredin thiscomment
and some
L1 > d a1 b, d,
are not. I have only triedbrieflyto
L2 > d al b, d2
sketchthe outlinesof the most imL3 > d al b2 el
portantkindsof structural
differences
L4 > d al b2 e2
amongdiscretesemanticdomains.The
L5 > d a2 cl fl
L6 > d a2 cl f2
problem of continuousmodels of
L7 > d a2 C2 g1
semanticstructure
has not even been
L8 > d a2 C2 g2
considered(Kay 1963b).
Anotherimportantrecentdevelop- Key:
d
ment in the field of ethnographic
semanticsrequiresmention.Following
the pioneer work of psychologists
a2
a,
and
RogerBrownand Eric Lenneberg
the anthropologist
John M. Roberts
b2
C2
Cl
(BrownandLenneberg
1964,Lenneberg bi
are ,/\
and Roberts1956),anthropologists
,/\
,/\
/\
beginningto investigatethe psycho- d, d2 el e2 fl f2 g1 g2
of varioussemantic L1
logicalimplications
L2
L3
L4
L5
L6
L7
L8
theirstrucstructures
byaccompanying
tural semanticanalysiswith parallel Note:
studies correlatingspeech and non- 1. Each dimensionoccurs at 1 and only 1
speech behaviorwith the resultsof
node; e.g., dimension B occurs at
(descends from) the unique node labelthe formal analysis (Romney and
ed a,.
D'Andrade 1964b). The work in this
area of whichI am awareis currently 2. Except for the trivialalterationof interchanging features on the same dimenbeingperformed
byB. Berlin,C. Frake,
for
sions, this is the only possible
2 It is sometimes
said of the kind of structure shown in Figure 3b that it is a
"taxonomy in which the lexemes at the
lowest level of contrastform a paradigm."

key
this structure.
3. A box diagram is impossible for this
structure.
4. Only thebottomrow of nodes is labeled;
hence no taxonomy.
CURRENT

ANTHROPO

LOG

FIG. 3c.

Key diagram of a perfectparadigm (with perfecttaxonomy).

Domain: [L1, L2,...,

L15]

Dimensions: as in Figures 2 and 3a


Componentialdefinitions:
(1) L1, L2,..., L8 as in Figures
2 and 3a
(2) Lg > d a b c*
Llo > d a, b c
Ll > d a2 b c
L12 > d a, bi c
L13 > d al b2 c
L14 > d a2 bi c
L15 > d a2 b2 c
Key:
d
head term for
whole
domain

Lg

a2

a,

Ll

Llo

bi

b2

bi

b2

Li2

L13

L14

L15

Ci

C2

C1

C2

C1

C2

C1

C2

Li

L2

L3

L4

L5

L6

L7

L8

Note: All nodes are labeled; hence perfect


taxonomy.
* Absence of subscript on a letter indicates the
union of all features on the dimension indicated.

FIG. 3d. Key diagram of a perfect tree


(with perfecttaxonomy).
Domain: [Ll, L2, ...,

L15]

Dimensions: as in Figure 3b
Componentialdefinitions:
(1) L1, L2, ..., L8 as in Figure 3b
Lg > d a, b, d or d al b2 e or
d a, c2 f or d a2 C2 g *
Llo > d a, b, d or d a, b2 e
Ll > d a2 cl f or d a2 C2 g
L12 > d a, b1 d
L13 > d a, b2 e
L14 > d a2 cl f
L15 > d a2 C2 g
Key:
d
-- head term for

Lg
a,

a2
Ll

Llo

b2

bi
L12
d,
L1

L13
d2

L2

whole
domain

el
L3

e2
L4

c2

cl
L14
fl
L5

L15
f2

g1

g2

L6

L7

L8

Note: All nodes are labeled; hence perfect


taxonomy.
* "or"

Vol. 7

means logical

union, that is "and/or."

No. 1 .February 1966

Colby:

ETHNOGRAPHIC

SEMANTICS

analyzedand has limitedcommunicationwithanthropologists


in othersubfields.We have analyzed only those
limitedand often trivial data that
permitus to meet the high methodological standardswe have set; and
By ROGER M. KEESING
ourcolleagueshavebeencorrespondingSantaCruz,Calif.,U.S.A. 19 iii 65 ly disinterested.
There seemsa great
Colby's survey provides a useful need to carryon thepioneerworkof
reviewofpast and presentworkin this Goodenough(1951), pushingboldly
field.The comments
that followdeal into cen,tralfieldsof anthropological
morewithgeneralorientations
of eth- interest
and problems
of theoretical
imnographicsemantics
thanwithspecific portance.We mustbe as rigorousas
pointsraisedby Colby.
we can,and bringto bearthemethods
1. A nativespeakerof a language we are developing;but whilemethods
and rigorincreased,
has no waysof findingout whatother are beingperfected
native speakersmean that are un- someof us,at least,shouldbe prepared
available, in principle,to an ethno- to sacrificerigorfor relevancewhere
grapher.He merelyhas a widerrange we must.A good-if notperfect-desof situationsin whichto testtheories criptionof a systemof asymmetric
about meaning,and fewercompeting alliancewould,in myopinion,advance
far morethana magnimodels to misleadhim. There is no anthropology
of firereason to assume that all native ficentmodelfor classification
models wood.
speakershavethesamesemantic
4. A criticalneedin ethnography
"in theirheads"-or even that all of
is
themhave simpleand elegantmodels. for methodsof identifying
what I
We tendto realizethisin the abstract would call cultural contexts (Frake's
(whetherlabelled
but to forgetit when we pursue "scenes")-situations
"psychological
validity"in ourdescrip- or not) whichare perceivedas discrete
tive models. However, in playing units,and withinwhichsequencesof
formalgameswith lexical data-e.g., eventscan be anticipatedwith high
kinshipterminologies-abstracted
from probability.
Here we mustbe prepared
ethnographic
settingsaccordingto ar- to find contextswithincontexts(as
bitraryand unstatedcriteria,
we have when,at a wedding,one manborrows
a spuriousfreedomwhichthe native moneyfromanother)and an interplay
speakerdoes not. Thus it is crucial betweenthe rulesand premisesof the
thatdomainsand contrast
setsbe care- "nested"contexts(Bateson1955); and
fully delimitedaccordingto explicit we mustbe preparedto findsequential
criteriaand thatdescriptions
utilizeall contexts,followingone anotherwith
clues to "validity" available to the predictable
regularity
and groupedinto
native speaker.When we have done contextson a higherlevel of contrast
this,any description
whichis produc- (e.g.,a marriageserviceand reception
tive is "correct";we must evaluate constitute
a wedding).Some advances
competing
descriptions
in termsof such are being made in this direction
criteriaas economy.
already (Frake 1964; Gumperz and
2. If we insistthat the descriptive Hymes 1964), but the problemneeds
be lexically to be mademoreexplicitand calls for
unitsof an ethnography
labelled,we are likelyto arriveat a moreattention.
very limitedsort of description:an
of how peopletalk about By EDWARD A. KENNARD*
ethnography
what theydo, not what theydo or
Pittsburgh,
Pa., U.S.A. 12 iv 65
expecteach otherto do. I agreethat
of thelexical
"culture"is mostusefullyviewednot The systematic
recording
abstrac- itemsthat label and classifycultural
as behavioror somestatistical
tion frombehavior,but ratheras a domainsis a returnto a formof ethcode of expectationsabout behavior nographicfield reportingthat seems
(Kay 1964b); but there is ample to have gone out of stylefor several
and distinc- decades. Its returnis most welcome
evidencethatexpectations
tionsneed not be directlymappedin and a corrective
to theovergeneralized
language.Unlesswe seekonlyto write statement.
an ethnography
of theway peopletalk
Some of it dependson thefactthat
abouteachother'sbehavior,we cannot in ethnobotany,
forexample,thefield
assumethat a description
usingonly workers,botanistand ethnographer,
folkcategories
willbe morerigorous
or can point to and handle the plants
adequatethanonewhichemployssome while elicitingtheirnames and uses
"unlabelled" analytical categories in thenativelanguage.The resultscan
economicallyaccountingfor segments be reported in the metalanguage of
of observedbehavior.
botany with its system of hierarchial
3. The great emphasison descrip- classification.In other domains,where
W. Geoghegan,June Nash, A. K.
Romney,and V. Stefflre.There is
doubtlessotherresearchof this type
goingon of whichI am not aware.

tive rigor in ethnographic semantics the language of the investigatorlacks


has restrictedthe relevanceof the data such a terminologyto reportand trans23

late into,the task is muchmoredif- *rug-, sne, :-(s)pen-. The complex


ficult,as anyrepor-ts
on religious
belief working process carried out with a
and practiceattest.All that can be spindle can be divided into 4 sequential
done is to (1) translatewith a series actions: (1) to put the wool on the
of termsin the ethnographer's
lan- distaff;(2) to pluck out some fibres
guage which give some idea of the from the bunch of wool; (3) to twist
semanticrangeof thenativeword; (2) thembetweenthumband forefingerto
describebehaviorin situationswhere make a shortthread which is attached
thewordis essential
to thenativeinter- to the top of the spindle; and (4) to
pretationof what is happening;and stretch the thread by dropping the
in the spindle after making it twirl round.
(3) reporta seriesof statements
nativelanguagewithtranslations
into In the synchronichierarchy,we must
thelanguageof the ethnographer.
For subordinatethe differentverbs of this
lack of any moresystematic
methods, lexical set to the verb "to spin,"
thisis how we attemptto providefor which is of a higherlevel. We can also
both relevantcontexts,the linguistic suppose that, in the diachronic
and thesituational
or cultural.
development of the vocabulary, the
I am puzzled by Colby's statement term "to spin" is later than the terms
(p. 13) "... the great attractionof ;'to pluck out," "to twist," and "to
generativegrammarsfor anthropo- stretch." With the invention of
of a paradox."All spinning, the need for a name for
logistsis something
thelinguists
I knowwho are attracted the new process was met in different
by generative or transformationalways in the various Indo-European
grammars
are notanthropologists.
One languages, but it was always one of
can only writea generativegrammar the roots of the lower level which,
of a languagewhich he speaks as a by change of meaning, produced the
native,sincehe dependsupon his own new verb. It is easy to prove this,
Sprachgefaihl
to determinewhat is because words related to the above"sayable."For the languagesthatthe mentionedroots still show the former
anthropologist
describes,he will al- meanings. Thus Old Irish draigen,
ways have to operatewith a limited "blackthorn,"from*dragenos,properly
"*pluckingbough">"briers, brambles,"
corpusof material.
The discussionof Osgood'sstudyof togetherwith Lithuaniandragnes(from
the SemanticDifferential(p. 15-16) the sticky hairs covering the leaves),
illustratesan important
point of lin- "henbane," shows that Albanian dreth,
guisticand culturalbackground.
Before "to spin," goes back, ultimately,to the
one can test meaningon a seriesof meaningof "to pluck out." In a similar
bipolardimensions,
therehas to be a way, we can connect Latin neo, nere,
lexiconof bipolarterms.The semantic "to spin," with the older meaning in
problems involved are beautifully Lettish snaju, snat, "to twist." In the
illustrated
inArnold's(1937) discussion Germanic languages the meanings "to
of "thetrapsthatlie in polarwords." stretch" and "to spin" are combined

in the verbal root :-(s)pen-;cf. German


spannen
and spinnen.
By J.KNOBLOCH*
The Latin credo is not as closely reBonn,Germany,
29 iii 65 lated to Old Indian s.raddadhati,"to
I agreewiththe authorthatit would trust,"as has been thought;it must be
be a mistake to search for some analysed as *kre-dho, containing the
in any kindof lin- d-less formof the Indo-European word
"Grurndbedeutuwng"
guisticunits,lexemesor morphemes. for "heart," which appears also in
What we can do in the fieldof com- Greek xoe,_--ogand in the Old Prussemantics
is to sian neuter seyr. Therefore --kredhd
parativeIndo-European
make inquiriesin commonwithother "' put in the heart" is a formation
and of the same type as :-klo-dho(Greek
specialists(such as ethnographers
as theypoint out the "to spin") which we can explain as
archaeologists);
different
manners
or phasesof complex ,,"put on the distaff" (cf. Latin colus,

worksin
to the list of distinguished
ethnographiclexicography,viz., the
EnciclopediaBororo,vol. 1, by the
Salesian FathersCesar Albisettiand
AngeloJaymeVenturelli(1962). This
splendid ethnographicdictionaryof
1047 pages is the 1st in a projected
seriesof 4 volumeson theBororo,the
contentsof which are announcedas
follows:vol. 1, Vocabularyand Ethnography;vol. 2, Language,Legends,
and Proper Names; vol. 3, Chants;
vol. 4, Acculturation.
A list of significant
earlyexamples
such as
of ethnographic
lexicography,
given by Colby in his footnote10,
should not omit the Vocabulariode
la lengua Aymara of P. Ludovico
Bertonio(1612) or the Dictionnaire
[sic] and Dictionnaire
caraibe-franqois
ofP. RaymondBreton.
franqois-caraibe
By

LOUISE

E. SWEET*

Binghamton,N.Y., U.S.A. 30 iii 65

The stylisticdensityof this survey


paper and the extentto which it is
couchedin thespecializedterminology
of the "ethnographic
linguists"makes
for the oldreading it frustrating
ethnographer.
fashionedculturological
It is almostimpenetrable.
Yet, occasionally,thereis a hintof
sharedpracticesthatare in factquite
simple.E.g., "WhenHymesspeaksof
he meansmainlyan affirprediction,
mativeresponseto thecorrectnaming
of objectsin theenvironment,
showing
thatthemeaninghas beenattainedby
the investigator."(Sic! This is a
rooster;this is a hen. . .) Again, for
example,I am checkingout thenames
of plots -in a section of cultivated
terracesin a Lebanesevillage;I make
a "mistake"and am correctedby my
with an explanationthat
informant,
relationa varietyofproperty
confirms
This
ship I am tryingto understand.
is a spontaneously
usedway of getting
Arabic,with
round my rudimentary
I mustdo thebestI
which,willy-nilly,
can. I havecollected,too,thedifferent
categoriesof pebbles,stones,rocks,
boulders,and crags that dominate
faultedcalcareousand
the fractured,
basalticlandscape.
One can be appreciativeof Colby's
paper and especiallyof the bibliography,since work in this field has,
therangeof cultureperhaps,widented
in fieldwork.
But
recording
procedures
ofsurvey
it seemsto methat1 function
papers is to inform those whose
to thesurveyed
interests
are peripheral
of terms,
field.Therefore
themeanings
thetypesand methodsof analysis,and
the resultsmightbest be renderedin
plain English.The relativeclarityof

workingprocessesand the different -a, "distaff").


kind of tools used therein,we can
With theseexplanationsdealing with
collectthe rootsor wordsforeach of a single working process I wish to
theseprocessesand tools.I thinkthat stress the importance of the author's
in somefavorablecasesit will be easy statement (p. 9): "Hidden or littleto discover the formerconnection emphasized meaningfulcomponentsin
betweenword and thingor action,a one culturemightbe overlooked if the
connectionfrequentlydisturbedby same componentswere not more patent
semanticchangeswhichare due partly in other cultures," which is, mutatis
to the developmentof the working mutandis,valid also for diachronic
processesand partlyto the improve- semanticresearch.
mentof thetools.
Perhaps I can show this with an BY F. G. LOUNSBURY*
the abstract of Colby's paper is in

example: For the verb "to spin" we


New Haven, Conn., U.S.A. 31 iii65
find expressionsin the differentIndoEuropean languages going back to the I would add just a note to call the
following 5 roots: :-dhergh-,:-kola-, attentionof readersto a recentaddition
24

contrastto much of the main text,and


its promise to transmit a resume of
new knowledge is not fulfilled.
With all good intention, I cannot
CURRENT

ANTHROPO

LOG

make out that muchof the work of


as reviewed here
"ethnolinguistics"
has to do with
(except"ethnoscience")
revealingmore about cultures-those
of thingsand events
particularsystems
and "condependentupon symboling
context"
sideredin theirextrasomatic
(White 1959:227-51), the subject
Nor does it
matterof ethnography.
powerin
appear to have explanatory
regardto culture,its propertiesand

Colby:

ETHNOGRAPHIC

SEMANTICS

of anthrobackground
not new-it is merelya long-neglected basic linguistic
continuationof the old, tried and true pological data-seekingall of us, inmethodsof Boas and all the founding cludingthose who sufferunder that
fathersof our field. True, they were still pejorativeappellation"linguist,"
followed by a generation of much are goingto haveto do. A linguistically
lesser stature, with a kind of inbred sound theoryof semologyis still not
ofitsteachings
fear of language and its uses, and the attained;theapplication
of a theoryof cul"great thinkers" of that genteration to theformulation
went in for theory, or what they tureis not evenbegunD
thoughtwas theory,withoutbothering
variations.
Rather,it assumestheculturaltradi- with troublesomedata. There are now By FRANCIS LEE UTLEY*
tion and turnsto matterswhichare once again some anthropologistswho
Ohio, U.S.A. 22 iii 65
Columbus,
if ethno- insiston recordingdata, includinglanperipherallyethnographic,
and guage and remarks about other data, Colby's compact and useful report
graphicat all-the intrasomatic
psychologicalrelationsof symbolates, and who don't care if the theorydoesn't takes account of foreign studies:
if you will, to their carriers.This- fitthe data. In thissensethereis a new French,German,Italian, Portuguese,
seemsto be the area of investigation,interest,but it is renewed rather than Polish,Russian.Unlikesomebranches
of linguistics,
semanticscannot long
new.
but it is not veryclearto me yet.
My
There are few anthropologistswith survivein an insularatmosphere.
I had moreoverthoughtthat the
arenotcriticaloftheauthor,
validityof proposedanalogiesbetween sufficientlinguistic sophistication to comments
had make the analogies that Colby says but merelyhealthyresponsesto his
and culturalphenomena
linguistic
and anthropologists "press on toward." freshviewof a richand excitingfield.
challenged,
beenfairlysuccessfully
1. Apropos of The Lexical Unit
certainlythe questionablescientific Lounsburyin the 1962 paper cited has
has been? not fallen "short of the mark"; he has (p. 4), Katz and Fodor's view that
statusof theemicstandpoint
recentlyarguedby a culturalanthro- limited himself to taking a 1st and semanticsis what remainswhen you
subtractthe grammarimpliesthat all
pologistwho still proposesto start necessarystep.
or strucgenerative
whether
It is here that I begin to feel grammars,
withindividual
cultural"observations"
Must
bewildermentat Colby's review. I ad- tural,existonlywithinsentences.
behaviors(Harris1964:133-50).
to publish mire his diligence in reading so much syntax eternallyrule out pronounIn the displayof efforts
and publishand publish,I beginto see of what I would myselffind great dif- antecedentrelationshipstranscending
angels on all us pinheads. Survey ficultyin going throughwithout utter the sentenceboundaries?Are "later,"
articlestendto revealthisclearly.That boredom. But there is no citation of "hence,"and "indeed"too cosmicto
In any event,
is 1 of theirvirtues,at least,and the actual data, of conclusions that have belongto thegrammar?
of privateterminologies,been arrived at. We are told that so- semanticsdoes transcendthe sentence
proliferation
which Colby laments,for what are and-so (and his name is legion) talks withits "context."We may,however,
that the
sometimescommonplacesmay be a about such-and-such in this or that not have fullydemonstrated
rather journal or book. What little indication paragraphis not a genuine"linguistic
symptomof neo-scholasticism
or summarythereis of what is actually unit"ratherthana merewritingconthan new discovery.
said is so sketchyand out of context vention.I have heardHopi tapeswith
contoursas a markof
finalintonation
as to make no sense to me.
By G. L. TRAGER*
The headings that Colby uses are in paragraphs,and there are certainly
Buffalo,N.Y., U.S.A. 25 iii 65
some instancesusefulguidesto thecited paragraph categoriesin English of
Colby writesas if "semantics"(a bad material, but most of them are either which the topic-sentencestructure,
signiwrittenand certainly
termfortechnicaluse) weresomething non-scientificordinary words or are commonly
mayalso be found
new in anthropologicaldiscussions. pseudo-scientifictechnical terms that ficantforsemantics,
Fromtheoccasional"anthropological" are undefined and often undefinable. in oral discourse.
2. Surely much can be done on
remarksof Herodotusdown to the Since I forone don't exactlyknow what
discussion "reality" is, I find it hard to figureout Polysemy and Homonymy (p. 5)
latestmathematico-structural
methods.Generative
hasbeeninvolved. what "perceived reality" may be and with synchronic
semantics
ofkinship,
have been muchconcerned
are made by ob- how it differs from "conceptualized grammars
Our investigations
ofhumanbehavior,including reality."My Taos friends,forinstance, withbothsemanticand syntacticamservation
and can providedepthlevel
and by re- "perceive" time in the Taos language biguities,
speech,by askingquestions,
cordinganswersand other language differentlythan I do in English; but analysesfor their resolution.Ogden
data. In all such activitysemantics- when they speak English,I thinkthey and Richards(1923) provideda techwhich
polysemy
the meaningof what is done as "ex- "perceive" the same thingsbecause they niqueforabstractional
plained"bylanguage,and themeaning "conceptualize" them in the same lan- ought to be more currenttoday; it
of language-is basic. I supposethere guage. And when I "conceptualize" in maynotworktoo well whenopposing
is some use in such special termsas Taos-let's say when I think of or ideologuesare stubbornabout special
but it can convincetheman
semantics"and "ethno- utter the term t'oyna- then I "per- meanings,
"ethnographic
but the uses should ceive" what the Taos does, in this case of goodwill. We shouldnot,however,
logic semantics,"
ofethdimensions
be thoroughly
explainedand theterms a "person," but a person who is an eschewthehistorical
carefullydefined.
Indian (maybe excluding Navahos!),
and philology.The "rigor"
nohistory
I considerColby's "morespecific" and very definitelynot a person like attainedby insistingon an arbitrary
to myself.This argumentationof mine is, "now" may provide a semanticdessemantics
definition
of ethnographic
be tautologicaland, in fact,meaning- I suppose, really directedat the people criptionwhichis quite uninteresting.
less. All aspectsof meaningin a lan- Colby cites and fromwhom he getshis This does not make meaning unguage are "culturallyrevealing."
interesting.
termsand headings.
Semantic Structures
Good ethnographers have always
3. Levi-Strauss's
Colby's review has perhaps 1 really
paid attentionto "minute details" of useful aspect, for me. It shows how (p. 6) ominouslyresemblethe Platonic
meaning. The "new phase in descrip- far from any real resultswe still are, archetypes, whereas Saussure's photive ethnography"that Colby notes is and how much hard work in the very nemes seem based on measurable and
Vol. 7.

No. 1 .February 1966

25

of men as
features."The exclusiveness
mustnot createmodels time,and the generations
perceivable"distinctive
latterstatementis especiallytrue of whichsoon break down becausethey well as of languagesare transformed,
Jakobson'sbinaries,yet I have seen have no humaneinterest.The deter- especiallyif eithertheoryor data has
studentsflounderwith a set of such minationof meaningdomain"by the been at any time too long in the
epochshould
binariesas thoughthey were as ar- common morphemeshared by the ascendant.No scientific
bitrarilymanipulableas Plato's or variousmeanings"may lead to sterile lack surgesforthin either,and neither
has absolute primacy,though there
or the mechanisticdescription.
Pythagoras'world of numbers,
whichwould may be strategicor relativeprimacy
7. ElicitingProcedures
English suprasegmentals,or symsystematicallydesirableat any moment.Generative
in a skewed- force"theethnographer
metrical
phonemepatterns
to the anthroso physically to learn correctword usage in a grammaris as thrilling
up world. If something
fromthe specifieddomain of the language" pologistas to the linguistbecauseit
testableas phonemessuffers
archetypaltemptation,what is to sound dangerouslyprescriptive.We promisesto ordermassesof data hard
happento conceptsas studiedby Frake delightin Panini'sand Sahagun'sdes- to digestin thelump;justso was, for
criptionsbecause we cannot explore a while,structural
grammar.Generaand Conklin?
of theircultureor its tive grammarhas movedus fromthe
4. The Domain (p. 7) of color is, theconnotations
cloisterto themarketplace
and madea
Yet manyfreevariations.
as Colby says,quite ethnocentric.
colorsaresurelytestablediachronically 8. It is heartening
to see (note 22) firmalliancewithsemanticsand psybutby itspreoccupation
and synchronically
by physicalcorre- the awarenessamong anthropologistscholinguistics;
seemedto
lation betweenphysicalspectraand of their literarycompeers;Kenneth withtheoryit has sometimes
theirimmediately
visibleequivalents: Burke,above all, writesbooksso com- distrustdata and even to prescribe
viewing an old
the whitecliffsof Dover, the blue of pact that a page a day is a seminal rules. Ethnography,
ratios and long-studiedculture, requires
the sky at highnoon on a clear day, experience,
and his scene-agent
the red of iron-bearingrocks, the provide critiquesfor the behavioral theory;viewinga new one,it requires
asksformoretheory
orangeof an orange(thoughwe may sciences and perhaps the physical data. The restudy
have to face evolutionarychange sciencesas well. Though Ortega y thanthe pilot project,yet we always
for
in livingobjects).Thisdomain,apt for Gasset'stheory
of "silences"maybe too need more data for time-depth,
genuine rigorousanalysis,has been mysticalformostof us, the technique gap-fillingand discovery of gaps
scarcelytapped.
of thesilencehas beenof highvalue in obscuredby thetheoryof themoment,
and for the testingof prediction.Ethnoneed not con- thestudyof Chaucer,Shakespeare,
5. The ethnographer
thanethaspects T. S. Eliot,and it maybe of value also graphyis moredata-centered
finehimselfto non-referential
nology,which,becauseit is cross-cul(note23).
knowthat in ethnography
of reality;manysemanticists
patternis denotedthrough 9. Conceptualizationcertainlyde- tural,demandsmanytentative
eventheperceivable
Withina culture,
withor ingsforcomparison.
fromcarbon servesstudyby ethnographers,
multi-levelabstractions,
even
atom throughwood up to chair and withoutbenefitof Whorf.A striking in short,data maybe interesting
furniture.
We need merelysay that exampleis in thenamingof places in when it is what Bloch calls "bullaillustration;
witheasily America (and presumablyother co- macow"or impressionistic
thereis value in beginning
testableequationsbetween)word and lonialareas),wherethe"model"known in the comparisonof cultures,bullaof data defeats
objectin one'sown languageand even as mapsproducedthemanybranches, macow and scattering
greatervalue in usingsuch equations in Long Island,and perhapsevenOregon all interest,since contrastswithout
disciplinebecomefalse and even eththe language of another:tree-arbre, fromWisconsin(see Utley1963).
Vietnamese
10. Colby shows how computers nocentric.
parasol-du.
radish-Rettich,
themorphemeThe "operation"mustnot-beconfused can helpin determining
withfinaltruth,
"God'struth" lexemeratioor indexof idiomaticity,By ROGER W. WESCOTT
whether
more modest.We must in machinetranslation
or something
and polysemy,
Chambersburg,
Pa., U.S.A. 22 iii 65
not abdicatefrommappingcultureat and in theswingback frombehaviora higherContrastLevel (pp. 7-8), ism, now that our faultyperceptors Colby's erudite survey is at once
and disturbing-stimulating
as Hockett has shown us. Yet such are aided by rapidcalculators.Yet we stimulating
ethnolinthat we have becausenothingso interests
levels as Conklindeals with do not mustalways remember
bethetelescopeor, guistsas meaning,and disturbing
always convince;as Quine says (see not seenGod through
eludes
Translation
p. 13-14),thetroublewith despitea well-known
story,watcheda cause nothingso consistently
Whorf'sand Levy-Bruhl'sviews of computorinventGod or produce a them.
savagelogicis thatwe musttrusttheir "Cogito, ergo sum." The present I share with Colby "the exciting
translations.The linguistmay have "mentalism"of computerscholarsis hope thata breakthrough...is near"
But I cannot
techniquesfor getting behind the probablya meretemporarystrategy, in semanticinvestigation.
translations
whichthelogiciandoesnot a loose use of intuitionism.
It may sharehis implicitfaiththat the best
so
have; if so, he has to workhard and comefromthegenerative
grammarians,of analytictools is a bibliography
of meanwho have broughtfreshair into the exhaustivethat"thefortress
ingeniously.
by overturn- ing" will inevitablybe overwhelmed
6. Katz and Fodor with their wholefieldof linguistics
fetishes: by sheermass of namesand titles.I
SemanticRules(p. 10-11)have broken ing a numberof structuralist
Saussureanrigidities, ratherlook to a creativecombination
valuable new ground,thoughsome anti-mentalism,
and
syntax defeats them; my colleague thedisregardof thedata of Otto jes- of imagination,thoughtfulness,
me that the persen,theprimacyof phonology.
But persistencesuch as that shown in
CharlesFillmoreinforms
is a case in the intuitionalapproach does cause Lamb'srecentwork(1964) on semantic
construction
"centailment"
point. Ruling out "contextualin- sometroublewhenwe approachnon- structure.
of an writtenlanguages,and some anthro- However,I am glad to join Colby's
fluenceson the interpretation
utterance" seems a methodological pologistsare therefore
justlywary of quest for "meaningful
elementsof...
to the usual it.
necessity,corresponding
culture... analogousto... phonemes"
phosamplingausterity
of linguistics:
11. The manynewmodelsdescribed -a quest 1st enunciated,I believe,
nemics;paradigms;scantyinformant by Colby remindus thatwe are still by Clyde Kluckhohn(1949). These

data (see note 17); the exclusion of


"difficult,"idiosyncratic,and marginal
constructionsfroma grammar;Chomsky's dislike of "encyclopedism." But

26

fightingthe never-endingwar between


data and theory.Essentiallythequarrel
is a temperamentalone, though one's
attitude may change during his life-

units, which might be pre-christened


"ethemes," are simply the logical
termini of the debatable series that
begins with "chronemes" (speechCURRENT

ANTHR

O PO LOG

tempo quanta, Wescott 1965) and


moves through "tagmemes" (syntactic
quanta, Pike 1960) to "sememes"
(quanta of meaning,Bloomfield 1933).
In the semanticrealm, we are all so
much at sea that the most effective
procedure may be merelyto start out
on a tack (without dignifyingit by
such termsas "hypothesis"or "theory")
and see how far it will take us before
it breaks down or requiresredirection.
One such tack that I have founduseful
in relatinglanguage semanticallyto culture is to look, in each culturestudied,
for "ethnologs"-that is, words whose
network of meaningsseems to ramify
behaviorally throughout the culture
(Wescott 1962). Benedict (1946) did
this implicitlywhen she keyed her discussion of Japanese national character

Reply
By B. N.

Colby: ETHNOGRAPHIC

SEMANTICS

The disciplinesthat would help us


of such
to the obligativeconstellation
Japanesewords as on, chu, ko, giri, most in this endeavor are all comand gimu. I have done so explicitly parativelynew: Sebeok'szoosemiotics
kinesics(1952),
with the acquisitiveconstellationof (1946), Birdwhistell's
meaningsinvestingthe Englishverb Hall's proxemics (1963), Wescott's
(1964), and Trager'sparain- strepitistics
getand theaggressive
constellation
linguistics(1958). What all of them
vestingtheBiniverbgbe.
In thelongrun,however,it maybe have in common is an orientation
that the complexity
of both language towardanimalbehaviorand non-linand cultureis such that ad hoc ap- guistic communication.Once we
whatanimalsignals"mean"
proachesare inherently
inadequate.In understand
thatcase, we may be well advisedto and what our own body movements,
spacings,wordlessphotake a temporary
detourand shiftour interpersonal
focus fromlanguageand cultureto nations, and speech modifications
prelanguageand protoculture,
the re- "mean,"we shouldbe in a far better
lativesimplicity
of whichshouldmake position to understandwhat such
it easierforus to seethecommunicativesubtlerand moreintricatephenomcna
as words and customs"mean."
processwhole.

a difference,
Keesingrefers
to thelimitedcommu- pology.Thereis certainly
nicationwithanthropologists
in other forexample,betweenthedata-lessspesubfields.This is true of some folk culations of Wallace and the less
highlydata-oriented
folk
science cnthusiastswho look down theoretical,
upon otherworkin ethnology
(except sciencestudiesof Conklinand Frake.
that
kinship)as "soft."Thislimitedoutlook Yet theyall sharetheassumption
is anothermanifestation
of the con- cultureis a set of mentalcodes and
servatismin the field. It sometimes rules.
includesa blanketrejectionof crossChafe takes the narrow view of
culturalresearch(morefrequent
in in- semanticswhen he distinguishes
betformaldiscussions
thanin print,how- ween linguistic and extralinguistic
of experience,
ever)whichis ratherunusualconsider- structuring
and he takes
ing that many of us defineanthro- thebroad view whenhe speaksof all
aspectsof languagesas beingculturally
pologyas a comparative
science.
Fischerbringsout the need to em- revealing.
Thisinconsistency
illustrates
phasize the cross-cultural
aspect; and 1 of the mainpointsI triedto make
in theprocessmorestudyof theinter- concerning
thebroadviewattackedby
relationshipsbetween ethnographic. Chomsky,whichis held by mostanethnologic,
and ontogenetic
semantics thropologists,
and the narrowview,
wouldindeedbe important
theattempt
and useful. whichunderlies
to develop
Keesing cautions against exclusive a semantictheorywithoutconsidering
context.My apparent
attentionto lexicallylabelled items. non-linguistic
paradox
Sweet, Wescott,Banks, and Chafe failureto explainthisseeming
forBanks' comments
as
make the samepoint.Few people are is responsible
likely to disagreehere; the question well.
turnsratheron degreeof emphasis. The otherdistinction
whichI probAn overemphasison ethnographic ably did not make clear enoughwas
semanticscan eclipseotheraspectsof thatbetweenmeansand ends in ethethnography.
However,unnamedcate- nographicsemantics.My definition
goriesof thoughtwere consideredin was in termsof ends.I certainlydid
can be
both Lounsbury'sand Goodenough's notmeanthatculturalpatterns
1956papersand theworkincodability discoveredwithoutsemantictheory.
is concernedpreciselywith the inter- Semantictheoryis highlyimportant,
relationbetweenthelexicallylabelled but it is more the goal of linguists
The anthropologist
and philosophers.
and thelexicallyunlabelled.
also is theviewof cul- should be concernedwith using this
Conservative
culture.This
tureas a mentalcode or set of rules. theoryforunderstanding
to me,I links,of course,to the criticismof
Thoughthisviewis attractive
am notsureit is themostfruitful
one. triviality.Unless a classificationof
that
I think1 reasonit has caughton is plantsleads to an infra-structure
otherdomainsof
thatit is mentally
It reduces helpsus understand
assuaging.
to a setof logicalrelation- the culture,it is likelyto be anthroeverything
shipsthatare clear and unambiguous. pologicallytrivial.On theotherhand,
witha greatconcernfor it would be considered less trivial
This,together
in thesearchforstepby step by someone interested primarily in
technique

COLBY

There seemsto be a general acceptance


of the essential points in this review,
and I appreciate particularlythe substantive comments by Kay, Keesing,
and Utley, with which, for the most
part, I am in agreement. Few commentators,however, have raised some
of the broader questions concerning
ethnographicsemantics as a field of
inquiry. I should like to treat some of
these questionshere,-as well as answer
specific comments.
One might characterize the new
American emphasis as a conservative
revolution. It provides a much-needed
focus on careful ethnographicdescription which will probably have a widespread effect on the standards for
fieldwork.But it is neverthelessa conservative development.
One could argue, for instance, that
what goes for theoryin much of ethnographicsemantics(especially in folk
science studies) actually representsa
point of view rather than a theory.
What theory there is derives mainly
fromgenerativegrammar,as suggested
by Utley, and from work by social
psychologists.
Keesing speaks of the triviality of
much of ethnographicsemantics.There
is always, of course, the hope that the
methods used in trivial cases will
eventually have more important applications. Folk science studies, for
example, would be of great value if
underlying elements could be shown
to ramifyto otherareas of the culture,
as suggestedby Wescott (see also my
paper on folk science,1964). Wescott's
interestin a broader study of symbolic procedures, iS the central unifying semantictheory.
behavior suggestsanother antidote to tendencyof ethnographicsemanticsas
I should have mentioned vocabutriviality.
a field, at least in American anthro- lary studies in such areas as emotion
Vol. 7

No. 1

February 1966

27

(H. Geertz 1959) and interpersonal


relations (Newman 1958 and Roberts
1961) that are less amenable to
semantic mapping. John Roberts is
now working on a theoryof semantic
distance in kin terms that goes considerably beyond his work on color
codability. As Chafe suggests, more
should have been said about the
codability studies by Brown, Lenneberg,and Roberts.From the ethnologic
point of view, I feel that additional
color studies using the same methodology will not contributeas much as
studies in other domains; here I agree
with Akhmanova. However, something
along the lines suggestedby Utley or
by Asch (1955) in his work on
metaphorshould be of great interest.
I appreciate the additions to the
bibliographysuggestedby Akhmanova,
Grootaers, and others, particularly

Benedict,F. Kluckhohn,and Opler


sincethe reviewwas finishedearlyin
1964 and manynew workshave been wereomittedbecausetheirworkis not
publishedsubsequently.
Amongtheseis directlyrelevantto the subjectof the
a usefulreviewof thepsycholinguisticreview.Pike was givenslightattention
field by Diebold (1964). I did cite because his way of segmenting
the
more than 2 factual surveys by streamof behaviorseemsme to arbivalidaEuropeanscholars,however(Kronas- traryand withoutinformant
ser,Basilius,Ohman,Ullmann,Leisi, tion.
Trager has misreadmy statement
Guiraud,Schaff,Hiorth,and Wiister).
[t is also truethat the mostprecise, aboutLounsbury.
He and Kennardare
operational,
and rigorousworkin eth- of courserightthat thereis nothing
interest
in
nographic semantics (componential new about anthropological
as I triedto suggestin reanalysis,contrast-level
analysis,theuse semantics,
of reductionrules,and programmed marksabout earlierEuropean work
specification)has been done in the and Sahagun.
UnitedStates.Anyreviewof thefield
Utleybringsup thequestionof psyshould thereforeconcentrateon this chological units (Hopi paragraphs),
new work.This is entirely
apartfrom which adds an importantdimension
the excellent, scholarly work by overlookedin my review.This could
Europeansin comparativelinguistics, well be consideredin futurework in
as represented
in the mostinteresting programmed
specification,
as well as
in otherareas of ethnographic
study.
exampleprovidedby Knobloch.

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