ethnosemantics anthropology

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Quiz 1: Create a semantic domain

Ethnosemantics is defined in our course glossary as “the study of how members of a culture use language to describe classifications; for example, color, kinship, weather, animals, and plants.” Read Week 4 Commentary, section “Ethnosemantics,” and follow the guidelines below to create a semantic domain. Supplies needed: index cards, paper clips.

  1. Select a person to interview. This may be someone you know from your own culture, or someone from another culture. You may wish to interview someone who speaks your ancestral language.

  2. Explain that you are trying to learn something about the culture of this person. You will be interviewing the person about some topic that is familiar to him or her, so you can learn about this topic.

  3. Find out something that this person knows something about or is interested in. He or she could know about motorcycles, fixing clocks, fitness clubs, rap music, baking cookies, making curry, playing soccer, or knitting socks.

  4. Invite your "native informant" to list all the terms associated with his or her field of interest. (For example: Types of cookies: chocolate chip, peanut butter, Snickerdoodles.)

  5. Write each term on a separate index card or paper. Ask open-ended questions to prompt. (For example: "What other items would you use?")

  6. Invite your native informant to sort the cards into meaningful categories. First, ask him or her to sort them into at least two contrastive categories. Then, take each stack and ask him or her to divide those into at least two categories. Ask your interviewee to explain each category as you go along, and ask what is different about one pile as compared to the other.

  7. Take notes so you won’t forget what is said. You may wish to clip one stack together while you are working on another so you don’t get the cards mixed up.

  8. Check Table 4.1 (in Week 4 Commentary, section “Ethnosemantics”) and, using it as an example, draw a chart of a semantic domain based on all the terms collected and how they have been categorized.

  9. Write a brief report (no more than two pages) including the chart you have created and a discussion of how, in your interpretation, your informant views this topic, e.g., what is his or her criteria for organizing words in categories, what kind of categories he or she employs.

  10. Submit your report into your Assignments folder by the end of week 4.

 
 

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