Last Updated 16 Jun 2020

Culture and Anthropology

Category Anthropology
Essay type Process
Words 595 (2 pages)
Views 297

Evidently culture is difficult to be defined from a single definition. E. B. Tylor, in 1871 described culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” this explanation however, is just a wide collection of different categories that all combined together give rise to the term. A much more accurate term of culture is the one suggested by Ralph Linton, as “the configuration of learned behavior and results of behavior whose component elements are shared and transmitted by the members of a particular society”.

In this term we observe an obvious behaviorist approach which connects culture with the concept of learned behavior and more precisely with the importance of language. Finally Victor Barnouw, based on the previous behaviorist definition, names culture as “the way of life of a group of people, the configuration of all of the more or less stereotyped patterns of learned behavior which are handed down from one generation to the next through the means of language and imitation” (Victor Barnouw, 1963).

Throughout investigating various definitions of culture we accomplished a correlation between learning (mostly through language) and enculturation. Enculturation is a lifelong unconscious process and each child learns the language of its community by imitation, instruction, and from the verbal behavior of others. The capacity of human beings to enlarge and transmit complex cultural patterns is dependent upon language. Then the idea of learning a language is equivalent with the idea of learning a culture.

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In most of the cases, no individual is aware of all the elements that create his culture but by the time he is grown, he has most probably learned the universal beliefs shared by the members of his community. Cultures vary from the importance they put on formal education as opposed to informal learning. Formal education is present in complex societies with the form of teaching institutes; nevertheless informal education is present within the family and peer group that have equally important role in enculturation.

In addition to the importance of language, many societies give great significance even in the vocabulary used by very young children. Charles Ferguson has made a comparative study of infant talk in various societies and the results were fascinating similarities in phonology and morphology as well as the repetition of syllables (“bye-bye”, “pee-pee”). The most important reason why anthropologists should study young children’s speech is because it indicates a great deal about the child’s world, as well as its cultural perspective (Philip K.

Bock, 1974). From the wide-ranging area of culture to the much more defined function of language, the sphere of research around the study of a particular group of people within the same boarder lines of a city is easier understood if the researcher (anthropologist) concentrates the interest of his attention, around a variety of traits with a common base the formal teaching or the informal learning from the inner community, always through the usage of language as an unconscious procedure.

When you live in city like Athens and in general into a comparatively small country like Greece, an idea of universality is created in the individual. This might be the result of the modern-informational ages we are living or the outcomes of globalization that puts pressure on the individual to think always “big” and fast and not to stop in small details or differences. But in the end, those small differences compose our everyday lives and our everyday morality and finally time is needed to reveal those differences that the most of us wrongly take for granted.

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