第四講：語用與文化 Culture-Specific Forms of Language Use: The Trobriand Islanders’ Control of their Public Display of Emotions
講者：Gunter Senft 教授
This lecture discusses the role of emotions in the construction of social reality. Prof. Senft is interested in the way in which ritual communication allows the members of a community to control their emotions. By “ritual communication” he understands forms of verbal and non-verbal repetitive performances that, in a given context, allow the participants to anticipate the consequences of their actions. It is a form of strategic action that allows a community to prevent violence and ensure social harmony.
In his lecture, Prof. Senft will present and discuss the way in which the Trobriand Islanders rely on ritual communication in order to control their emotions in public, thus constituting a crucial aspect in the construction of their social reality. In particular, he will analyze the way in which emotions are either displayed or hidden in contexts such as mourning rituals, sexual life before marriage, interaction between married couples in public and response to provocation and aggressive behavior. From this perspective, ritual communication is related to the preservation of taboos through so-called “safety value customs”: that is, allowing forms of public discussion of taboos as a way to ensure their observance, such as the meta-linguistic “big sopa” used by the Trobrianders.
From this perspective, Prof. Senft puts into practice a premise of linguistic-anthropological research that he will have methodologically introduced in the previous lectures, namely that the researcher must be on a common ground with the research community: She must understand the way in which a community of speech constructs their common social reality.
INTRODUCTION OF THE LECTURE SERIES
In this series of five lectures, Prof. Senft will introduce some anthropological and linguistical perspectives on the study of the relation between language, culture and cognition. Prof. Senft’s main subject of research is the culture of the Trobriand Islanders and their language, Kivilila, one of the 40 Austronesian languages spoken in the Milne Bay province of Papua New Guinea.
By presenting the results of his long-term field research with the Trobrianders, Prof. Senft addresses crucial questions for linguistics, anthropology, philosophy and other fields of human sciences. For instance: Is there evidence for the hypothesis of “linguistic relativism”, i.e. the idea that language influences (or determines) thought? How does language influence perception (for instance, how do different linguistic categorizations of space influence the way we perceive space)? What is the role of language in the expression and control of human emotions? Do natural languages rely on universal categories? Or are linguistic categories rather culture-related?
Prof. Senft’s lectures will not only provide with rich insights into possible answers to all these questions, they will also address relevant methodological suggestions for the researcher in the Humanities. Above all, Prof. Senft’s research stresses the importance of being “on a common ground” with the researched communities: that is, to be able to understand the complexity of categories and linguistic strategies developed by native speakers. Only then will it be possible to reduce the impact of the linguistic and cultural presuppositions of the researcher.