Humanities-Contemporary Cultures and Societies

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Immutability and Transmutation

Transmutation refers to the transformation from one species to another. The term was commonly used in the 19th century to explain Darwinian Theory of evolution. Among other terms, transmutation may mean the same thing as transmogrification, transposition or alteration. Immutability on the other hand refers to the resistance of an organism to undergo transformation. It is the inability to transfer or change after initial creation.

Difference between Variety, Species and Genus

A species is a group of individuals that closely resemble each other, both physically and genetically. Variety, on the other hand, is a term used to describe different species of organisms. Genus is closely related to species. A genus is a group of organisms that closely resemble each other but the resemblance is not as close as that of species. Scientifically, genus is the taxonomic unit right above species. Organisms that are in the same genus have many factors that point to similarity between them. However, members of the same species have even more relating traits and characteristics.

Natural Selection

Natural selection is a natural process that sieves out better-suited and adapted organisms allowing them to survive and procreate at the expense of the less endowed and less adapted members of the same species. It is the process by which organisms are conferred with special traits that enable them to survive better than other organisms of the same species. For instance, the postulation of the longneck giraffes asserts that over time, due to the decrease of food, the longneck giraffes were better adapted to obtaining more food high up in the trees as opposed to the short-neck giraffes. As a result, the short neck giraffes died due to starvation while their long necked counterparts remained in existence.

To select, in this context means to bestow special traits that are decisive on whether an organism will have an upper hand over the rest of the organisms of the same species or not. The selection process enables the selected organism to survive. The selection process is done by nature since most of the characteristics come about due to mutations, spontaneous and unplanned changes in the body of the organism.

Success Breeds Success

This concept implies that through mating and fertilization, organisms are able to pass on their traits to their offspring. Since the offspring are viable and are able to produce offspring of their own, it constitutes a successful mating process making way for the creation of viable offspring that will be key to future breeding success.

Century Linguistic Thought

Linguistics had been part of the lives and daily activities of the human race since time immemorial. However, in the 19th century, this body of knowledge witnessed a change in trade. Initially, Linguistics had been used for entertainment and for enlightenment among other purposes. With the onslaught of various emerging issues, particularly in the 19th century, Linguists began to use language, not just as a means of entertainment but for other pressing issues. Philology, the use of linguistics and philosophy arose during this period. Philology emerged as a way of mocking and deriding the ruling elite and poor governance to instigate change. At about the same time, other bodies of literary work, especially poetic work aimed at highlighting emerging issues in politics and societal issues to educate the masses.

Saussure and Structuralism

Ferdinand de Saussure is remembered for his contributions and postulations on structuralism. Structuralism is a concept, which asserts that events, circumstances and occurrences in human life are interconnected and interrelated. Under the concept of structuralism lie a few dichotomies, one of them being synchrony and diachrony. By definition, synchrony is a situation where two similar things exist in the same period. For instance, American and British English is presumably in synchrony. Diachrony, on the other hand, is the variation in the meaning of words over time. A diachronic relationship involves two related factors are separated by time. Ancient and modern English can be used as an example in this case. Saussure was a strong advocate for the move from diachronic to synchronic relationship. According to him, the most important thing should be the study of why languages change not necessarily knowledge about the change itself.

Sapir, Whorf and Linguistic Relativism

The question of how many words the Eskimos have for snow is a long and controversial one and dates back to the early 20th century. It has been suggested that the Eskimos could have more than four hundred words to name snow. In other instances, it has been suggested that there are around one hundred words. However, strictly speaking the numbers of words that mean the same as snow in Eskimo are about twelve only.

Sapir and Whorf postulated a hypothesis that a structure of language determines how a person thinks and behaves. However, some scientists beg to differ with this notion.

Mead and Cultural Relativism

Margaret Mead wrote a book about her experience with Samoan girls. In her book, she highlights some of the experiences she had while in Samoa and compares the life she witnessed up there and compares it with her personal life as a teenager growing up in America. Mead recommends travelling to non-Western societies to find an alternative way of living. She suggests that such an avenue provides an opportunity for one to reflect upon his or her life yet at the same time gain insightful information about difference in culture.

According to Mead’s experiences and opinion as expressed in her book, “Coming of Age in Samoa”, she highlights that life in Samoa, particularly among teenage girls is different in a way from that back in America. She observes that the teenage girls in Samoa have more freedom and liberty and compares this with the situation back in America, highlighting the stark difference between the two cultures. She attributes this difference in treatment to being the reason why American teenagers appear moody and are rebellious. She highlights another aspect of difference in culture, though a negative one. According to the book, Samoan girls frequently become subjects of marriages before they are mature enough for family life. Further, the girls are married off to old men, almost the age of their fathers. These examples present the variance in culture between American and Samoan cultures. She uses the freedom and liberty accorded to Samoan girls to press her case suggesting that lack of such an opportunity for American girls is part of the reason behind their questionable attitude.

According to the book, there are certain practices that are common in both cultures. Strict rules are one of the factors singled out. In America, teenage girls are kept under constant scrutiny and supervision. In Samoa, sometimes the strictness can degenerate to flogging of the girls, a fact that is not strange in Samoa.

Levi- Strauss and Structuralism

Levi-Strauss is a famous French writer and philosopher. He was born in 1908 and died in 2009 at one hundred years of age. He made a number of postulations on structuralism, suggesting that structuralism is the quest for underlying lines of thought in all human acts. He also made significant contributions to anthropology bringing to light the association between structuralism and anthropology. Most notably, he postulated the theories of culture and mind explaining that a person’s culture has close relation to his or her mind. He also highlighted the relation between history and social struggle, again, bringing to light the relation between structuralism and anthropology.

Chomsky and Universal Grammar

Noan Chomsky used the sentence –colorless green ideas leap furiously-to argue out his case that there are sentences which though may sound grammatically correct, are in fact nonsensical. The sentence he gave, as an example to back his suggestion appears grammatically correct. Indeed, it is correct. However, the statement is incomprehensible and without a clear meaning. He calls such sentences syntactic structures.

Lakoff, Johnson and Metaphor

Lakoff and Johnson argue that metaphors improve human perceptions and understandings of their surrounding and daily events and activities. According to their argument, which has some element of truth in it, people use and encounter metaphors every other day, sometimes without even realizing it. A metaphor is an extraordinary and poetic use of words in language to enhance and add more weight to statements.

The Wall Street Journal Article regarding the smear campaign on Dr. Jeffery Wigand is an example of an article in which metaphorical use is applied. The article begins by stating that before his widely publicized defection in the tobacco industry, Jeffrey Wigand had a problem with some “wet luggage”. This is use of a metaphorical expression.

Milroy and Language Myths

Lesley Milroy is a professor at University of Michigan and a renowned sociolinguist. Especially non-linguists have aimed much of her work in languages at clearing the air around certain language myths. In her article, Milroy suggests that objectivity in the use if a language requires constant practice by speaking and writing. The subjective criteria for evaluating language use include valuating the mode of teaching and learning implemented in schools. She asserts that the myth that language use is on a downward spiral due to the ineffective methods of learning and teaching employed in schools is untrue and baseless.

Bourdieu and Cultural Capital Habitus

Bourdieu conducted an extensive study of the French society and came up with a number of suggestions and hypotheses. From his study, he concludes that capital does not always refer to physical and material assets. He presents an argument that capital can and indeed includes symbolic, social and cultural assets. Cultural capital is the cultural endowment of a community. It plays a crucial role in societal power relations. On the other hand, habitus refers to the social norms that determine and dictate the behavior, acts and thinking of a person. He also defines it as the reflection of the role of the society in a person’s behavior. He further makes a claim that habitus is a social aspect and is in no way personal.

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