Preface [chapter]

2022 Nurturing Language  
This book grew out of a practical need to produce a textbook on anthropological linguistics for teaching purposes. The fact that it was completed when the present author no longer had any teaching obligations, due to reaching retirement age, hopefully makes its publication not entirely superfluous for others. There is no monograph on anthropological linguistics with a special focus on Africa. A central goal of the present study, therefore, is to make at least part of the extensive literature
more » ... ilable to a wider public, including on the African continent, in order to show what the data from Africa tell us about the various issues currently (and formerly) debated in the anthropological-linguistic literature, in order to arrive at a kind of synthesis from which further investigations may be initiated. While African scholars have played an important role in developing the field of anthropological linguistics so far, it is hoped that the present monograph will encourage more academics from that part of the world to take part in the debate on the role played by culture in structuring languages. The actual motivation for writing this monograph, consequently, is similar to the reasons for publishing the monograph Historical Linguistics and the Comparative Study of African Languages (Dimmendaal 2011), where the role (ideally) played by African languages in our understanding of language change is a central theme. As with this previous monograph, the present author may again be subject to ad hominem attacks in animose reviews, being accused of "rambling prose" and the use of a "meandering style" (as one reviewer of the monograph on historical linguistics put it). Still, it is hoped that the present contribution contains sufficiently rich datasets (or at least references to additional datasets of a whole range of authors whose contributions might otherwise slide into oblivion) to satisfy the critics. These datasets are presented with a wink to the "empiricists" amongst us, as the author's own presentations of data are based on interviews with a range of speakers, rather than on interviews with just one (semi-)speaker of a language far away from the actual speech community. If readers feel tempted to write an alternative textbook focusing on what they think is more important or empirically well-founded, one can only encourage them to go ahead. The intellectual stance propagated in Dimmendaal ( 2011 ) with respect to language change is the same as the position defended in the present study, namely that language is "Lamarckian", i.e., highly flexible and always adapting to the needs of its users, who feed or nurture this precious product of human evolution in a rather intriguing variety of ways. As already suggested by the title, this monograph emphasizes the interplay between culture and cognition as reflected in language, supporting the case for a nurturing device in the nature/nurture debate.
doi:10.1515/9783110726633-202 fatcat:432zf7jjvfcqfflxc2hi6dgpwm