21st COE Program Seminar
Public Seminar on African Area Studies

Date: Thursday, May 18, 2006 15:00 - 17:00

Venue: Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University,
East Building, 2nd Floor, E207

Title: " Hunter-gatherer’s Concepts on the Environment "

Speaker: Dr. Matthias Brenzinger
(Visiting Proffesor, Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies )

As we struggle to learn more about nonconformist conceptual structures in the languages of non-Western societies, we realize that these habitual thoughts, the ones diverging from the world culture’s concepts - are the most vulnerable assets of these languages. With the spread of a global culture, thoughts are also adjusted. Genuine, original concepts undergo modifications in order to accommodate innovations or to conform to ‘modern’ global concepts.

Hunter-gatherer cultures and concepts underlying their languages are at the verge of extinction and, as a consequence, a wide range of nonconformist concepts will soon be lost. Khwe is a Central Khoisan language spoken by former hunter-gatherers in Southern Africa. While their ethnic tongue is still the everyday medium of communication for most members of the community, genuine concepts underlying the language are fading out. The living conditions of most Khwe today differ fundamentally from those of past generations. Language usage among young Khwe reveals that many of Khwe concepts that divert from those found in the expanding world culture have already been replaced by them.

The importance of culture-specific views on the environment in shaping the concepts underlying languages has been increasingly acknowledged in cognitive linguistic science in recent years. Some of these nonconformist concepts of Khwe, will be discussed in my presentation. I will restrict myself to examining two domains, the physical environment and underlying principles for naming the flora and fauna.

Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University
TEL:075-753-7822 FAX:075-753-9191


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