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Indigenous VisionsRediscovering the World of Franz Boas$
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Ned Blackhawk and Isaiah Lorado Wilner

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780300196511

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300196511.001.0001

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Of Two Minds About Minding Language in Culture

Of Two Minds About Minding Language in Culture

(p.147) Chapter 6 Of Two Minds About Minding Language in Culture
Indigenous Visions

Michael Silverstein

Yale University Press

Analyzing Franz Boas's critically new insights under the lens of philology, this chapter redefines Boasian linguistics as a globalizing mode of mutual enlightenment through the exchange of grammatical concepts between selves across borders of sound and sense—a process he calls “comparative calibrationism,” the asymptotic pursuit of the always-inaccessible yet ever-closer universal truth. It focuses on the Handbook of American Indian Languages, where Boas dismantled every plank in the language-focused platform on which inferences of evolutionary primitivism stand. Boas also went after the very applicability to American languages of the comparative method of historical linguistics, from which inferences of so-called linguistic families descended from single proto-languages emerged in the nineteenth century.

Keywords:   Franz Boas, race, racism, linguistics, enlightenment, philology, comparative calibrationism, language, Handbook of American Indian Languages

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