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Cultural Reflections on American Linguists from Whitney to Sapir

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 January 2009

Clive Bush
Clive Bush is Senior Lecturer in the Department of English, University of Warwick, Coventry, England CV4 7AL.


At the World's Fair Congress of Anthropology in Chicago in 1915 Professor O. T. Mason explained the ethnological exhibit in the following terms: “The aim was to have each leading linguistic stock of peoples represented by collections of art products and by groups of life-size figures engaged in characteristic arts and industries serially in the alcoves.” A certain cultural confidence is manifest. Language is seen as the basis for “stocks” of peoples (stocks being a favourite classificatory measure for Darwinists and Financiers), and museum humanoids, engaged in representative and atomised industrial tasks, presented in serial order, become authoritative ways of coding behaviour, language and culture.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1988

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