Glossary

Anthropology

The systematic study of humankind.

Biological Anthropology

(Also referred to as physical anthropology) is the subfield that studies the biological characteristics of humanity in the past and present.

Fossils

The remains of bones and living materials preserved from earlier periods.

Paleoanthropology

The study of human evolution through the analysis of fossil remains.

Primatology

The study of primates.

Primates

A diverse order of mammals, including humans, monkeys, and apes, that share similar characteristics.

Archaeology

The subfield of anthropology that focuses on the study of the artifacts from past societies to determine the lifestyles, history, and evolution of those societies.

Artifacts

The material products of past societies.

Middens

Ancient dumps or trash heaps.

Ethnoarchaeology

The study of material artifacts of the past along with the observation of modern peoples who have knowledge of the use and symbolic meaning of those artifacts.

Linguistics

The study of language.

Linguistics anthropology

The subfield of anthropology that focuses on the study of language.

Structural linguistics

An area of research that investigates the structure of language patterns as they presently exist.

Sociolinguistics

The systematic study of language use in various social settings to discern the links between language and social behavior.

Historical linguistics

The comparison and classification of different languages to discern the historical links among them.

Cultural anthropology

The subfield of anthropology that focuses on the study of contemporary societies.

Participant observation

The method used by the ethnographer who learns the culture of the group being studied by participating in the group’s daily activities.

Ethnography

A description of a society written by an anthropologist who conducted field research in that society.

Ethnology

The subfield of anthropology that focuses on the cross-cultural aspects of ethnographic studies.

Applied anthropology

The use of data gathered from the other subfields of anthropology to find practical solutions to problems in a society.

Holistic

A broad, comprehensive approach to the study of humankind drawing on the four subfields of anthropology and integrating both biological and cultural phenomena.

Ethnohistory

The study of the history of a particular ethnic group based on written documents or oral narratives.

Ethnocentrism

The practice of judging another society by the values and standards of one’s own.

Scientific method

A method used to investigate the natural and social worlds involving critical thinking, logical reasoning, and skeptical thought.

Inductive method

A method of investigation in which a scientist first makes observations and collects data and then formulates a hypothesis.

Variable

A datum that varies from case to case.

Hypothesis

A testable proposition concerning the relationship between different sets of variables within the collected data.

Theories

Interconnected hypotheses that offer general explanations of natural or social phenomena.

Deductive method

A method of investigation in which a scientist begins with a general theory, develops specific hypotheses, and tests them.

Ethnopoetics

The study of the poetry traditions and practices in different societies.

Ethnomusicology

The study of musical traditions in different societies.