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Ethnobiological Classification: Principles of Categorization of Plants and Animals in Traditional Societies


Series: Princeton Legacy Library

By: Brent Berlin (Author)

335 pages, 44 b/w illustrations, 41 tables

Princeton University Press

Paperback | Jul 2014 | #215186 | ISBN-13: 9780691601267
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £35.95 $44/€40 approx
Hardback | May 2016 | #227975 | ISBN-13: 9780691631004
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £96.95 $119/€109 approx
Hardback | Dec 1992 | #16550 | ISBN: 0691094691
Out of Print Details

About this book

A reprint of a classical work in the Princeton Legacy Library. Originally published in 1992.

A founder of and leading thinker in the field of modern ethnobiology looks at the widespread regularities in the classification and naming of plants and animals among peoples of traditional, nonliterate societies – regularities that persist across local environments, cultures, societies, and languages. Brent Berlin maintains that these patterns can best be explained by the similarity of human beings' largely unconscious appreciation of the natural affinities among groupings of plants and animals: people recognize and name a grouping of organisms quite independently of its actual or potential usefulness or symbolic significance in human society. Berlin's claims challenge those anthropologists who see reality as a "set of culturally constructed, often unique and idiosyncratic images, little constrained by the parameters of an outside world." Part One of this wide-ranging work focuses primarily on the structure of ethnobiological classification inferred from an analysis of descriptions of individual systems. Part Two focuses on the underlying processes involved in the functioning and evolution of ethnobiological systems in general.

"This well-researched and enthusiastically written book is a major contribution to ethnobiology [...] This book is aimed at professional ethnobiologists, but it will also be of value to those who are interested in linguistics, systematics, psychological mechanisms, and the postmodernist debate."
The Quarterly Review of Biology


Pt. 1    Plan    

Ch. 1    On the Making of a Comparative Ethnobiology    3
1.1    Intellectualist and Utilitarian Approaches in Ethnobiology    3
1.2    Why Is It Notable That Nonliterates "Know So Much" about Nature?    5
1.3    The Bases of Ethnobiological Classification    8
1.4    Relativist and Comparativist Approaches in Ethnobiology    11
1.5    General Principles of Ethnobiological Classification, 1966-1976    13
1.6    Band-aids or Tune-up? General Principles, 1989    20
1.7    Summary of General Principles    31
1.8    The Changing Conventions of Data Presentation as a Reflection of Changing Theory in Ethnobiological Classification    35

Ch. 2    The Primacy of Generic Taxa in Ethnobiological Classification    52
2.1    The Selected Subset of Plants and Animals    53
2.2    The Concept of the Genus: Historical Antecedents    54
2.3    Evidence for the Perceptual Salience of Generic Taxa    60
2.4    Generic Taxa, Ethnobiological Rank, and Analytic Terminology    64
2.5    On Predicting the Subset of Generic Taxa    78
2.6    The Internal Structure of Folk Generic Taxa    90
2.7    Nature's Fortune 500+: Empirical Generalizations on the Upper Numbers of Generic Taxa in Systems of Ethnobiological Classification    96

Ch. 3    The Nature of Specific Taxa    102
3.1    Distinctive Biological Properties of Specific Taxa    103
3.2    The Internal Structure of Specific Contrast Sets    108
3.3    Residual Categories?    114
3.4    General Nomenclatural Properties of Specific Taxa    116
3.5    Cultural Factors Contributing to the Recognition of Specific Taxa    118
3.6    Patterns in the Distribution and Size of Specific Contrast Sets    122

Ch. 4    Natural and Not So Natural Higher-Order Categories    134
4.1    Higher-Order Categories in Ethnobiological Classification    138
4.2    Taxa of Intermediate Rank    139
4.3    Taxa of Life-Form Rank    161
4.4    The Nature of Unaffiliated Generic Taxa and the Life-Form Debate    171
4.5    Convert Groupings of Unaffiliated Generics = Covert Life Forms?    176
4.6    The Bases of Life-Form Taxa: Utilitarian vs. Perceptual Motivations    181
4.7    The Plant and Animal Kingdoms    190

Pt. 2    Process    

Ch. 5    Patterned Variation in Ethnobiological Knowledge    199
5.1    Werner's Gray-haired Omniscient Native Speaker-Hearer    200
5.2    The Basic Data of Ethnobiological Description and the Search for Patterns    201
5.3    Collecting the Basic Data from Which Patterns Might Emerge    202
5.4    Some Significant Types of Variation in Ethnobiological Knowledge    203
5.5    Discovering the Patterns Underlying the Biological Ranges of Folk Taxa    206
5.6    Some Factors Contributing to Cognitive Variation    223

Ch. 6    Manchung and Bikua: The Nonarbitrariness of Ethnobiological Nomenclature    232
6.1    Early Experiments on Sound Symbolism    234
6.2    Ethnobiological Sound Symbolism in Huambisa: Birds and Fish    235
6.3    Universal Sound Symbolism or Simple Onomatopoeia?    240
6.4    Comparison with Other Ethnoornithological Vocabularies    245
6.5    Fish, Again    247
6.6    Closing Observations on Huambisa Sound Symbolism    249
6.7    "-r-" is for FROG    250
6.8    Lexical Reflections of Cultural Significance    255

Ch. 7    The Substance and Evolution of Ethnobiological Categories    260
7.1    Toward a Substantive Inventory of Ethnobiological Categories    261
7.2    The Evolution of Ethnobiological Categories: Typological Speculations    272
7.3    Epilogue    290

    References    291
    Author Index    309
    Index of Scientific Names    313
    Index of Ethnobiological Names    322
    Subject Index    331

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