Language in Society


Speculations on the growth of ethnobotanical nomenclature1

Brent Berlina1

a1 University of California, Berkeley


Assuming the ethnobiological classification evolves as a reflection of cultural development, data are presented which suggest an orderly and predictable temporal appearance of ethnobotanical nomenclatural categories. A general correspondence is seen to exist between the number of categories encoded at any point in time in a particular language's history and degree of sociocultural development. The principles of lexical marking are applied to ethnobiological nomenclature as a means of inferring relative age of the corresponding categories. (Ethnoscience, primitive classification, language universals, cultural evolution.)


1 An earlier draft of this paper was prepared with the fellowship support of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and the National Science Foundation, Grant GS-2280. Essentially this version has been distributed as Working Paper No. 39, Language-Behavior Research Laboratory (March 1971). Many individuals have provided encouragement in developing these ideas further. I am especially appreciative of the continued collaboration of Paul Kay and William H. Geoghegan of the Language-Behavior Research Laboratory. As much of the data relevant to issues discussed here are unpublished, I am grateful for ethnographic information provided by colleagues from their own field notes. I would like to thank the following persons for their criticism, data, and helpful comments: Barry Aipher, Eugene Anderson, Robert Austerlitz, Donald Bahr, Keith Basso, Katherine Branstetter, Dennis E. Breedlove, Jan Brukman, Ralph H. Bulmer, Robbins Burling, Wallace Chafe, Harold C. Conklin, Lincoln Constance, Christopher Day, Barbara Demory, Robert M. W. Dixon, Mary LeCron Foster, Catherine S. Fowler, Charles O. Frake, Paul Friedrich, William H. Geoghegan, Robert F. Heizer, Nicholas A. Hopkins, Eugene Hunn, Dell Hymes, Paul Kay, Robert M. Laughlin, Yakov Malkiel, Robert McC. Adams, David Price, Robert Randall, Peter H. Raven, Michelle Rosaldo, David Schneider, Brian Stross, Oswald Werner, and Michael Wilson.