Anthropology E20     Practice Midterm 2001



Practice test  -- the following is an example of the kind of questions you might expect.  Answers are at the end.  




1.       A "culture-bound" theory is


a.       a prediction that is bound to be fulfilled in a particular culture.

b.       a theory developed by a cultural anthropologist rather than a physical anthropologist.

c.       a theory developed by a sociologist rather than a cultural anthropologist.

d.       a theory based on assumptions common to a particular culture rather than deriving from comparisons of many different cultures.

e.       a theory based on comparison of cultures.


2.      The concept culture as defined today has changed from the meaning given to it during the 19th century. Today,


a.       culture is seen as values and beliefs that lie behind behavior in addition to actual behavior.

b.       culture is seen as real rather than as ideal.

c.       the term "culture" has been replaced by the term "society."

d.       culture is defined as objects rather than ideas.

e.       the term culture is not used.


3.      The sanitary habits of food foraging peoples


a.       leave a lot to be desired.

b.       are highly adaptive in the context of foraging and also in the context of sedentism.

c.       weren't very adaptive in the context of foraging, but turn out to be adaptive in the context of sedentism.

d.       were highly adaptive in the context of foraging, but are maladaptive in the context of sedentism.

e.       are unknown.


4.      Which of the following characteristics distinguishes primates from other mammals?


a.       a large complex brain in which the area devoted to smell is quite large

b.       the development of more teeth of a highly specialized nature

c.       increased visual acuity because of stereoscopic and color vision

d.       the development of a specific breeding season and increased number of offspring

e.       All of the above


5.      The smallest class of sound that distinguishes a difference in meaning is a/an


a.       allophone.

b.       morpheme.

c.       allomorph.

d.       phoneme.

e.       free morpheme.


6.      One method used by linguists to find out the rules by which morphemes are combined in larger chains is called __________. In this method, the linguist puts together strings of morphemes, looking for categories within which certain morphemes will fit (e.g., the category "adjective" applies to all morphemes that fit in the phrase, "I am looking for a [***] house").


a.       frame substitution

b.       glottochronology

c.       phonetics

d.       phonology

e.       morphology


7.      According to the film we saw on the Trobriands , which of the following best describes the Trobriand conception of the afterlife.


a.       It is a place in the underworld

b.      It is a place where humans are punished for misdeeds on earth

c.       It is a place in the sky where the soul gradually is freed from earthly desires

d.      It is a mythical Island nearby where people live pretty much as they do when alive, but with less unhappiness.

e.       It is a place where the  onerous obligations of Kula exchange are not enforced.



8.      Many food foraging groups have rituals celebrating the association of men with hunting and warfare, and women with generation of life. They interpret this difference to mean that


a.       men and women are different, but one is not ranked higher than the other.

b.       women are superior because of their gift of fertility.

c.       men are superior because of their physical dominance.

d.       men are responsible for taking care of women because women are weaker.

e.       women are more assertive because they have the power of life and death.


9.      Among the Ju/'hoansi (“Bushmen”),


a.       children are expected to contribute to subsistence from the time they are 7 or 8.

b.       elderly people past the age of 60 are expected to contribute hunted or gathered food to the group.

c.       elderly people are a valuable source of knowledge and wisdom about hunting and gathering.

d.       elderly people are taken care of grudgingly because after the age of 60 they contribute nothing to the group.

e.       children are expected to set up their own separate households by the time        

             they are 12.


10.    The  Yanomamo Indians of Venezuela in the film “Magical Death”, are:

a.        confirmed opiate addicts

b.        users of LSD like drugs to achieve shamanistic visions

c.        use cocaine for religious rather than recreational purposes

d.        use mild altering drugs in secret

e.        behave in ways under the influence of drugs which can only be understood by the pharmacology of the drugs used


True false


1.       The “garbage project”, in which detailed analysis was made of what Americans typically throw out,  illustrates the anthropological principal that what people say they do is usually a good indication of what they actually do.


2.      Though one's sex is culturally determined, one's sexual identity or gender is biologically constructed.


3.      Chantek, the orangutan, although extremely intelligent, showed no evidence of the ability to take the perspective of others, nor was there evidence of intentionality, premeditation, or displacement in his behavior. Moreover, evidence was lacking for the symbolic use of language.


4.      Anthropologists believe that all mental illness is learned rather than biologically based.


5.      The average work week of the Ju/'hoansi (“Bushmen”) is about 60 hours.


6.      The function of the Kula Ring  in the Trobriands is to trade food and clothing for profit.


7.      Although children acquire linguistic performance skills by age two, linguistic competence does not begin until five.


8.      The meaning of a symbol rarely implies its culturally defined opposite.


9.      Simplicity and complexity are usually more easily defined in technology than in religion.


10.    The former practice of the Russian elite to speak French among themselves and Russian to the peasants is an example of code switching.


In one or two sentences identify the following terms or concepts:


1.       informant (as distinguished from respondent)

2.      metalanguage

3.      peasant

4.      cultural diffusion


In two or three short paragraphs answer the following:


1.       Discuss the various possible meanings of the term “society”.

2.      What is the difference between a dialect and a language?











Answers:          MC                              

1                     D                     

2                    a

3                    d

4                    c

5                    d

6                    a

7                    d

8                    a

9                    c

10                 b




1                     f

2                    f

3                    f

4                    f

5                    f

6                    f

7                    t

8                    f

9                    t

10                 t


Note: the following are by no means the only way any of these could be answered correctly


1.        An informant is a source of social science or anthropological knowledge who provides information in a free form manner, usually by answering relatively open ended questions and volunteering information which the anthropological requires in the course of fieldwork, as distinguished from a biological or psychological subject  or respondent  to a structured questionnaire.   

2.        Metalanguage is a kind of “communication about communication” in which the speaker indicates the context in which his utterances are to be understood, e.g. playful literal, serious, ironic.

3.       A peasant is a rural cultivator (agriculture or horticulture), usually a villager,  who is tied by various political and social arrangements to an urban center and who produces a surplus product which can be expropriated or extracted in order to support the non-food producing elite and craftsmen who typically live in the urban centers.

4.       Cultural diffusion refers to the process whereby cultural items are “borrowed  or spread from one culture to another. Most of the sum total of any given culture, when viewed historically, consists of such borrowed items.


1.         Society as a process is most broadly defined as the ongoing modifications we constantly make to our own conduct as a result of our need to mesh our conduct with the conduct of others.  Society as a thing rather than a process is most broadly defined as a group of people who more likely to be aware of others within it rather than outside of it, by reason of sharing some more or less bounded system of communication.  In this sense the term is necessarily rather vague. 


In a more specific sense, anthropologists sometimes use the term society to refer to any group in which one can live one’s entire life – from cradle to grave as it were. In this sense, a peasant village would be a society, but not a nunnery or bunch of cowboys.  Another usage (derived from the German gemeinshaft-gesellshaft contrast) distinguishes a community ( a smallish group in which people all know one another in some intimate way) from a society ( a larger more specialized group  which has some limited function, like a corporation, or a special club).   Society (people living in-groups) is usually contrasted with culture (shared symbols, values and ideas) although the two often are used interchangeably in casual talk.


2.        Language and dialect are two terms which cannot be distinguished, except in very general terms.  A dialect is a specific form of a language which has unique features (in phonology, morphology, grammar, and semantics, among others) which is shared by a specific speech community, and which is more or less intelligible to other speakers of other dialects of the same language.  But this is a slippery slope, as it were, because dialects shade into each other within many language areas and it is sometimes very difficult to draw lines.  Thus the Dutch/Flemish spoken in Flanders is not intelligible to a German speaking Swiss, but at no point between Flanders and Switzerland would one cross a distinct boundary in speech communities. Most linguists are hard pressed to agree on a measurable and absolutely precise distinction between languages and dialects.   A dialect might be half-jokingly defined as “a language that lacks an army and a navy.”  Political considerations often creep into the distinction in popular usage.  Further, “mutual intelligibility ” is   relative to the situation: most Spanish and Portuguese speakers might be able to converse about very simple topics with some intelligibility, but Spanish and Portuguese are clearly distinct languages.  Jamaican English is usually intelligible to speakers of Standard English, but not always.