A couple days ago on the Colbert Report, he had a professor on there who was plugging a book about endangered languages. He talked about how language carries knowledge and ideas and if you study it you can get a good grasp of what the culture was like.
He used the example of how one culture had a word for a castrated two year old reindeer that you can ride. It seems weird for us to have a word for this, but that’s because we never had a use for something like that. And so by studying these words and noticing the nuances, we begin to reveal values and rituals and things like that.
This may be my new favorite research method.