LANGUAGE IN SOCIETY

LANGUAGE AND CULTURE
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CULTURE
Whatever a person needs to know in order to function in a particular society in a manner acceptable to its members Socially acquired knowledge necessary behaviours learned from other members of the community, do not come from genetic endowment
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RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LANGUAGE AND CULTURE Three differing views: views: Structure of language language determines the way that speakers of that language language view the world Culture is reflected in language. lang . Cultural requirements do not determine structure of lang. but influence how it is used Little or no relationship bet betw ween lang language uage and culture culture 3 .

It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language…. language …. nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood. 4 . but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society.SapirSapir -Whorf / Whorfian hypothesis Edward Sapir: Human beings do not live in the objective world alone.

) The fact of the matter is that the ‘real world’ is unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group. 1929) 1929) 5 . We see and hear and…. experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation (Language.SAPIR’S IDEA (CONT.

but… is part of a particular grammar… 6 .Benjamin Lee Whorf The background linguistic system (in other words the grammar) of each language is not merely a reproducing instrument for voicing ideas but rather is itself the shaper of ideas …. the guide for the individual’s mental activity… Formulation of ideas is not an independent process.

views. thus speakers of different languages will have different world views.WHAT FOLLOWS? Different speakers will view the world differently in so far as the languages they speak differ structurally. or predisposes us. to perceive. We perceive only what our language allows us. 7 . Our language controls our world view.

. Chinese does have cover both fruit and nuts. bulls have patas. but no term to nuts. Samis: Samis : several for reindeer. Bedouin Arabs: Arabs: many different words for camels. Inuits Inuits: : words for many different different kinds of snow. one. one . but in Spanish people have piernas piernas. English has a cover term animal animal. .Data in favour of the Whorfian hypothesis Both people and bulls have legs in English. patas . 8 .

makes it difficult to immediately understand distinctions that speakers of other languages make. However.Conclusions from data Our world view. but opposing relationship. obvious. Habitual thought may be conditioned by language. understanding (as well as translation) translation) is possible. 9 . shaped by our native tongue. that is. effect of society and environment (=culture) on language language is more obvious.

vocabulary .g.g.reflected in language lang uage.Effect of culture on language language Physical environment . . lexicon.: a society’s kinship system 10 . e. e. normally in the lexicon.: Eskimo words to refer to different types of snow Social environment also reflected in lang.g.: e. lang. and has an effect on structure of vocabulary.

: in Russia and Russian.) .) Changes in society (social changes) changes) may produce corresponding linguistic changes changes.Effect of culture on language language (cont cont. – shurin (19th cent) →→ brat zheni (now) now) – nevetska →→ zhena brata 11 . Russian. eg eg.: .

etc. .Longer phrasal terms indicate current lack of importance given to certain kinship relationships General General linguistic principle: principle: truly important objects and relationships are (tend to be be) ) expressed through single words rather than phrases phrases (cf (cf. Eng dry snow. fine snow. separate Inuite words for snow vs.) 12 .

TABOO AND EUPHEMISM TABOO: things people do not talk about EUPHEMISMS: things people talk about in a roundabout way 13 .

or regarded immoral or improper. said . and with words and expressions not used. because violating a moral code. 14 . In language: associated with things not said.TABOO In society society: :c concerned oncerned with behaviour believed to be harmful to society’s members for supernatural reasons. used . reasons. improper.

shame.TABOO (cont cont.) In practice: inhibitions / restrictions to the use of items of this sort Failure to adhere to strict rules of use: may lead to punishment or public shame. 15 . .

female relations. death. religious matters 16 . words related to left hand. game animals Taboo topics: topics: sex. ).) Taboo words: words: good reflection in a language of society’s value and belief system Taboo words: words: words used in spells (magic magic).TABOO (cont2. excretion. functions . bodily functions.

) Use of taboo words in nonnon-permitted contexts: e. 17 . on TV. disgust. fact. denotes ). taboo is a linguistic and sociological fact.g. because it is the word that is taboo (not the concept or the idea it denotes). Clearly. BUT – irrational irrational.TABOO (cont3. .g. e. provokes violent shock and disgust.

rules of use are relaxing relaxing.) Though rapid change in patterns of taboo words in English English.TABOO (cont4. to mock authority. a lot of linguistic linguistic taboos. etc. provocative. . still. to express freedom freedom. . to show contempt contempt. 18 . to be aggressive or provocative. . . If violated violated: : it is for drawing attention to oneself.

: rooster used in AE for cock Also in bilingual situations 19 .g. use .g.Secondary effect of taboo on language Words phonetically similar to taboo words disappear from language because of nonnonuse.: e. e.

20 . criminality or unemployment.EUPHEMISMS Euphemistic words and expressions: expressions: allow us to talk about unpleasant things or neutralize the unpleasantness. unpleasantness. Give labels to unpleasant tasks / jobs to make them sound less repulsive. e. more attractive. subject of death and dying.g.

lexicon. kinship system) system). 21 . culture and thought are interrelated in a number of intricate ways. but there is also evidence for the structure of language to determine the world view of the speaker. Effect of environment and society (=culture) on language use is obvious in several areas (lexicon.Conclusions Language.

but no social group uses language quite uninhibitedly. 22 . in that changes in society and culture will appear in language use. uninhibitedly. Each social group differs from every other in the way they are constrained in their language use by culture.) .Conclusions (cont cont.) Language use is sensitive to social changes.

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