You are on page 1of 6

Assignment No.

2
Language and Culture: a social context

Submitted By: Submitted To:

Zafarullah Shaheen Sir Muntazar Mahadi

The relationship of language and culture has long been debated, it has been both interesting and controversial but having said that it is very difficult to undermine each of them; both explicate each other. The first ever record of human language which is found in the human history in the Book of Genesis when Adam was created by God, whatsoever Adam called every living creature that was the name of that thing afterwards. The word 'culture' came from Latin language 'cultura' means something to do with land and cultivation which spread all over in Latin and entire Europe. Raymond William has suggested that word culture began as a noun of process connecting to growing crops, that is, cultivation. Having geminated from the soil, the concept of culture came to human beings so that being a cultivated person was to be a cultured person. Language is a part of culture, every language provides an index of culture with which it is associated and every language becomes a symbolic of the culture with which it is strongly associated. Most human behaviors are embedded in language, therefore, language is an inevitable part of culture. Rituals, marriages, ceremonies, songs, literature, art and all speech acts and speech events that constitute the socio-cultural make up of a particular society are interwoven in language. All those who want to understand a particular culture and study it deeply must therefore understand and learn the language of that culture in order to get true experience of cultural manifestations. It is generally believed among anthropologists that it is impossible to understand a culture without taking into account its language; and it is equally impossible to understand language outside of its cultural context. Yet despite of this close connection between language and culture, one should not think of relationship as being complete or absolute. For example it is possible that in some societies within the same culture, people speak unintelligible language and societies with different cultures people speak mutually intelligible language. Conceptions of the relationship between language and culture can be positioned between two extremes, on the one hand it is possible to see a

language being closely linked to its culture; some anthropologists keep the opinion that 'language is culture' and culture does not exist without language: on the other hand it can be seen as a communication tool that does not have anything to do with culture. The relationship of language and culture is very obvious in the vocabulary of that very language. What is considered important in culture becomes a part of the vocabulary in that specific language. The vocabulary of industrialized societies, for example contain large amount of technological and occupational items which manifest their overall technological advancement and embody their culture. The internet revolution has also contributed many e-words from English which have been incorporated in the same way in many other languages of the world. The debate that language shapes our world view or our world view is shaped by language is discussed in the Sapir Whorf Hypothesis. Benjamin Whorf studied many native American languages particularly Hopi, in order to support his hypothesis he stated that thought is strongly based on language. To illustrate this he opined that the speakers of Hopi language did not have any concept of 'time' like English speakers have, and resultantly Hopi language is devoid of any words, and lexical items that denote time. Their view of reality is specific to the time and one can only express it if one is aware of the language. The weaker version of this hypothesis is related to how languages encode cognitive and cultural categories affect people thinking and behavior. Language and thought are interlinked and interwoven with each other in one or the other way. The fact of the matter is that real world is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of a speaker which ultimately generate thought. Let us examine some instances of different cultures where language has shaped a different world view in the cultural and social setting of a particular country, and they interpret language in their indigenous cultural context.

We can take the examples of different cultures in which words of English language vary according to their cultural practices, the way these words have been used over the years and now these are interpreted in different manner. For example in Chinese to say 'no' to a hospitality request is considered very much rude, so whenever one says no to any offer of drink or something else they dont take it literally and keep offering that thing until the other person take it or withdraw from the situation. Linguistically to say 'no' means a straightforward no, but it is Chinese culture which has given a different connotation to this word and they use to interpret it in their cultural context not in the real linguistic manner. Let take the Korean culture example how their culture has given different meaning in a given situation. In Korean language there is no word for 'my', they use 'our' instead of using my, for instance they would always say our school, instead of my school, our duty instead of saying my duty. It is because of the collective conscience of Korean people they consider all people included in one race, so Korean language is true embodiment of cultural and racial representation of Korea. It also reflect their way of thinking in a collective manner instead of individual manner for them a group is always more important than an individual. Another interesting thing about Korean society and its culture that they did not allow foreigner to come in their society and join them. Japan is considered an isolated society and Japanese language is also considered an isolated language, it did not mingle with other languages in the past and Japan was isolated from 1639 to 1853 from the rest of the world. This aspect of isolation is also reflected in their culture, and Japanese people are considered most conservation people in the world, so does their language. In their language there are numerous expression of describing weather or climate, they can describe rain in ten different manners, and they have wide range of vocabulary for describing wind. Japanese people basically are agricultural people and this aspect of their culture is really evident in their language and lexical items. Many Japanese holidays are in

one way or the other related to the climate or seasons, one cannot ignore this cultural aspect which is a permanent part of their language. So, one has to study Japanese language in order to get true inside picture of their culture. In western and American culture the word 'date' has been used and its has got certain history and by the time it has become a part of their culture, one can see the manifestation of this very word in their daily lives, movies, talks, dramas, and so on. The same goes with the words 'boy friend and girl friend', English people use this phrase because it has been accepted as a part of their culture; it has been quite normal between them to keep relationship with boys or girls and they find a cultural space for the manifestation of it. Whereas, in a local Pakistani context such phrases and words are not the part of our native or national language, we do not use them in our conversations and there is no explicit reflection of them in our culture. In conclusion the notion which was established is reinforced that language has great influence on the culture, the language which is spoken by different people also reflect their world view; and language and culture explicate each other: whatever is spoken or written in a particular language has been the manifestation of its culture in which it has long been evolved.

Bibliography: Language and culture by Clarire J Kramsch Language and culture global flows and local complexity by Karen Risgar