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CRITICAL REVIEW ESSAY

What are we without our ability to speak? What differ us humans than the animals I ask? Is it
really that important for us to have language??
Throughout history, language was used as a communication tool. Human uses
language to express feelings and ideas, to convey information and facts, to gain knowledge
and to form relationship. According to Wayne Weiten, ( 2007) language consists of symbols
that convey meaning, plus rules for combining those symbols (grammar), that can be used
to generate an infinite variety of messages. There are seven functions of language which
include instrumental (straight forwardly), heuristic (assimilate knowledge), regulatory
(influence others), interactional (building relationship), imaginative (express creativity
through literature), personal (express feelings and thoughts) and informative (convey facts).
Language also have specific features. Firstly, language is meaningful which means
speakers of the same language associate words with the same understanding. Then, it is
also arbitrary (one cannot explain the origin of the word). For example, the word chair for
chair. Besides that, its openness means unlimited space for the usage of words, combining
them in different orders creating new meanings. Lastly, the relationship between the sound
and meaning means that the meaning of a concept is permanently linked to a particular
word. Printed and sounded the same way.
The world of language is vast and ever changing. It is due to the different culture
which existed throughout our history. Why you ask? Culture is a symbolic meaning system in
which language is one of the most important ones. How the people dresses, what type of
food they eat, what religions do they believe in give rises to new words for that particular
culture. Hence, the most important part which distinguished culture is language. Language
and culture are inseparable. A culture must have at least one language, which it uses as a
distinct medium of communication. Each culture has its own peculiarities and throws special
influence on the language system. Basically, language is regarded as a unifying tool and an
identity of a certain culture.
But why does different culture uses different language? It is due to the fact that
culture can be influenced by a lot of factors such as its physical environment. Which in turn
effects language. According to Gary Evans (2006), a poor physical environment presents a
barrier to a healthy speech. Environments that are loud or chaotic are unhelpful. For
instance, children with homes near airports would have problems as these children are
unable to concentrate or make them be heard. Research also found that neighbourhood
environments (geographical) can have a great impact on child well-being. Some of the

factors that have the most impact are housing quality, access to natural settings (trees),
transportation and health services. Bad natural settings have a constructive effect by
providing children opportunities to develop gross mother skills (taboo words). The language
also reflects the physical environment of the culture through the usage of different terms. For
example, the Chinese have an abundance of names for noodle such as wan tan, but the
Americans have only 1 word for it which is noodle.
Language could also be affected by its social environment. The most obvious effects
on language are seen in the kinship systems. In the English society, important kinship
relationships are signal by common vocabs like son, daughter, grandson, and so on. In
some languages however, sex, blood, marriage, age and generation may be important and
thus reflected in their terms of reference for kinship. In Korea, they have a distinct language
when they are talking to a person older than them, the ones with the same age and the ones
younger than them. Language could also be effected by a family. If an Indian boy was raised
inside a malay family, then of course he would speak in Bahasa rather than Indian.
Lastly, language can also be affected by the values of a society. This is shown on the
usage of taboo and euphemism. Almost all languages have taboo words. In simple words,
taboo is any kind of words which could be considered harassing or even disgracing. Most
taboos are words associated to religions. In English, some of the most strongly tabooed
expressions are associated with sex, followed by excretion and Christianity. In Islam, there
are some scriptures like syaitaan which is the devil that shouldnt be directed to someone
else. Different religions and races give birth to certain words which would be considered
taboo to they themselves only. The word syaitaan would not meant anything to the Chinese.
Another example of the values of society is the usage of uncle. In Malaysia, a man older
than us is considered an uncle. But in Australia, children would call the grownups with their
names.
We can obviously see that the meaning attributed to language is cultural-specific. A
great deal of cross-cultural misunderstanding occurs when the meanings of words in two
languages are assumed to be the same, but actually reflect different cultural patterns. We
can summarize the relationship between culture and language as the following: language is
a key component of culture. It is the primary medium for transmitting much of culture.
Without language, culture would not be possible. Children learning their native language are
learning their own culture; learning a second language also involves learning a second
culture to varying degrees. Thus, we must all respect every culture and learn to love the
language along in it.