WORDS AND CULTURE

Yesicha Ryona A1B011041

WORDS AND CULTURE
 Whorf  Kinship  Taxonomies  Color  Prototypes  Taboo and Euphemism

Whorf

 One long-standing claim concerning the relationship between language and culture is that the structure of a language determines the way in which speakers of that language view the world.

 The claim that the structure of a language influences how its speakers
view the world is today most usually associated with the linguist Sapir and his student Whorf, a chemical engineer by training, a fire prevention engineer by vocation, and a linguist by avocation.  However, it can be traced back to others, particularly to Humboldt in the nineteenth century.  Today, the claim is usually referred to as the Linguistic relativity hypothesis, Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, or the Whorfian hypothesis. I will use the latter term since the claim seems to owe much more to Whorf than it does to Sapir.

Kinship
 Kinship systems are a universal feature of languages, because kinship is so important in social organization. Some systems are much richer than others, but all make use of such factors as gender, age, generation, blood, and marriage in their organization.  In such an approach, we collect the various kinship terms in use in a particular society and then attempt to determine the basic components

of each term. We may go even further.
 The new longer phrasal terms also indicate the current lack of importance given to certain kinship relationships, in keeping with a general linguistic principle that truly important objects and relationships tend to be expressed through single words rather than through phrases.

Kinship

Taxonomies
 A folk taxonomy is a way of classifying a certain part of reality so that it makes some kind of sense to those who have to deal

with it.
 One of the best-known studies of a folk taxonomy is Frake’s account (1961) of the terms that the Subanun of Mindanao in the southern Philippines use to describe disease.  That the Palaung pronoun system is also as ‘neat’ as it is in the way it makes use of its various components is also intriguing.  Evidently, language and culture are related very closely, and much of the relationship remains hidden from view to most of us.

Taxonomies

 Our world is a world of color but the amount of color varies from place to place and time to time. A January flight from Acapulco, Mexico, to Toronto, Canada, takes one from a sun-drenched array of colors to a

Color

gray drabness.
 The terms people use to describe color give us another means of exploring the relationships between different languages and cultures. The color spectrum is a physical continuum showing no breaks at all.  All languages make use of basic color terms. A basic color term must be a single word, e.g., blue or yellow, not some combination of words, e.g., light blue or pale yellow.  As we will see in the following section, we can use this idea that people can and do classify in such a way to propose still another approach to relating language and culture.

Prototypes
 Rosch proposes that concepts are best viewed as prototypes: a ‘bird’ is not best defined by reference to a set of features that refer to such matters as wings, warm-bloodedness, and egg-laying characteristics, but rather by

reference to typical instances, so that a ‘prototypical bird’ is something
more like a robin than it is like a toucan, penguin, ostrich, or even eagle. This is the theory of prototypes.  A variety of experiments has shown that people do in fact classify quite consistently objects of various kinds according to what they regard as being typical instances : (1) furniture, (2) fruit, (3) clothing.  Prototype theory, then, offers us a possible way of looking not only at how concepts may be formed, i.e., at the cognitive dimensions of linguistic behavior, but also at how we achieve our social competence in the use of language.

Taboo and Euphemism
 In the first case we have instances of linguistic taboo; in the second we have the
employment of euphemisms so as to avoid mentioning certain matters directly.  Taboo is the prohibition or avoidance in any society of behavior believed to be harmful to its members in that it would cause them anxiety, embarrassment, or

shame. It is an extremely strong politeness constraint.
 Tabooed subjects can vary widely: sex; death; excretion; bodily functions; religious matters; and politics. Tabooed objects that must be avoided or used carefully can include your mother-in-law, certain game animals, and use of your left hand (the

origin of sinister).
 English also has its taboos, and most people who speak English know what these are and observe the ‘rules.’  Taboo and euphemism affect us all. We may not be as deeply conscious of the

effects as are the Nupe, but affect us they do. We all probably have a few things
we refuse to talk about and still others we do not talk about directly.

 text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text
 text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text  text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text  text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text

 text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text
 text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text  text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text  text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text

 text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text
 text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text  text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text  text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text text

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful

Master Your Semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master Your Semester with a Special Offer from Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.