Language and Culture

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Tradition has been defined as ‘the total set of beliefs, attitudes, customs, behaviour, and social habits of the members of a particular society’. Our culture informs us what is appropriate, what’s normal, what’s settle forable when dealing with other members of our society. Our culture lets us know what to expect from others, what they will say in sure situations, and the way in which they will say it. It lets us know how they will act, and the way they will react. It is the knowledge of the ages handed down to the present. We are affected by it, and it is affected by us. Culture is in a continuing state of flux, changing incrementally, changing the way we speak and the way we think, the way we act and the way we react.

That tradition is indelibly linked to language is undeniable, for language is a vehicle by which it is transmitted, probably its chief vehicle. One observable way in which language acts as a vehicle for, or a transmitter of, culture is in the usage of idiomatic language. Idiomaticity is arguably the most common form of language, by way of percentages of the whole. Idiomatic language, most often found within the form of phrases consisting of more than one word, often does not conform to say the grammatical structure of non-idiomatic language. For example, within the phrase, ‘at massive’, as used within the expression, ‘the public at large’, or within the sentence, ‘The escaped convicts had been at massive for 2 weeks before being recaptured.’, the preposition ‘at’ appears before what appears to be an adjective, ‘massive’. This seems to be in direct contradiction to the ‘normal’ place such a part of speech occupies in a grammatically appropriate sentence, viz. before a noun, reminiscent of in the following examples, ‘at residence’, ‘at work’, ‘at the office’ et al. The phrase, ‘at large’ showing on the page in isolation from any context that will make its meaning more transparent, has an opaque quality the place semantic which means is concerned, and perhaps still retains a few of its opacity of which means even within the context of a sentence.

To members of the community utilizing such idiomatic language, there is tacit agreement on what these phrases imply, despite their opaque quality. Idioms are cultural entities.

To learners of a international language, any international language, tradition imbues language with this opacity. The word, table is easily understood and realized, however what concerning the phrase, ‘to table a motion’? That phrase carries a cultural worth that is not readily appreciated or obvious to a learner. The meaning doesn’t reside in the particular person words that make up the phrase. The verb, ‘to table’ must initially appear nonsensical to a learner. Likewise, ‘a motion’ must appear like an anachronism, having learned that motion is a synonym for the word ‘movement’.

Every tradition has its own assortment of phrases which might be peculiar to it, and whose meanings are not readily apparent. Were this not so, George Bernard Shaw’s adage that America and Britain are nations separated by the same language would have no ironical appeal. Ostensibly, we speak the same language, the British and the Americans, but each varieties use many alternative words, and have many different phrases which might be typically mutually unintelligible, and typically uttered very differently. Sometimes only the context in which a phrase or word is used serves to disentangle. Typically even the context just isn’t quite enough. Sometimes we think now we have understood when now we have not.

This points out one other feature of tradition sure language; that it exists within a larger entity, that localized varieties exist. What’s comprehensible to a person from one area could also be unintelligible to one from another. If this is true within the community of a particular set of users of 1 language, how a lot more should it hold true to learners of that language. Many a learner of English, feeling herself proficient, has gone to England only to search out the language at worst totally unintelligible, and at best emblematic, but still not fully comprehensible.

The ‘cultural weighting’ of any language, within the form of idiomatic phrases, is understood by members of that cultural community, or perhaps more appropriately, and more narrowly defined, by the members of that particular speech community, and conversely, isn’t readily understood by those that come from another tradition and even another speech community, albeit ostensibly within the identical culture.

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