Language and Culture

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Culture 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 is 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 style in which they will say it. It lets us know how they will act, and the way they will react. It’s 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 constant state of flux, changing incrementally, altering 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, tradition is in using idiomatic language. Idiomaticity is arguably the most typical form of language, in terms of percentages of the whole. Idiomatic language, most often discovered in the form of phrases consisting of more than one word, typically doesn’t conform to say the grammatical structure of non-idiomatic language. For example, in the phrase, ‘at giant’, as used in the expression, ‘the public at massive’, or within the sentence, ‘The escaped convicts have been at massive for 2 weeks before being recaptured.’, the preposition ‘at’ appears earlier than what appears to be an adjective, ‘large’. This seems to be in direct contradiction to the ‘normal’ place such a part of speech occupies in a grammatically right sentence, viz. earlier than a noun, resembling in the following examples, ‘at house’, ‘at work’, ‘at the office’ et al. The phrase, ‘at large’ showing on the page in isolation from any context that would make its meaning more clear, has an opaque quality the place semantic that means is worried, and maybe 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 may be tacit agreement on what these phrases imply, despite their opaque quality. Idioms are cultural entities.

To learners of a international language, any overseas language, culture imbues language with this opacity. The word, table is definitely understood and realized, but what about the phrase, ‘to table a motion’? That phrase carries a cultural value that isn’t readily appreciated or obvious to a learner. The that means doesn’t reside within the individual words that make up the phrase. The verb, ‘to table’ must initially appear nonsensical to a learner. Likewise, ‘a motion’ should seem like an anachronism, having learned that motion is a synonym for the word ‘movement’.

Every culture has its own collection of phrases which are peculiar to it, and whose meanings should not readily apparent. Had been this not so, George Bernard Shaw’s adage that America and Britain are nations separated by the same language would don’t have any ironical appeal. Ostensibly, we speak the identical language, the British and the Individuals, however both varieties use many different words, and have many different phrases which are usually mutually unintelligible, and typically uttered very differently. Generally only the context in which a phrase or word is used serves to disentangle. Sometimes even the context will not be quite enough. Sometimes we think now we have understood when we have not.

This points out another function of tradition bound language; that it exists within a bigger entity, that localized varieties exist. What is comprehensible to an individual from one region may be unintelligible to one from another. If this is true within the community of a particular set of users of one 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 seek out the language at worst totally unintelligible, and at finest emblematic, but still not totally comprehensible.

The ‘cultural weighting’ of any language, in the form of idiomatic phrases, is understood by members of that cultural community, or maybe more appropriately, and more narrowly defined, by the members of that particular speech community, and conversely, is just not readily understood by those who come from one other culture or even another speech community, albeit ostensibly within the same culture.

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