Language and Tradition

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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 tradition informs us what’s appropriate, what’s regular, what is acceptable when dealing with different members of our society. Our culture lets us know what to anticipate 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 how they will react. It is the wisdom of the ages handed down to the present. We’re affected by it, and it is affected by us. Culture is in a relentless state of flux, altering 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, tradition is in the usage of idiomatic language. Idiomaticity is arguably the most common form of language, when it comes to percentages of the whole. Idiomatic language, most frequently discovered in the form of phrases consisting of more than one word, often doesn’t conform to say the grammatical construction of non-idiomatic language. For example, within the phrase, ‘at large’, as used within the expression, ‘the general public at massive’, or within the sentence, ‘The escaped convicts had been at large for 2 weeks before being recaptured.’, the preposition ‘at’ appears earlier than what appears to be an adjective, ‘large’. This appears to be in direct contradiction to the ‘regular’ place such a part of speech occupies in a grammatically correct sentence, viz. before a noun, similar to within the following examples, ‘at home’, ‘at work’, ‘at the office’ et al. The phrase, ‘at massive’ appearing on the web page in isolation from any context that may make its which means more clear, has an opaque quality where semantic that means is anxious, and maybe still retains a few of its opacity of that means even within the context of a sentence.

To members of the community using such idiomatic language, there’s tacit agreement on what these phrases mean, despite their opaque quality. Idioms are cultural entities.

To learners of a foreign language, any foreign language, tradition imbues language with this opacity. The word, table is well understood and learned, but what about the phrase, ‘to table a motion’? That phrase carries a cultural value that’s not readily appreciated or apparent to a learner. The which means does not reside within the individual words that make up the phrase. The verb, ‘to table’ should initially seem nonsensical to a learner. Likewise, ‘a motion’ should seem like an anachronism, having discovered that motion is a synonym for the word ‘movement’.

Each culture has its own collection of phrases which are peculiar to it, and whose meanings aren’t readily apparent. Had been this not so, George Bernard Shaw’s adage that America and Britain are two nations separated by the identical language would haven’t any ironical appeal. Ostensibly, we speak the identical language, the British and the People, but each varieties use many different words, and have many different phrases which can be often mutually unintelligible, and sometimes uttered very differently. Sometimes only the context in which a phrase or word is used serves to disentangle. Typically even the context will not be quite enough. Typically we think we’ve understood when we’ve got not.

This factors out another feature of culture certain language; that it exists within a bigger entity, that localized varieties exist. What is understandable to an individual from one area could also be unintelligible to 1 from another. If this is true within the community of a particular set of customers of one language, how much 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 greatest emblematic, but still not fully comprehensible.

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

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