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 culture informs us what’s appropriate, what is normal, what’s acceptable when dealing with other 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 the way they will react. It’s the wisdom 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, altering incrementally, changing the way we speak and the way we think, the way we act and the way we react.

That culture 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 commonest form of language, in terms of percentages of the whole. Idiomatic language, most often found within the form of phrases consisting of more than one word, usually does not conform to say the grammatical construction of non-idiomatic language. For example, within the phrase, ‘at giant’, as used within the expression, ‘the public at large’, or in the sentence, ‘The escaped convicts were at massive 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, equivalent to in the following examples, ‘at residence’, ‘at work’, ‘on the office’ et al. The phrase, ‘at massive’ appearing on the web page in isolation from any context that would make its that means more clear, has an opaque quality the place semantic which means is anxious, and maybe still retains some of its opacity of which means even within the context of a sentence.

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

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

Every tradition has its own collection of phrases which can be peculiar to it, and whose meanings aren’t readily apparent. Have 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, but each varieties use many various words, and have many alternative phrases which might be typically mutually unintelligible, and generally uttered very differently. Typically only the context in which a phrase or word is used serves to disentangle. Typically even the context is not quite enough. Sometimes we think we’ve understood when we now have not.

This points out one other function of culture sure language; that it exists within a larger entity, that localized varieties exist. What is comprehensible to a person from one region may be unintelligible to at least 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 search out the language at worst totally unintelligible, and at finest emblematic, but still not absolutely 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, is just not readily understood by those that come from one other culture and even another speech community, albeit ostensibly within the same culture.

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