Presentation on theme: "LANGUAGE, THOUGHT AND CULTURE. How words shape our views Advertisements – „weasel words” - „unsurpassed”, „ultimate”, „supercharged”, „the right choice”"— Presentation transcript:
LANGUAGE, THOUGHT AND CULTURE
How words shape our views Advertisements – „weasel words” - „unsurpassed”, „ultimate”, „supercharged”, „the right choice” - „enriched” and „fortified” food - „medium”, „large”, „extra large” and „jumbo eggs”
Sentence structuring (Loftus, 1976) Did you see the broken headlight? Vs. Did you see a broken headlight? Shape recognition
Political correctness Rest rooms, unmentionables Sanitary engineer, bogármérnök Menedzserasszisztens, gazdasági levelező
Negro – Black – Afro-American Mentally (horizontally/vertically??) challenged vs. Szellemi fogyatékos Receiving waters and assimilative capacity Substandard dwellings vs. Slums
Does language reflect or shape our world view? Four main views UniversalismRelativism Language thought Linguistic universalism Linguistic relativism Thought language Cognitive universalism Cognitive relativism
Linguistic universalism Inborn linguistic universals Expressions of time and place I hunt and my child sees me. I will hunt.
Lingusitic universals Example: SVO components in sentences - 75% of the world's languages: SVO (English, French, Vietnamese) or SOV (Japanese, Tibetan, Korean) % VSO ( Welsh) or VOS (Malagasy) % free word order (Latin, Hungarian), but SOV common: Márta tortát evett. NP and VP as main organising sentence components
Cognitive universalism Universal principles of thinking reflect the conditions and limitations of mental operations the similar physical and natural environment influence linguistic representation as well.
Structuring old and new information in sentences (theme – rheme) There is a chair in the corner. A chair is in the corner. The chair is in the corner.
Lexis „a fellegekben járt” „over the moon”, „on top of the world” Colours
Linguistic relativism The Whorfian hypothesis „We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages. The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which has to be organised by our minds - and this means largely the linguistic system in our minds.” (Whorf, 1956:212) Determinism vs. Relativism
Organising reality: Time Hungarian, Russian, Romanian, German Jó reggelt Jó napot Jó estét Bună dimineaţa Bună ziua Bună seara Guten Morgen Guten Tag Guten Abend English Good morning Good afternoon Good evening French Bonjour Bonsoir
Organising reality: Social relations English „You” + address forms: John Aunt Polly could you sign this? Mr. Jones No syntactic marking of verbs
Russian and French: 2 distinctions B Ы + 2nd person plural (no distinction betw. Sg./Pl.) Vu+2nd person plural (no distinction betw. Sg./Pl.) German : 2 distinctions Sie + verb in 3rd. Person pl. (no distinction betw. Sg./Pl.) Romanian : 2 distinctions Dumneavoastră + 2nd pers./pl. Dumneata +2nd pers./sing.
Social relations: Hungarian Formal/distant: Between strangers From younger adult to older adult Address forms: „Ön”, „Maga” + 3rd. Person sing./pl. Ön is a buszra vár?
Formal/familiar: From child to adult, young to old Family, acquaintances, strangers Address forms: „Anna néni”, „Pista bácsi” + (tetszik, tessék) + infinitive El tetszik tudni jönni?
Informal: Between friends and intimates Often not reciprocal Increasingly between strangers of the same age in public places Address forms: „Te”, „Ti” + 2nd. Pers./ sing. and pl. Láttad már az új fiút?
Differences Distancing or bringing closer? English: democratic or „keeping everyone at arm’s length”? (Wierzbicka, 1985) Russian, French, Romanian: 2nd pers./pl. formal reference: someone present, accessible, less distant. German, Hungarian: 3rd pers./sing./pl. indicate someone distant, not accessible. Hungarian formal/familiar „tetszik”: indicates respect and choice (do you like it?)
Resulted in ethnocentric evaluations of cultures "whether the Japanese are capable of using logical arguments to the degree that other people are" ( Hazen, 1986, p.232) Arab rhetoric is characterised by "ideational vagueness and formalistic rigidity" (Koch, 1987 as cited in Hatim, 1997, p. 52)
Grounds for criticism Translation Circumlocution (e.g. Hungarian másfélszobás lakás) Possibility of acquiring the logical and conceptual system of another language.
Cognitive relativism Different cultural experiences and ways of life result in different conceptualisations of reality Lexis reflecting different physical, natural and cultural objects Lexis reflecting values, attitudes Másfél szobás lakás vs. Two-room flat
Attitude to money American English: MAKE money British English: EARN money Russian: 3APA Ƃ ATЫBATЪ EARN money German: VERDIENEN EARN money Hungarian: KERES SEARCH for money Francia: GAGNER WIN/EARN money Romanian:CÂSTIGA WIN money
Attitude to life and death Hungarian „sírva vígad” „majd meghal a nevetéstől/örömtől” „halálosan jó/vicces” „boldogan éltek, amíg meg nem haltak” German „und wenn sie nicht gestorben sind, dann leben sie noch heute” English „tickled to death” „and they lived happily ever after”
Weak version of the Whorfian Hypothesis: Language does not determine thought, but probably influences the way we capture and remember distinctions.
Conclusion Language and culture influence our interpretation and representation of reality through Lexis (objects, attitudes) Discourse patterns Pragmatics Rhetoric Wardhaugh (1976): “it is possible to talk about anything in any language.”