Culture & Language Relationship There are many ways that a language interacts with the culture of its speakers For many people, the language(s) they use.
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Culture & Language Relationship There are many ways that a language interacts with the culture of its speakers For many people, the language(s) they use is a primary indicator of the culture(s) they belong to Many people fear that if a culture loses its traditional language, then the culture will be lost eliminating a colonized culture's language has been a traditional means of control Many cultural groups will try to retain language even after other cultural markers are gone
Language and the State Official Language(s) Choosing one (or more) language(s) for doing official/political discourse in Always reflects a power dynamic in the state political tradition, majority culture, compromise, etc Puts NNS at cultural/legal/political disadvantage Language of Greater Communication Most commonly used language within a state No official status, but is the language people are expected to use
Should English Be the Official Language of the US? Throughout American history, there have been pushes to make English the Official Language Constant fear that immigrants & their descendants that speak other languages would refuse to learn English Fear of losing the Anglo-American culture Through the 200+ yr history, English has never been threatened as the dominate language Although immigrants may not learn English, their descendants do
Prestige & Standard Dialects Prestige Dialect Dialect of a culture which reflects the influential sub-group(s) Usually reflects speakers' wealth, lineage/heritage, or education Standard Dialect The dialect that is supposed to represent the ideal for of the language abstract idea, useful for teaching L2 speakers Often is based upon the prestige dialect
Politics of “Standard” Since all language users speak a dialect or variety of the language, labeling one variety as “Standard” has consequences Assumptions about other dialects and their speakers usually either intellectually or morally inferior Use of “Non-standard” variety considered reason for disenfranchisement politically, educationally, economically Fuels fears about linguistic (and therefore cultural) decay
Thought and Language Since culture can be described as a shared way of thinking about the world, many theorists/philosophers are interested in the relationship between thought and language While some people believe that language is integral for thought, there are examples of nonlinguistic thought and expression Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf examined the relationship between language, thought, and culture
Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis “Weak” Hypothesis Lexicons will reflect aspects of the culture Different ways of expressing ideas reflect different ways of perceiving the world “Strong” Hypothesis Language limits culture All concepts are culturally bound Language dictates thought Most linguists accept the weak & reject the strong
Language and Changing Thought Concerns over language's influence on thought have been expressed Euphemisms, Newspeak, “News Speak” Advertising lingo Passing on the embedded cultural biases in language There have also been attempts to change the way people think via the language they use Politically Correct speech Resignification
Language Use & Social Expectations Social expectations can affect how we interpret how specific speakers use language Ethnic/Racial identity Physical appearance Social markers (clothing, etc) Social situation/context Research that has been done on this phenomenon raises interesting questions of our “objective” ability to hear language and the influence of ingrained social bias
Language, Difference, & Cultural Bias Because one ability of language is to categorize difference, studying how those differences are represented in language gives us insight into how difference is view The “colors” of difference racial groups Left vs. Right Progress & Decay
Gender & Language Linguistically speaking, gender in language refers to categories of inflection, and not the human sexes Masculine, Feminine, Neuter, etc The names of these categories relate more to assumptions of the culture and the linguists doing the labelling than the language itself However, many languages have sex markers and consider an entity's sex as important information In English the suffix -ess; masculine, feminine, & neuter pronouns; etc.
Language and the Sexes In some cultures, men and women are expected to use different lexicons, inflections, or even varieties of a language Although English doesn't require this, use of language does reflect some cultural biases Double bind of feminine, double standards of sexuality, “appropriate” discourse for the different sexes, the generic he & the universal man Additionally, there seems to be differences in how the sexes use language in the US Women tend to use larger lexicon, be more inclusive in conversations, make more nuanced points in arguments