AP Language and Literature
16 September 2012
Impact of Priorities on the Intersection of Language and Culture The impact of language on culture and culture on language are all essentially based on priorities. A priority can be described as a resource or activity that a culture gives specified attention to. Distinguishing the priorities of a culture can be easily done by taking a look at their language or at their culture. The priorities of cultures, such as that of the Normans, Eskimos, Italians or Asians, are food, everyday activities, and communicating. There are many types of priorities but one priority that is probably the most important to any culture is food. According to Bill Bryson in The Mother Tongue, “every language has areas in which it needs, for practical purposes, to be more expressive than others” (14). This means that the culture’s priorities cause the language to be more expressive. For example, Italians have over 500 names for macaroni because pasta is their main priority, while Araucanian Indians of Chile have a variety of words for hunger because food is scarce thus not a top priority. As reported by Tanya Brady in her lecture, in 1066 A.D the Normans and the Anglo Saxons had different words for the food they ate. The Anglo Saxon’s priority was the farm animals and to provide the French with food and so they named their food with words like sheep, cow and pig. On the other hand the Norman’s priority was not the farm animal but the actual food on their table therefore they named their food with words like mutton, beef, and bacon. This matters because it shows that their priorities of their food are seen throughout the words in their language. In 1984, Winston was unfamiliar with “good” foods, like wine. In the book O’Brien says, “It’s called wine” (Orwell 171). This means that Winston did not know what it was called because it was not in his language sine wine was something Winston never had, making it not a priority. Food is a simple priority that can be affected by the words we use to describe it. In The Origins of Pleasure, Paul Bloom argues that changing the word that describes the food can change what a person thinks they are eating thus bringing more pleasure. For example, changing the name of wines for a more luxurious and expensive name can cause adults to believe they are drinking the expensive stuff making the wine more enjoyable. This shows that the words that are chosen to describe something can affect priorities, like the adults with the wine.
Priorities of any culture, like the Eskimos, circle around the everyday activities they do. According to Bill Bryson, Eskimos have fifty words for types of snow. This means that the snow is a large part of their life, making it a big part of their language. Bryson also states that Arabs have over 6,000 words for camels and camel equipment. Working with camels is an everyday thing for the Arabs making camels a priority to their culture. Brady makes it clear that the Normans focused everyday on matters of court, government, fashion, and high living, while the English peasants just continued to eat, drink, work and sleep. The difference in preferences of these two tiers, the French-speaking autocracy and the English-speaking peasantry, is seen throughout the words in their language. In 1984 George Orwell describes that Winston’s priority was to work for the Inner Party. His everyday life did not consist of fun and interesting activities but consisted instead on things the Party wanted him to do. This was because his leader Big Brother was destroying words out of their vocabulary which limited what Winston and the rest of the people in Oceania could do. Orwell describes Winton’s day by saying, “He…hurried of to the Center, took part in the solemn foolery of a “discussion group,” played two games of table tennis... and sat for a half an hour through a lecture...” (109). This shows his...