The Role of Culture in Discourse

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The Role of Culture in Discourse

1.0 Introduction
Discourse, its etymology comes from Latin, discursus (which means “running to and fro”) is the term that concerns with spoken and written communication. In linguistics, discourse is a unit of language longer than a single sentence. More broadly, discourse could be the use of spoken or written language in a social context.

According to Hinkel and Fotos (2002) in New Perspectives on Grammar Teaching in Second Language Classrooms, discourse in context may consist of only one or two words as in ‘stop’ or ‘no smoking’. Instead, a piece of discourse can also be hundreds of thousands of words in length, represented by some novels and a typical piece of discourse is said somewhere between these two extremes.

Discourse is in a way language is used socially to deliver broad meanings as it is identified by the social conditions of its use, by who is using it and under what conditions. From my point of view, language can never characterized as ‘neutral’ because it reflects our personal, knowledge and background of our social worlds. Hence, discourse analysis concerns with investigating the form and function of what is said and written. It covers with an extremely wide range activities from narrowly focused investigation of how words such as ‘oh’ or ‘well’ are used in casual talk to the study of the dominant ideologies in a culture for instance like in its educational or political practices.

Linguistic discourse analysis focuses on the record of the process by which language is used in some context to express intention. A well formed-text constructed by, firstly; an explicit connection between sentences in a text that create cohesion while secondly, the elements of textual organization that are characteristics of storytelling, expressing an opinion and etc. Meanwhile, the pragmatic perspective of discourse analysis specialized on aspects of what is unsaid (or unwritten) but yet communicated. Even the data from sign languages of the deaf, and some works with textual graphics and images can be a part of works of discourse analysts.

As the title of the article is ‘The Role of Discourse in Culture’, it would be incomplete with the absence of culture definition. We tend not to think about our culture since it is so much a part of us that we take it for granted but when we become aware that other peoples have different feelings, different beliefs and different habits from ours, we start to think of how we share certain ideas and customs. For instance, we would not realize that our beliefs in germs was cultural if we were not aware that people in some societies think that illness and diseases is caused by witchcraft or evil spirits. We would not become aware that it is our custom to sleep on beds if we were not aware that people in certain societies sleep on the floor or on the ground. It is only when we start to compare ourselves with people in other societies that we become aware of cultural differences and similarities. Culture, then, refers to the set of learned behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, values, and ideals that are characteristic of a particular society or population. (Ember & Ember 2002).

According the anthropologist, Ralph Linton, culture refers to the total way of life in any society, not simply the higher or more desirable one like playing piano or reading literature. For the social scientist such activities are part of the totality of our culture and this totality includes such mundane activities as washing dishes or driving an automobile. In addition, for the purposes of cultural studies, such activities stand quite a par with the desirable one. Social scientists regard every society owns a culture, no matter how simple it may be and every human being is cultured in the sense of participating or immersed in some culture or other. (Ember & Ember, 2002).

2.0 Western & Eastern Discourse

2.1 A Comparison between Chinese and Western Classroom...
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