Language: an Expression of Culture

Topics: Linguistic relativity, Linguistics, Culture Pages: 4 (1194 words) Published: December 5, 2012
Language – An Expression of Culture
It is apparent from the sociolinguistic study and research of past couple of centuries that there is a fascinating and complex relationship between the language spoken by members of a social group and its culture. One commonly held belief is that the culture of a speaker is reflected in his or her speech. The accent, vocabulary, style of speaking and structure of arguments identify a speaker as a member to a certain cultural group or society. This particular notion of language and cultural relationship today, is usually associated with the linguists Sapir and his student Benjamin Lee Whorf and this proposition is widely known as Linguistic Relativity or Sapir – Whorf Hypothesis. Sapir (1889 – 1939) believed that language and culture are inextricably linked with one another. Thus the understanding of culture is not possible without knowledge of its language and vice versa. Whorf (1897 - 1941) carried Sapir’s idea further adding that different speakers will experience the world differently because the languages they speak are different structurally. Together their views on the interdependency of language and culture came to be known as Sapir – Whorf Hypothesis. A similar proposition about the language culture relationship was also put forward by 19th century German scholars like Johann Herder (1744 – 1835) and Humboldt (1762 – 1835), who believed that different people speak differently because they think differently, and they think differently because their language offers different ways of expressing world around them. These theories regarding linguistic relativity however have been argued and scrutinized by many linguists and scholars. As Claire Kramsch (1998) notes that if taken seriously the Sapir – Whorf Hypothesis is equivalent to say that we are prisoners of language which many scholars and scientific community see as unacceptable. Pinker (1994) also questions the authenticity of Whorfian claims regarding them as...

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