Language and Culture

Topics: Culture, World view, Anthropology Pages: 4 (1184 words) Published: May 12, 2011
The Cultural Function of Language
Many animal and even plant species communicate with each other. Humans are not unique in this capability. However, human language is unique in being a symbolic communication system that is learned instead of biologically inherited. Culture is the set of shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs, and affective understanding that are learned through a process of socialization. These shared patterns identify the members of a culture group while also distinguishing those of another group. Therefore, the binding tie between language and culture is secure and cannot be ignored. Language and culture are closely related and interactive. According to Sapir, culture is a set of beliefs and practices which govern the life of a society for which a particular language is the vehicle of expression (qtd in Damen 1964:61). As Kluckhohn claims, Human culture without language is unthinkable (qtd in Damen1944:26). In addition, Sapir claims that we may think of language as the symbolic guide to culture (qtd in Damen1964:70). Consequently, language is rooted in culture and culture is reflected and passed on by language from one generation to the next. Language is the principal means whereby we conduct our social lives, and therefore, it is bound up with culture in multiple and complex ways. Language and culture can be connected in terms of human systems of classification, cultural foci and world view. First of all, language reflects cultural emphases. In fact, there is a close relationship between folk categories in a given language and elements of the culture in which they are used. Hickerson claims: Points of cultural emphasis are usually directly reflected in language through the size, specialization, and differentiation of vocabulary. That is there are more separate terms, more synonyms, and more fine distinctions made in reference to features of environment or culture with which the speakers are the most concerned....
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