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Thread: Language and Culture: How does one affect the other?

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    Regular Member CreativeChaos's Avatar
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    Language and Culture: How does one affect the other?



    Here is a clip from an article on language and culture from http://anthro.palomar.edu/language/language_5.htm:
    Language is more than just a means of communication. It influences our culture and even our thought processes. During the first four decades of the 20th century, language was viewed by American linguists and anthropologists as being more important than it actually is in shaping our perception of reality. This was mostly due to Edward Sapir and his student Benjamin Whorf who said that language predetermines what we see in the world around us. In other words, language acts like a polarizing lens on a camera in filtering reality--we see the real world only in the categories of our language.
    For those of you who are multi-lingual, or have traveled broadly, how true do you think this is? What are your thoughts about the article?
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    yeah of course, language shapes us in ways that sometimes we can't even realize.
    The differences in language are very important. Speaking different languages really let's you see this. But you don't need to. You can just notice the difference in dialects in a country. For example, in english to me it seems that cuss words are used often by women and men alike, men maybe more, but the same expressions are of usage. In other languages such as my own, for women to use the same cuss words sounds a bit out of place.....I mean there are some that are common but usually some phrases and idioms and stuff like that are reserved to men or women.

    Other things as well, for example thank you or curtesy expressions are different and change...but I like language differences, they help to provide more diversity and interesting things. Small things that make life a bit more enjoyable

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    I think that it also works backwards - culture affects language. An interesting thing to note is that some words are not translateable to another language. I can't think of specific examples, but sometimes when I'm talking with my Chinese friends and they start talking about a word or concept in Hokkien, Cantonese, or Mandarin I'll ask them what it means in English. They will quite often tell me that there isn't really an exact translation. It's almost one of those things that if you were a part of the culture you would say, "Ooohh, I get it" without any need for explanation. The meaning of the word is embedded in the culture - or even the language- itself.
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    Last edited by Maciamo; 20-02-11 at 09:40.

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    Well, it seemed obvious to me for a long time that language influence our perception of things, personality, way we react, social behaviour and many more things. Personally I am not the same depending on which language I speak. It is difficult to explain the nuances though. Language certainly does change the mood and sensitivity of the speaker.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anhtro.palomar.edu/language/language 5
    Language is more than just a means of communication. It influences our culture and even our thought processes.

    During the first four decades of the 20th century, language was viewed by American linguists and anthropologists as being more important than it actually is in shaping our perception of reality. This was mostly due to Edward Sapir and his student Benjamin Whorf who said that language predetermines what we see in the world around us.

    In other words, language acts like a polarizing lens on a camera in filtering reality--we see the real world only in the categories of our language.
    It is interesting to see how the passage makes almost as good a sense as the original when I swap "language" with "culture."

    Quote Originally Posted by me
    "Culture" is more than just a means of communication. "Culture" influences our "language" and even our thought processes.

    "Culture" can be viewed as being more important than it is customarily perceived in shaping our perception of reality.

    Edward Sapir and his student Benjamin Whorf could have equally said that "culture" predetermines what we see in the world around us.

    In other words, "culture" acts like a polarizing lens on a camera in filtering reality--we see the real world only in the categories of our "culture."
    Language and culture could be only two ways of expressing how meaning is conveyed within a group of people. I think there will be infintely many instances when the two are indistinquishable.

    One day we may come to realize that the perception of language in the 19th-21st century may very well have been an illusion created under the influence...of mathematicians, logicians, and computer scientists; because ultimately language includes a much wider range of communication than what is possible by the structured binary circuitry.

    World knowledge, for example, can explain an absence or silence, whereas Artificial Intelligence will find it hard to define a "non-statement" for example. Human language has no trouble handling everything, something, some things, and nothing, because our cultural background gives us the understanding. Computers cannot understand; they are only made, or programmed, to imitate at a level far below the chimpanzee.
    Last edited by lexico; 24-07-05 at 23:25.

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