Language and Culture

Tradition has been defined as ‘the total set of beliefs, attitudes, customs, behaviour, and social habits of the members of a particular society’. Our tradition informs us what is appropriate, what is normal, what is settle forable when dealing with different members of our society. Our culture lets us know what to anticipate from others, what they will say in sure situations, and the manner in which they will say it. It lets us know how they will act, and the way they will react. It’s the wisdom of the ages handed down to the present. We’re affected by it, and it is affected by us. Tradition is in a constant state of flux, altering incrementally, changing the way we speak and the way we think, the way we act and the way we react.

That tradition is indelibly linked to language is undeniable, for language is a vehicle by which it is transmitted, probably its chief vehicle. One observable way in which language acts as a vehicle for, or a transmitter of, culture is in the usage of idiomatic language. Idiomaticity is arguably the commonest form of language, by way of percentages of the whole. Idiomatic language, most frequently discovered within the form of phrases consisting of more than one word, usually doesn’t conform to say the grammatical construction of non-idiomatic language. For example, within the phrase, ‘at massive’, as used within the expression, ‘the public at large’, or within the sentence, ‘The escaped convicts had been at giant for 2 weeks before being recaptured.’, the preposition ‘at’ appears before what seems to be an adjective, ‘large’. This seems to be in direct contradiction to the ‘regular’ place such a part of speech occupies in a grammatically right sentence, viz. before a noun, such as within the following examples, ‘at house’, ‘at work’, ‘at the office’ et al. The phrase, ‘at giant’ showing on the web page in isolation from any context that may make its which means more clear, has an opaque quality the place semantic meaning is concerned, and maybe still retains a few of its opacity of meaning even within the context of a sentence.

To members of the community utilizing such idiomatic language, there is tacit agreement on what these phrases imply, despite their opaque quality. Idioms are cultural entities.

To learners of a foreign language, any foreign language, culture imbues language with this opacity. The word, table is definitely understood and discovered, but what about the phrase, ‘to table a motion’? That phrase carries a cultural value that isn’t readily appreciated or apparent to a learner. The which means does not reside in the particular person words that make up the phrase. The verb, ‘to table’ must initially seem nonsensical to a learner. Likewise, ‘a motion’ must appear like an anachronism, having discovered that motion is a synonym for the word ‘movement’.

Every culture has its own collection of phrases which might be peculiar to it, and whose meanings are usually not readily apparent. Had been this not so, George Bernard Shaw’s adage that America and Britain are nations separated by the same language would haven’t any ironical appeal. Ostensibly, we speak the identical language, the British and the Americans, however both varieties use many different words, and have many various phrases that are usually mutually unintelligible, and generally uttered very differently. Sometimes only the context in which a phrase or word is used serves to disentangle. Generally even the context just isn’t quite enough. Typically we think we’ve got understood when we have now not.

This factors out another feature of culture sure language; that it exists within a bigger entity, that localized varieties exist. What’s understandable to an individual from one area may be unintelligible to at least one from another. If this is true within the community of a particular set of customers of 1 language, how a lot more should it hold true to learners of that language. Many a learner of English, feeling herself proficient, has gone to England only to find the language at worst totally unintelligible, and at best emblematic, however still not totally comprehensible.

The ‘cultural weighting’ of any language, within the form of idiomatic phrases, is understood by members of that cultural community, or perhaps more accurately, and more narrowly defined, by the members of that particular speech community, and conversely, is just not readily understood by those who come from one other culture or even one other speech community, albeit ostensibly within the same culture.

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