LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Posting by Ade Tuty Anggriany | 2:44 PM

Language and culture can be related in various ways. Goodenough (1957) defines that a society’s culture consist of whatever it is one has to know or believe in order to operate in a manner acceptable to its members, and to do so in any role that they accept for any one of themselves. Culture therefore is the ‘knowhow’ that a person must possess to get through the task of daily living; only for a few does it require a knowledge for some, or much, music, literature and the arts.

A. THE WHORFIAN HYPOTHESIS

There are three claims related to the relationship between the language and culture. The claim that is supporting the relationship between these two things, which states the structure of a language determines the way in which speakers of that language view the world. The structure does not determine the world-view but is still extremely influential in predisposing speakers of a language toward adopting a particular world view.
The opposite claim would be that the culture of a people finds reflection in the language they employ: because they value certain things and do them in a certain way, they come to use their language in ways that reflect what they value and what they do. Cultural requirements do not determine the structure of a language, but they certainly influence how a language is used and perhaps determine why specific bits and pieces are the way they are.
Then, the neutral claim would be that there is little or no relationship between language and culture.
The claim that the structure of a language influences how its speakers view is associated by Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf. Sapir acknowledge the close relationship between language and culture, maintaining that they were inextricably related so that you could not understand or appreciate the one without a knowledge of the other.
Fishman (1960) claims that if speakers of one language have certain words to describe things and speakers of another language lack similar words, then speakers of the first language will find it easier to talk about those things.
A stronger claim is that if one language makes distinctions that another does not make, then those who use the first language will more readily perceive the differences in their environment which such linguistic distinctions draw attention to.
The strongest claim of all is that the grammatical categories available in a particular language not only help the users of that language to perceive the world in a certain way but also at the same time limit such perception. Your language controls your ‘world-view’.
Language then provides a screen or a filter to reality; it determines how speakers perceive and organize the world around them, both the natural world and the social world. Consequently, the language you speak helps to form yor world-view. Then, the language a person speaks affects that person’s relationship to the external world in one or more ways.
One language then refers to certain characteristics of the real world in terms of one possible sub-set of characteristics’ another favors a different sub-set. However, speakers may still be aware of all the characteristics. They are not required to refer to all of them.
Finally, the most valid conclusion concerning the Whorfian hypothesis is that it is still unproved. A speaker, of course, will not be aware of such circumlocution in the absence of familiarity with another language that uses a more succinct means of expression.

B. KINSHIP SYSTEMS
Kinship systems are a universal feature of languages, because kinship is so important in social organization. The social organization has some factors, like sex, age, generation, blood, and marriage.
Sometimes different relationships are described in the same terms, and sometimes similar relationships are described by the different terms. This fact and the need also to indicate the generation, and sometime sex, of the reference or ego, and occasionally the other’s age relative to the ego. As Hudson said, in various societies, a single term may refer to a very different type of relationship. The key to understanding such a system is to assume that there is some typical concept and that there equivalent rules.
It is important to remember that when a term like father, mother, sister, and brother is used in a kinship system that it carries with it ideas about how such people ought to behave toward others in the society that uses that system. It is kinship system which determines who is called what; it is not the behavior of individual which leads them to be called this or that.
Taxonomies
People also used language to classify and categorize various aspects of the world in which they live, but they do not always classify things the way scientist do; they often develop system which call folk taxonomies rather than scientific classification. A folk taxonomy is a way to classifying a certain part of reality so that it makes some kind of sense to those who have deal with it. Typically, such common taxonomies involve matters like naturally occurring flora and fauna in the environment, but they may also involve others matters too (Berlin, 1992).
One of the best known studies of a folk taxonomy is Frake's account (1961) of the terms that the Subanun of Mindanao in the southern Philippines uses to describe disease. Frake says (pp.130-31):
The 'real' world of desires presents a continuum of symptomatic variation which does not always fit neatly into conceptual pigeonholes. Consequently the diagnoses of a particular condition may evoke considerable debate: one reason a patient normally solicits diagnostic advice forma variety of people. But the debate does not concern the definition of diagnostic category, for that is clear and well-known; it concerns the exemplariness of a particular set of symptoms to the definition.
Diagnosis is the process of finding the appropriate name for a set of symptoms. Once the name is found, treatment can follow.
Color Terminology
Color terminology has also been used to explore the relationship between different language and culture. The color spectrum is a physical continuum showing no breaks at all. All languages make use of basic color terms. A basic color terms must be in a single word, e.g. blue, yellow, not some combination of words, e.g. light blue or pale yellow.
According to Berlin and Kay, an analysis of the basic color terms found in a wide variety of languages reveals certain very interesting patterns. If a language has only two terms, they are for equivalents to black and white (or dark and light). If the third is added, it is red. The fourth and fifth terms will be yellow and green, but the order may be reversed. The sixth and seventh terms are blue and brown. Finally, as in English, come terms like grey, pink, orange, and purple, but not only in particular order.
Two points about color terminology seem particularly interesting. One is the existence of such an order in the development of terms as that indicated above. The color spectrum is an objective fact: it is "out there", waiting to be dealt with cognitively. The second point is that, if speakers of any language are asked to identify the parts of the spectrum, the find one system of sick identification much easier to manipulate than another.
Prototype Theory
Rosch (1976) has proposed an alternative to the view that concept are composed from sets of features which necessarily and sufficiently define instances of a concept. Rosch proposed that concepts are best viewed as prototype: a 'bird' is not best defined by reference to a set of features that refer to such matters. Hudson (1996, pp. 75-8) believes that prototype theory has much to offer sociolinguists. He believes it leads to an easier account of how people learn to use language, particularly linguistic concept, from the kinds of instances they some across. According to Hudson, prototype theory may even be applied to the social situations in which speech occurs. He suggests that, when we hear a new linguistic item, we associate with it who typically seems to use it and what apparently, is the typical occasion of its use.
Taboo and Euphemism
Taboo is the prohibition or avoidance in any society of behavior believed to be harmful to its members in that it would cause them anxiety, embarrassment, or shame. Consequently, so far as language is concerned, certain things are not to be said or certain objects can be referred to only in certain circumstances, for example only by a certain people, or through deliberate circumstances. Tabooed subjects can vary widely: sex, death, excretion, bodily functions, religion matters, and politics. Tabooed objects that must be avoided or used carefully can include your mother in law, certain game animals, and use of your left hand (the origin of spuster). Taboo and euphemism affect us all. We may have some we know but never or hardly ever use because they are to emotional for either us or others.


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