17 May 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’s normal, what’s settle forable when dealing with different members of our society. Our tradition lets us know what to anticipate from others, what they will say in sure situations, and the style in which they will say it. It lets us know how they will act, and the way they will react. It’s the knowledge of the ages handed down to the present. We are affected by it, and it is affected by us. Culture 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 culture 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, tradition is in the usage of idiomatic language. Idiomaticity is arguably the most typical form of language, in terms of percentages of the whole. Idiomatic language, most often discovered in the form of phrases consisting of more than one word, usually doesn’t conform to say the grammatical construction of non-idiomatic language. For instance, within the phrase, ‘at massive’, as used in the expression, ‘the public at giant’, or within the sentence, ‘The escaped convicts were at large for two weeks earlier than being recaptured.’, the preposition ‘at’ seems before what appears to be an adjective, ‘large’. This appears to be in direct contradiction to the ‘normal’ place such a part of speech occupies in a grammatically correct sentence, viz. earlier than a noun, akin to within the following examples, ‘at home’, ‘at work’, ‘on the office’ et al. The phrase, ‘at giant’ showing on the web page in isolation from any context that may make its that means more clear, has an opaque quality the place semantic that means is worried, and perhaps still retains some of its opacity of meaning even within the context of a sentence.
To members of the community using such idiomatic language, there is tacit agreement on what these phrases mean, despite their opaque quality. Idioms are cultural entities.
To learners of a foreign language, any international language, tradition imbues language with this opacity. The word, table is definitely understood and realized, however what about the phrase, ‘to table a motion’? That phrase carries a cultural value that isn’t readily appreciated or obvious to a learner. The that means does not reside within the particular person words that make up the phrase. The verb, ‘to table’ should initially appear nonsensical to a learner. Likewise, ‘a motion’ must seem like an anachronism, having learned that motion is a synonym for the word ‘movement’.
Each culture has its own assortment of phrases which are peculiar to it, and whose meanings should not readily apparent. Had been this not so, George Bernard Shaw’s adage that America and Britain are two nations separated by the same language would don’t have any ironical appeal. Ostensibly, we speak the same language, the British and the Americans, however each varieties use many different words, and have many alternative phrases which might be usually mutually unintelligible, and generally uttered very differently. Generally only the context in which a phrase or word is used serves to disentangle. Generally even the context isn’t quite enough. Typically we think we’ve got understood when we have not.
This points out one other feature of culture sure language; that it exists within a larger entity, that localized varieties exist. What is comprehensible to an individual from one region could also be unintelligible to 1 from another. If this is true within the community of a particular set of customers of 1 language, how much more must 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 greatest emblematic, but still not absolutely comprehensible.
The ‘cultural weighting’ of any language, within the form of idiomatic phrases, is understood by members of that cultural community, or perhaps more correctly, and more narrowly defined, by the members of that particular speech community, and conversely, just isn’t readily understood by those that come from another culture and even one other speech community, albeit ostensibly within the same culture.
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