Language and Tradition

Language and Tradition

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 regular, what’s 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 certain situations, and the way in which they will say it. It lets us know how they will act, and how they will react. It’s the wisdom of the ages handed down to the present. We are affected by it, and it is affected by us. Culture is in a continuing state of flux, changing 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 use of idiomatic language. Idiomaticity is arguably the most common form of language, by way of percentages of the whole. Idiomatic language, most frequently found in the form of phrases consisting of more than one word, typically does not conform to say the grammatical construction of non-idiomatic language. For instance, within the phrase, ‘at giant’, as used in the expression, ‘the general public at large’, or within the sentence, ‘The escaped convicts were at large for 2 weeks before being recaptured.’, the preposition ‘at’ appears earlier than what seems 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 right sentence, viz. earlier than a noun, similar to in the following examples, ‘at residence’, ‘at work’, ‘on the office’ et al. The phrase, ‘at large’ showing on the web page in isolation from any context that would make its that means more transparent, has an opaque quality where semantic that means is worried, and maybe still retains a few of its opacity of which means even within the context of a sentence.

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

To learners of a overseas language, any foreign language, tradition imbues language with this opacity. The word, table is well understood and discovered, but what concerning the phrase, ‘to table a motion’? That phrase carries a cultural worth that’s not readily appreciated or obvious to a learner. The that means doesn’t reside in 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 discovered that motion is a synonym for the word ‘movement’.

Each tradition has its own assortment of phrases which are peculiar to it, and whose meanings usually are not readily apparent. Have been this not so, George Bernard Shaw’s adage that America and Britain are two nations separated by the identical language would have no ironical appeal. Ostensibly, we speak the identical language, the British and the People, however both varieties use many various words, and have many various phrases which can be usually mutually unintelligible, and sometimes uttered very differently. Sometimes only the context in which a phrase or word is used serves to disentangle. Generally even the context will not be quite enough. Typically we think we’ve understood when we’ve not.

This points out another feature of tradition sure language; that it exists within a bigger entity, that localized varieties exist. What is comprehensible to a person from one region could also be unintelligible to one from another. If this is true within the community of a particular set of users of one language, how much 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 finest emblematic, but 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, isn’t readily understood by those who come from another tradition and even another speech community, albeit ostensibly within the same culture.

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