Language and Tradition

Language and Tradition

Culture 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’s appropriate, what’s normal, what’s settle forable when dealing with other members of our society. Our culture lets us know what to expect from others, what they will say in certain 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 knowledge 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, 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 using idiomatic language. Idiomaticity is arguably the most typical form of language, when it comes to percentages of the whole. Idiomatic language, most frequently found within the form of phrases consisting of more than one word, usually doesn’t conform to say the grammatical structure of non-idiomatic language. For instance, within the phrase, ‘at large’, as used in the expression, ‘the public at giant’, or in the sentence, ‘The escaped convicts had been at giant for 2 weeks earlier than being recaptured.’, the preposition ‘at’ appears earlier than what appears to be an adjective, ‘giant’. This appears to be in direct contradiction to the ‘regular’ place such a part of speech occupies in a grammatically right sentence, viz. earlier than a noun, such as in the following examples, ‘at home’, ‘at work’, ‘on the office’ et al. The phrase, ‘at large’ showing on the page in isolation from any context that may make its which 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 overseas language, any overseas language, tradition imbues language with this opacity. The word, table is definitely understood and learned, but 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 which means does not 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 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 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 haven’t any ironical appeal. Ostensibly, we speak the identical language, the British and the Americans, however both varieties use many alternative words, and have many various 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 is just not quite enough. Generally we think we have understood when we have not.

This factors out another characteristic of tradition sure language; that it exists within a bigger entity, that localized varieties exist. What is comprehensible to an individual from one area could also be unintelligible to at least one from another. If this is true within the community of a particular set of users 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 finest 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 maybe more appropriately, and more narrowly defined, by the members of that particular speech community, and conversely, shouldn’t be readily understood by those that come from one other culture or even another speech community, albeit ostensibly within the same culture.

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