Week 1 Introduction to culture

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Week 1  Introduction to culture Powered By Docstoc
					Culture, language relativism, and
cultural models
   “Culture is learnt, not inherited. It derives from one’s social
    environment, not from one’s genes. Culture should be distinguished from
    human nature on one side, and from an individual’s personality on the
    other” (Hofstede, 1991: p. 5).
   “Every person carries within him or herself patterns of thinking, feeling,
    and potential acting which were learnt throughout their lifetime. Much of
    it has been acquired in early childhood, because at that time a person is
    most susceptible to learning and assimilating. As soon as certain patterns
    of thinking, feeling and acting have established themselves within a
    person’s mind, (s)he must unlearn these before being able to learn
    something different, and unlearning is more difficult than learning for
    the first time” (Hofstede, 1991: p. 4).
   “A good part of what any person knows is learned from other people. The
    teaching by others can be formal or informal, intended or unintended,
    and the learning can occur through observation or by being taught rules.
    However accomplished, the result is a body of learnings, called culture,
    transmitted from one generation to the next, which, as Tylor stated in
    1871, "includes the knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any
    other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”
    (D'Andrade, 1981: p. 79).
“Culture comes in layers, like an onion. To
  understand it, you have to unpeel it layer by
  layer” (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner,
  1998: p. 6):
 The outer layer: Explicit products
 The middle layer: Norms and values
 The core: Assumptions about existence
 Outer   layer          Middle layer

 The outer layer is made up of explicit, external,
  and observable products and behaviors, which
  are manifestations of the implicit, internal, non-
  observable culture (because it is in the mind in
  the form of cultural models acquired by natives
  of the culture).
 “Explicit culture is the observable reality of the
  language, food, buildings, houses, monuments,
  agriculture, shrines, markets, fashions and art.”
 “Prejudices mostly start on this symbolic and
  observable level” (Trompenaars & Hampden-
  Turner, 1998: p. 21):
 Nida (1964: p. 91) argues that “words are
  fundamentally symbols for features of the
 Nida (1964) distinguishes five cultural
    Ecological culture (the environment)
    Material culture (food, clothing, houses and
     towns, transport, etc.)
    Social culture (leisure and sports, politics, etc.)
    Religious culture (religion and related issues)
    Linguistic culture (the way language works)
 The middle layer is made up of norms and
 “Explicit culture reflects deeper layers of
  culture, the norms and values of an individual
 “Norms are the mutual sense a group has of
  what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’
 “Values … determine the definition of ‘good and
  bad’, and are therefore closely related to ideals
  shared by a group.”
 “While the norms … give us a feeling of ‘this is
  how I normally should behave,’ values give us a
  feeling of ‘this is how I aspire or desire to
  behave’ (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1998:
  pp. 21-22).
   The core: Assumptions about existence
   “The most basic value people strive for is survival.”
   “Groups of people organize themselves in such a way
    that they increase the effectiveness of their problem-
    solving processes.”
   “The solutions disappear from our awareness, and
    become part of our system of absolute assumptions.”
   “Changes in a culture happen because people realize
    that certain old ways of doing things do not work any
    more. It is not difficult to change culture when
    people are aware that the survival of the community
    is at stake, where survival is considered desirable”
    (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1998: pp. 23).
People carry several layers of mental
  programming within themselves,
  corresponding to different levels of culture:
 A national level according to one’s country
 A regional and/or ethnic, religious, linguistic
  affiliation level
 A gender level
 A generation level
 A social class level
 An organizational or corporate level
  (Hofstede, 1991: p. 10)
 Cultural groups have different patterns of
  thinking, feeling, and acting, but this does not
  imply that one culture is superior or inferior to
  another (Hofstede, 1991: p. 7).
 “One should think twice before applying the
  norms of one person, group or society to
  another” (Hofstede, 1991: p. 7).
 “Cultural relativism affirms that one culture has
  no absolute criteria for judging the activities of
  another culture as ‘low’ or ‘noble.’ However,
  every culture can and should apply such
  judgment to its own activities, because its
  members are actors as well as observers”
  (Claude Levi-Strauss, quoted in Hofstede, 1991:
  p. 7).
 Linguistic determinism is associated with a
  strong version of the Sapir-Whorf
  Hypothesis, which states that the language
  you speak shapes the way you think.
 “It was found that the background linguistic
  system (in other words, the grammar) of
  each language is not merely a reproducing
  instrument for voicing ideas but rather is
  itself the shaper of ideas, the program and
  guide for the individual’s mental activity, for
  his analysis of impressions, for his synthesis
  for his mental stock in trade” (Whorf, 1956:
  p. 212).
   Linguistic relativism is associated with a weak version
    of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, which stipulates that
    the presence of certain linguistic categories in a
    language influences the ease with which cognitive
    operations are performed since “languages differ not
    so much as to what can be said in them, but rather as
    to what it is relatively easy to say” (Hockett, 1954,
    quoted in Carroll, 1999: p. 370).
   "Although there is no doubt that anything may be said
    in any language, the relationship between language
    and cultures makes it easier to say certain things in
    some languages than in others" (Robert B. Kaplan,
    "Culture and the written language," In Culture Bound:
    Bridging the Cultural Gap in Language Teaching, ed.
    Joyce Merrill Valdes, Cambridge: CUP, 1986, p. 18).
   “We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe
    significances as we do, largely because we are parties to an
    agreement to organize it in this way – an agreement that holds
    throughout our speech community and is codified in the patterns
    of our language” (Whorf, 1956: p. 212).
   "Thus it would seem that the obstacles to generalized thought
    inherent in the form of a language are of minor importance only,
    and that presumably the language alone would not prevent a
    people from advancing to more generalized forms of thinking if
    the general state of their culture should require expression of
    such thought; that under these conditions the language would be
    moulded rather by the cultural state. It does not seem likely,
    therefore, that there is any direct relation between the culture
    of a tribe and the language they speak, except in so far as the
    form of the language will be moulded by the state of the culture,
    but not in so far as a certain state of culture is conditioned by
    morphological traits of the language" (Boas, 1986, p. 5-7).

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