Chapter 6 Words and Meaning Language and Culture Language is so fundamental to our being that it is hardly possible to image life without it. It is so tightly woven into our human experience that anywhere on earth where two or more people gather together they likely will be communicating in some way. A different language is a different view of life. Chapter 6: Language & Culture Language is the primary means of interactions between people. Speakers use language to convey their thoughts, feelings, intentions, and desires to others. Language links interlocutors in a dynamic, reflexive process. We learn about people through what they say and how they say it; we learn about ourselves through the ways that other people react to what we say; and we learn about our relationships with others through the give-and-take of communicative interactions--Bonvillain Language is distinctly human; it is a faculty that separates us from other species of animals. – “…the gift of language is the single human trait that makes us unique, setting us apart from the rest of life. Language is like nest building or hive making, the universal and biologically specific activity of human beings. We engange in it communally, compulsively, and automatically. We cannot be human without it; if we were to be separated from it our minds would die, as surely as bees lost from the hive.” Do Animals have language? Do they communicate? What kind of communication do they have, if any? How is it different from human language and communication? Language is important to human activity because it is the means by which we reach out to make contact with others. – Because of your ability to use language, you can “reliably cause precise new combinations of ideas to arise in each other‟s minds” – "In nature's talent show we are simply a species of primate with our own act, a knack for communicating information about who did what to whom by modulating the sounds we make when we exhale. Communicative Functions of Language – Language functions to facilitate affective expression, thought, social interaction, the control of reality, the maintenance of history, and the expression of identity. – Language also permits you to pool knowledge and to communicate with others who are beyond the reach of your voice in space and time so that you need not rediscover what other have already discovered. Language has 3 main functions: – From a cultural perspective, it is the primary means of preserving culture and is the medium of transmitting culture to new generations. – It helps establish and preserve community by "linking individuals into communities of shared identity." – At the societal level, it is important to all aspects of human interaction because it "often relates to political goals." Conversation Conversation provides you with the means of conducting human affairs. “It is largely through conversation that we are socialized, through which institutional organizations such as the economy and the polity are managed, and through which we manage our ordinary social lives. Conversation is the basis for many of the fundamental functions of language. Expression of Affect Language allows you to express outwardly your internal affective states (feelings). Might be a simple statement or loud cursing; could be voicing personal happiness or sorrow. Thinking Humans are both visual and verbal thinkers. Verbal thinking is very important because language functions as an instrument of thought when you speak out loud as an aid to problem solving or thinking. Control of Reality Prayers or blessings invoking supernatural beliefs use language to try and control the various forces that are believed to control or influence one‟s life. Catholic Mass uses this a lot. Keeping of History “Language is the archives of history.” Language is used to record past events and achievements – historical records, geographical surveys, business accounts, scientific reports, legislative acts, and public-record databases. Socialization and Enculturation Socialization and enculturation involve “the experiences in which children participate so that they will eventually become productive and responsible adults.” Language is the primary means of instructing kids of culturally acceptable practices and behaviors for social interaction, in the appropriate relationships to the physical environment, and to the sensed but unseen supernatural. Expression of Identity Language is the mechanism through which much of your culturally based individual and group identities are constructed. Identities do not exist until they are enacted through language. Cheering at a football game, reciting a national hymn, or shouting names or slogans at public meetings can both reinforce your group identification and reveal a great deal about you. The way people talk can reveal a great deal about their social position and/or level of education (Japanese High School Students). Language and Culture "Cultural premises and rules about speaking are intricately tied up with cultural conceptions of persons, agency, and social relations" (p. 168). "There is no doubt, however, that there is a correlation between the form and content of a language and the beliefs, values, and needs present in the culture of its speakers" (p. 169). Language and culture have the power to maintain national or cultural identity. Many countries have taken steps to prevent linguistic soiling. – Costa Rica, Turkey, Iran, France Languages DO acquire words from other languages naturally. Many languages have acquired Native American words for objects: avocado, chocolate, coyote, sequoia, caribou, chipmunk, Chinook, and tomato. Verbal Processes It is impossible to separate language from culture. Language “is a set of characters or elements and rules for their use in relation to one another.” These characters or elements are language symbols that are culturally diverse – they differ from one culture to another. Not only are the words and sounds for those symbols different, but so are the rules for using them. Phonology – the number and tonal qualities of speech sounds – is also culturally diverse. Phonology of various Languages English – 38 sounds (21 consonants, 5 vowels) Filipino – 26 sounds (16 consonants, 10 vowels) Mandarin - ???? Grammar of Various Languages English – singular and plural nouns and pronouns. Korean – “distinction between singular and plural is made by the context of the sentence.” English – Verb tenses express past, present, and future. Vietnamese – Same verb does all 3; specific time is inferred from the context. Syntax of Various Languages English – S + V (The teacher died.) Filipino – V + S (Died the teacher.) Japanese – V at end (Watashi wa Tokyo ni ikimashita – I Tokyo went to.) English – Possessive uses „ Spanish – casa de Rosa Maria (needs “de”) English and German English – verbs come after subject – I should go to the party. German – Modal verbs come first and force other verbs to the end of the sentence. – Ich soll zur Partei gehen. (I should to the Party go.) Word and Pronunciation Diversity “Language does more than just reflect culture: it is the way in which the individual is introduced to the order of the physical and social environment.” Language seems to have a major impact on the way in which the individual perceives and conceptualizes the world. American vs. British English “Yes, it is a pity that Ian‟s in queer street.” “Too much hire purchase was the problem, wasn’t it?” “Yes, and too many purchases of bespoke clothes and other things.” “And now his personal and business current accounts are badly overdrawn?” “Precisely. He‟s been forced to retain a solicitor, and his position as a commercial traveler is in jeopardy.” • Ian has gotten into debt over his inability to pay, and he has had to hire a lawyer to try to get him out of his adverse circumstances. Translation errors In a Japanese hotel: “You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.” Outside a Paris dress shop: “Dresses for street walking.” In a Rome Laundromat: “Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.” Pronunciation diversity Why are Australians always happy when their mothers die? They always say “Mothers die” with a smile on their face. Language, Culture, and Meaning It is common to ask “What does that word mean?” In fact, most meanings are not inherent in words; they are internal (held inside our heads); Words bring those meanings to awareness as required. Words can have many different meanings depending on your background and culture. The word “cool” can mean something related to weather for one person and something trendy, nice, and “with it” for another person. Every person draws on his/her unique background to decide the meaning of words. People can only use similar meanings of words if they have had similar experiences. A cancer patient, a relative of a cancer patient, and a doctor all have different meanings for “cancer.” Words can have many different meanings. – The 500 most common words in English have about 14,000 meanings. – Cat – animal, jazz musician, type of tractor, type of fish, kind of sailboat, or a kind of whip. – In America, words can change because of simple borders or even rivers. – Which words are different between Taiwanese Mandarin and Chinese Mandarin? How about Chinese English and American English? There are more ideas, feelings, and things to represent than there are words to represent them, so we must use our personal background and experiences to get meaning from the words we encounter. Culture and meaning If culture is included as a variable in the process of deciding meaning, then the problem becomes bigger. Culture teaches us both the symbol (dog) and what the symbol represents (a furry, four-legged, domesticated animal). Intracultural communication tends to be very easy, because you have the same background and experiences. Intercultural communication often becomes difficult as speakers attempt to establish common meanings for words. It becomes even more complicated when you throw in words (in different languages) for abstract ideas. What does freedom mean? Love? Wealth? Nature? Leadership? Democracy? Security? Not only do cultures have different words, but also varying ideas about what these things are. Word differences The Sami have many words for snow and reindeer, because they are so important to Sami culture. They have no words for computer, printer, or hard drive. One word for snow means “where reindeer have been digging and eating in one place and left, so it‟s no use to go there.” American vs. British English Words British English – boot, bonnet, lift, and biscuit American English – Car trunk, car hood, elevator, and cookie. The British billion is the American million. Language and Thought Just as verbal behavior differs from one culture to another, thought processes and perceptions of reality also differ. How people think and speak is ultimately determined largely by their culture. We call this Linguistic Relativity. Linguistic Relativity Benjamin Lee Whorf – Language and thought are so intertwined that one‟s language determines the categories of thought open to him or her. – “We cut up and organize the spread and flow of events as we do largely because, through our mother tongue, we are parties to an agreement to do so, not because nature itself is segmented in exactly that way for all to see.” Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis Language is not simply a means of reporting experience; rather, it is also a way of defining experience. “Linguistic relativity is the degree to which language influences human thought and meanings. It proposes that in human though language intervenes between the symbols and the ideas to which the symbols refer.” Hindi In Hindi, there are no single words for “aunt” or “uncle.” Rather, there are different words for Father‟s older brother, father‟s younger brother, wife‟s older brother, etc. Similar to Mandarin http://www.expatintaiwan.net/family- names/ Navajo In Navajo, it is important to express both the nature and direction of movement. English – One dresses. Navajo – One moves into clothing. English – One is young. Navajo – One moves about newly. English vs. Navajo English – I must go there. Navajo – It is only good that I shall go there. English – I make the horse run. Navajo – The horse is running for me. English vs. Navajo English and Navajo “express different concepts presupposing people‟s (and other animate beings‟) rights to individual autonomy. English and Navajo vocabulary differs for having to do things or being compelled to do things. English vs. Navajo English has many words that express coercion: cause, force, make, compel, order, must, have to, ought to. Navajo has no such words. They say “it is only good that I shall go there.” – “Whereas English readily expresses the idea that a person has a right to impose her or his will on another animate being, Navajo again does not express direct compulsion.” “There is the closest of relationships between language and thought… Language may not determine the way we think, but it does influence the way we perceive and remember, and it affects the ease with which we perform mental tasks." Contextualization Contextualization refers to how you create sense from fragmentary images of your environment by combining them to develop a larger mental image. Group the words: seagull, sky, dog Group the words: pen, notebook, magazine Culture and Rules of Interaction Human languages frequently seem to be the only communication system that combines apparently meaningless elements (words) to create meaningful structures (sentences and ideas). Nothing more clearly distinguishes one culture from another than its language. The broken vending machine sign United Kingdom – “Please Understand this Machine does not taken 10p Coins.” America – “NO 10p COINS!” Japan – Would express regret at the inability to accept 10p coins and offer apologies to the consumer. The rules seem arbitrary and nonsensical to nonnative speakers, but the rules make perfect sense and seem more logical to native speakers. Four characteristics: (1) directness and indirectness, (2) Maintenance of social customs and relationships, (3) expression of affect, and (4) value of talk. Rules of Interaction Directness – American (directness) vs. Chinese (indirectness) Maintaining social relationships – Japanese, social status, gender difference Expressions of affect – Word choice Value of conversation. – Throughout Africa, the spoken word rather than the written word is generally the foremost means of communication. Directness and Indirectness Most Americans use direct language. They are not reserved or shy. We try to avoid ambiguity and vagueness and get to the point. Asians prefer indirection language – they try to preserve dignity, feelings, and “face.” American vs. Chinese insults Americans prefer a direct assault – they want an immediate effect. Chinese prefer indirect insults – they want a corrosive effect. The most powerful insult would mean that the person would not be able to fall asleep later because he/she is still thinking about the words. Maintaining Social Relationships Some languages have formal and informal pronouns or verb structures (Spanish, German, etc). The structure of the Japanese language emphasizes a focus on human relationships. Western languages tend to focus on objects and their logical relationships. Japanese formality お早う御座います – お at the beginning of a word means something like “I'm expressing respect while speaking this word.” – “hayai” 早い can become “hayoo” (早う). This transformation expresses further respect for the phrase being spoken. – "O ha yo o" (お早う) means “early with double respect” – "gozaru" (御座る) means something like "is" with a side-message of “and by the way, I recognize that you are superior to me.” – some verbs ending in “ru” (る) can be transformed to end in "imasu" (います) to convey respect. – "gozaru" (御座る) can become "gozaimasu" ( 御座います), meaning “is” with a side-message of “and by the way, I recognize that you are superior, and am conveying respect.” So "good morning", in Japanese is "Ohayoo Gozaimasu" (お早う御座います), meaning "it is early" with 3 side orders of respect and a dose of humility. The very structure of Japanese dictates that you emphasize these relationships – very different from Western languages! Thai The Thai language also has separate vocabularies and structures for addressing people of different classes. There are at least 47 pronouns, including 17 forms for I and 19 forms of you. There are at least 4 distinct Thai languages: The Royal, the ecclesiastic, the Common, and slang. Gender and Language Some languages have different forms for men and women. In Japanese, women use the joseino or onnakotoba style when they wish to emphasize their femininity. At other times, they use a sexually neutral style. Mexican culture has a lot of male authority, so there are different forms in Spanish. A group of men would be ellos; a group of women would be ellas. If a group has many men and women, it is still ellos, emphasizing that there are men in the group. If there were a bunch of girls (niñas) and 1 boy (niño), the group would still be called niños. Expressions of Affect In Korean, love is not expressed as openly, as warmly, or as freely as in the United States. British English uses many euphemisms which allows the speakers to disagree without being rude. One might say, “I may be wrong here, but…” There are differences between British and American English: – U.S.: “No dogs allowed.” – England: “We regret that in the interest of hygiene, dogs are not allowed on the premises.” – U.S.: “Please keep hands off door.” – England: “Obstructing the door causes delay and can be dangerous.” Anger When Americans get angry, they tend to raise their voice in order to show their anger. In Navajo, you use enclitics (special grammatical structures) to show anger. Value of Conversation Many cultures derive a great deal of pleasure from conversation. In Africa (and other tribal cultures), oral communication is more important than writing Arabs believe that Arabic is “God‟s language” and treat it with great admiration and respect – they love it dearly. Greeks have a long tradition of rhetoric and great use of language. Mexicans enjoy wordplay and verbal jokes/puns. Language Diversity in the U.S. The “inability to speak the language of the community in which one lives is the first step towards misunderstanding, for prejudice thrives on lack of communication.” Many in America wish to make English the “Official Language of the U.S.” All cultures and co-cultures have special experiences that frame usage and meaning. Many African Americans speak a particular language style called African-American vernacular English. (p. 185) Women and Communication Women‟s communication patterns and practices differ in form and substance from those of men. Women communicate in order to foster connections, support, closeness, and understanding. Men communicate to exert control, preserve independence, and enhance status. Diverse message systems When interacting with people from other cultures, you should attempt to learn some phrases of their language. It is important to understand cultural variations in the use of language. Idioms are groups of words which, when used together, have a different meaning from the meaning the words have individually. When speaking with someone for whom English is a second language, try to seek clarity and avoid the use of idioms, ambiguous words, culturally based expressions, or cultural insensitivity. Discussion What can men and women in the U.S. or in Taiwan do to communicate better with one another? What cultural factors determine the manner in which affect is displayed orally? Is this more likely in the U.S. or in Taiwan? Are there any problems with language diversity in Taiwan? Spanglish Homework How do the characters in the film communicate? What problems are there (pay attention to topics in Chapter 6). Think back to Chapter 4: Identities. How does Flor‟s cultural identity affect her daughter? What kind of cultural identity does her daughter have? Spanglish Homework (2) In Chapter 5, we talked about beliefs, values, and dominant U.S. Cultural patterns. What are the beliefs, values, and dominant cultural patterns for the Clasky‟s? How about for Flor and Christina? What‟s different between the families?
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