Language & Culture
An Essay on Language and Culture
Culture is a wider system that completely includes language as a subsystem. In a broad sense, it means the total way of a people, including the patterns of belief, customs, objects, institutions, techniques, and language that characterizes the life of the human community. In a narrow sense, culture may refer to local or specific practice, beliefs or customs, which can be mostly found in folk culture, enterprise culture or food culture etc. This thesis discusses the relationship between the ...view middle of the document...
Different languages might well undergo a universal evolutionary process of development which made the basic color system in one language different from that in another only in terms of the stages of their evolution. This evolutionary theory finds a good example in the second example of the Irian language, a language which has become well known for its very restricted system of basic color words.
There are only two basic color words in this language: modla for light, bright, hence, white, and mili for dark, dull, hence, black. What will native Irian language speaker do if he/she wants to designate colors other than black and white? Or do white and black always mean white and black cross-linguistically? The investigation revealed that native speakers of this culture use this White versus Black contrast to convey more messages about their color perception. They use modla as a general color term to include all warm colors such as red and yellow and use mili as another umbrella color word to cover all the cold colors. Therefore, the contrast between modla and mili in fact is a contrast between “whitewarmness” versus “blackcoldness”.
According to this evolutionary theory, English has all the eleven basic color words so it reaches the last stage of evolution. This theory correctly captures a kind of generalization in color words cross-culturally. So, that is to say, Culture universals and biological universals lead to linguistic universals. On the one hand, language as an integral part of human being, permeates his thinking and way of viewing the world, language both expresses and embodies cultural reality. On the other hand, language, as a product of culture, helps perpetuate the culture, and the changes in language uses reflect the cultural changes in return.
Benjamin Lee Whorf [1897-1941], studied linguistics at Yale University – studied Hopi under the supervision of Edward Sapir. Benjamin Lee Whorf studied at Yale University under Edward Sapir and became interested in Sapir's ideas. He was influenced by the work of 18th-century German philosophers John Gottfried von Herder and Wilhelm von Humbolt, who theorized, based on their study of European languages, that language had a bearing on how people viewed the world. In his opinion, our language helps mould our way of thinking and, consequently, different languages may probably express speakers’ unique ways of understanding the world. He said, American use only a handful of terms to describe snow, including the actual word snow, sleet, freezing rain, and a few others. Eskimos, on the other hand, have many words to describe snow (Hayes et al. 96). Snow that is falling, snow on the ground, snow in blocks, and snow that makes wavy patterns each are explained through the use of separate words. English has three words for "insect", "aeroplane", and "aviator". But Hopi has only one word for all three: "masajtaka" because these things do not matter that much to them.
2) Linguistic evidence...