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Influence of Culture on Language

Updated on December 31, 2012
Language is apart of life.
Language is apart of life. | Source

Language is important

It is in the very nature of language to be overlooked and disregarded. Language goes unnoticed because it’s impossible for a culture to separate the sound-image and concept of something. A culture can’t separate the entity and the name that they give that entity- it goes unseen. We don’t think “that’s the name we give that thing”, instead we say “that’s what it is”. A tree is a tree to most humans, when it’s actually just a representation.

Language is more than just naming concepts

Language isn’t a system of naming things- it is, instead, a way to make our world possible for us to understand, by being able to differentiate between different concepts. There’s more than just one way of looking at a concept and that we make assumptions by accepting what we’re told and what we hear, hardly ever questioning or researching for ourselves. Each culture sees and understands things differently, and with that, each culture categorizes entities differently, having their own set of boundaries and spectrums, creating their own system of language. This is why language is difficult to translate.

Language is necessary for a culture, whereas it allows individuals to understand the world and communicate effectively. Languages don’t work interdependently; instead they work dependently because each language relates terms in its own way.

Everyone interprets language differently

In any communication between two people, each person is going to interpret any linguistic message in a certain way- in accordance to their own experience, memory, environment, learning and the way they perceive stimuli. It’s important to understand the origins of language, because language and culture are what forms the belief systems of the world. Donald’s third stage of cognitive evolution, mythic intelligence, is based on the development of symbols and language which permits imitated cultural elements to be incorporated into verbal metaphors and stories.

“A collective mind could be governed by myth, and it still is today in the arena of social values”


Language acts as a way to represent culture

Outdated language, or meanings, becomes unused and as a society has more technological innovation and growth, new, updated language becomes necessary in order to articulate. For this reason, language is considered social because that’s how it’s constructed. It’s similar to animals adapting to their surroundings. We adapt language to what’s significant in our culture at that time, along with our experiences at a specific time period. Language therefore becomes a representation of a culture by representing our conditions at a specific time; this is where a culture’s ideology comes into a language.

A culture decides upon a common viewpoint of the way things are- the way they see it and viewpoints change over time, which is why language adapts to the changes in time- changes in the way we see things and our perception. A society may even challenge language use because of the changing perceptions, corresponding to a change in language. This helps to support Sausseur’s ideas, showing that because these concepts weren’t pre-existing, that neither were these terms; we see that language is changeable. People see past language as a way to differentiate and comprehend and it’s not viewed as something socially constructed based on what’s socially signified.

“Differences and distinctions which seem obvious, a matter of common sense, cannot be taken for granted, since common sense itself is to a large degree a linguistic construct”


Language varies

Like language, common sense also is dependent upon separate cultures- the time period, what’s significant to that society and common perceptions/ beliefs. The reason for this is that language and a culture’s way of thinking goes hand-in-hand; since that way of thinking shifts over time, not only is language flexible and changeable, so is ‘common sense’, if you could call it that. Thought, which makes up common sense, is the ability to create representations and symbols; it’s the power to determine the signifier and signified.

Our thought is reflected in our language because it can be seen how we classify things and what’s significant to us. People often believe they are superior to one another and are ethnocentric. People mistake that their culture is the “right” way of thinking. People believe that an idea is true because that’s how they see it; if we were capable of understanding how others’ can view ideas and customs, we’d realize just how much we don’t understand. How could we understand when we don’t even know what else is out there or fully understand it? The problem lies within the fact we see and we believe; each person’s perception is relative to their individual knowledge. A large part of seeing depends on habit and assumption.

“.. the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight”



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