The relationship between culture and language

Jumat, 25 Maret 2011

POINT I
Introduction
A.    Background
Appearing of the culture always be supported by many languages. In any culture or region, language is much more than semantics, much more than what the written page or the spoken word can contain. This especially becomes clear when studying a foreign language and learning the ways of a particular culture. For example, the use of introductions, salutations, everyday sayings, etc. This area in particular gives more weight to culture then to the words themselves. Anyone studying a foreign language has to be bicultural as well as bilingual to speak the new language in a way that it is not disparaging to the culture and its origin. Language does not end at the meaning or the use of words associated to a culture" words represent beliefs, history, and the culture of their origin and they must be used accordingly.
B.     Setting of problem
1.      What is culture and language?
2.      What is the relationship between language and culture?
3.      What role does culture play with language?
POINT II
The relationship between culture and language

A.    What’s language.
Language as one element of culture has a very important role in human life. Language allows a person communicating with others in meeting their needs. Thus, it can be said is the main function of language as a communication tool. This does not mean that the language has only one function. Another function is as a tool to express self-expression, a tool to make integration and social adaptation, as well as a tool to hold social control. (Keraf, 1980: 3)
Based on these functions, also mentioned that "Language is a means of communication between members of the public symbol of the sound produced by means of said human" (Keraf, 1980: 1). Similar opinion was also expressed by Sitindoan (1984: 17) states "Language is a symbol of the sound produced by means of said human, and the system has means that are arbitrary; used by men in her life as a means of communication between each other to form, express , and communicate thoughts and feelings. Cultural social nature".
Based on the notions described above, it is clear that the language was intended in this paper is a communication tool produced by the tool man has said symbol, system, meaning, and social are arbitrary and culturally. Every language has a symbol. With the symbol will facilitate communication, although not directly dealing with the object. This is because each symbol already contains a concept or understanding. In order for the meaning of the symbols are understood, every language user must understand and follow the system language is used. Language system contains rules or rules that must be obeyed by the user's language. If not obeyed, the delivery information may be chaotic or communication cannot happen.
Languages are arbitrary means no direct relationship between the symbol with the symbolized. Symbolic emergence of an object is based on the convention. However, even so to be able to understand a language must be studied and used as a communication tool.
B.     What’s Culture
Culture is the whole communication system that binds and allows operation of a set of people called the public. Thus culture can be defined as a "system of rules of communication and interaction that allows a society occurs, preserved, and preserved". Culture that gives meaning to all business and human movements. (Nababan, 1984: 49)
Based on the above definition, clearly shows that between humans and culture are inseparable. Similarly, between the Indonesian and Indonesian culture. This is because human beings live alongside Indonesia in a unit area of ethnic communities, also live in a unity of the Republic of Indonesia. In this regard, they hold one culture, according to the conception of insight archipelago, Indonesia is the national culture (Geriya, 1996: 71).
Furthermore formally Indonesia normative cultural system and set the whole human Indonesian society. There are two functions of cultural systems that Indonesia is very important, namely: the giver's identity and as a communication that unites and integrates the Indonesian community that is diverse.
Culture can also be interpreted as "the activities and the creation of the mind (reason) people like: faith, art, etc." For example, Chinese Culture, Culture of Indonesia, and Javanese culture. (Poerwadarminta, 1983: 157). Based on this understanding, we can say that only humans have culture. This is due to living things is people who have sense and reason to generate culture.
In addition to the above two terms, the notion of culture can also be viewed from the corner of Sciences Anthropology. In this regard, culture (the culture) is defined as "the entirety of the conduct and results of regular human behavior by the administration that must be acquired behaviors by learning and all are arranged in life". (Koentjaraninggrat Ed., 1985: 77).
Culture in this case is understood as a learned behavior and conducted by a group of people, cultures obtained from others by learning from the community. Culture also includes everything that is the result of creativity, initiative, and the work of humans in an effort to improve the standard of living and adapt to their environment. As a system, the culture needs to be seen from the embodiment of human life associated with the ideas, behaviors, and material that are influenced by various aspects.
Based on the notions above can be concluded is meant by culture is a result of creative initiative, and the work of humans in an effort to improve the standard of living and adapt to their environment. These limits are more emphasized on the fact that humans are capable of producing culture, because humans are living beings who have mind and reason.
C.    Relationship between culture and language.
According to Sapir (1921), “language is a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desire by means of voluntarily produced symbols.” Language is a part of culture and a part of human behavior.
It is often held that the function of language is to express thought and to communicate information. Language also fulfills many other tasks such as greeting people, conducting religious service, etc.
Krech1962explained the major functions of language from the following three aspects:
1.    Language is the primary vehicle of communication;
2.    Language reflects both the personality of the individual and the culture of his history. In turn, it helps shape both personality and culture;
3.    Language makes possible the growth and transmission of culture, the continuity of societies, and the effective functioning and control of social group.
It is obvious that language plays a paramount role in developing, elaborating and transmitting culture and language, enabling us to store meanings and experience to facilitate communication. The function of language is so important in communication that it is even exaggerated by some scholars. The most famous one is the hypothesis of linguistic determinism concerning the relationship between language and culture, which Nida regards as misconceptions constituting serious difficulties for cross-cultural understanding.
The problem of the relationship between language, culture and thought bothered many linguists and philosophers since ancient time. To think about this problem, we need to begin with the definition of language and culture. Language is generally accepted as a system of arbitrary vocal symbols used for human communication. And there is a most widely accepted definition of culture: culture is the total accumulation of beliefs, customs, values, behaviors, institutions and communication patterns that are shared, learned and passed down through the generation in an identifiable group of people. (Linell Davis) The definitions of language and culture imply that the two are closely connected to each other. On one hand, culture seems so inclusive, it permeates almost every aspect of human life including languages people use. On the other hand, when people need to share a culture, they communicate through language.
However , the definition alone can not provide us with a clear understanding on the relationship between language and culture. Problems remains unsolved as: how does culture influence people’s linguistic behavior? And does language influence the culture in return? If so , in what way? Varies studies have been carried out, among them, a well known hypothesis is the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis made by two American linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis describes the relationship between language, culture and thought. The core idea is that man’s language moulds his perception of reality. We see the world in the way that our language describes it, so that the world we live in is a linguistic construct(Liu Runqing). The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis has two major components: linguistic determinism and linguistic relativity. The former holds the idea that the way one thinks is determined by the language one speaks, because one can only perceive the world in terms of the categories and distinctions encoded in the language. The latter means that the categories and distinctions encoded in one language system are unique to that system and incommensurable with those of others, therefore, the difference among languages must be reflected in the differences in the worldviews of their speakers. Since the formulation of the hypothesis, discussions have never been ended. Many linguists and philosophers are against the linguistic determinism. They argue if language determines thought totally, and if there is no thought without language, speakers of different languages will never understand each other. Nevertheless, the weak interpretation of the hypothesis is now widely accepted that language do have influence on thought and culture. Evidence is easy to be found. A well known example is that Eskimos have countless words for snow while there is only one word ‘snow’ in English. Therefore, a ‘snow world’ in a Eskimo’s eye and an English speaker’s eye would be so different. This example shows that people’s perceptions of their surroundings are modified by the conceptual categories their languages happen to provide(Liu Runqing). Questions still remains: which goes first, the language or the culture? Is it the native language gives people different perceptions? Or on contrary, is the different worldviews and cultures determine the language?
The problem get more and more philosophical, as Winston Churchill once said, ‘ we shaped our buildings and afterwards our buildings shaped us.’ We describe our experience and culture by using language, and the categories built into language, its structures influence our perceptions--language in turn shapes our thought and culture. Therefore, we should take a dialectical point of view on the relationship between language and culture. As is mentioned at the beginning, language and culture are inextricably intertwined. On one hand, language is a part of human being. It reflects people’s attitudes, beliefs, worldviews. Language both expressed and embodies cultural reality. On the other hand, language is a part of culture. It helps perpetuate the culture and it can influence the culture to a certain extent.
  1. Evidence on the dialectical relationship between language and culture
There is plenty of linguistic evidence of culture difference. We take relationship issue for example to explain the cultural difference between Chinese people and English speakers. In Chinese ,there are more precise terms for describing relationships than in English. Chinese people distinguish relatives on mother’s side from those on father’s side. We have the word ‘biao’ to call the brothers and sisters on mother’s side and the word ‘tang’ for the father’s side. Also, the uncles and aunts are addressed differently on each side. On the contrary, in English, there are limited words to describe relationships. This difference indicates that relationships play an important role in Chinese culture. In a narrow sense, relatives are always vital elements in Chinese people’s life. In a broad sense, the relationships among people around are generally considered important for Chinese people. The precise terms for describing family and other relationships reflect the Chinese culture, and the language may in turn influence the Chinese way of thinking. Therefore, relationships are paid great attention in China. The Chinese ‘ relationship net’ is hard to explain, but it do works in China. Talking about relationships, in English, we have the phrase ‘-in law’ to address a certain kind of relatives, this may indicates that compared to relationships, law plays a more important role in the western culture.
Another example can be found between English and French. English borrows a lot of words from French, and a large part of them are the names of food. Pork, veal, mutton are all French words. Even the word ‘cuisine’ is from French. Judging from the language, we can tell that French cuisine must be more famous than English food, and the catering culture is more important in France than in English speaking countries.
There is one thing should be pointed out that although different languages reflect and influence different culture, there are many concepts that are universal. Also, take the relationship issue for example, people from the English speaking countries can distinguish relatives on mother’s side from those on father’s side, although they do not do so, the concepts are there. People from different cultures can understand each other although they speak different languages and have different worldviews, because many of the basic concepts are universal.
  1. Pedagogical implication
Since language and cultures are intertwined with each other, learning a language can not be separated from learning its culture. only by learning the culture, the L2 learners can better understand the language and use it in communication as native speakers do. Educators now generally believes that it is important to help the L2 learners to achieve the communicative competence as well as the linguistic competence. In pedagogy there is a method of foreign language teaching called communicative language teaching(CLT), and the goal of CLT is to develop students’ communicative competence, which includes both the knowledge about the language and knowledge about how to use the language appropriately in communicative situation. In CLT, culture teaching plays an important role.
In language teaching, on one hand, teachers and learners should pay attention to the culture difference since different languages reflect the different value system and worldviews of its speaker. By knowing the culture difference, one can avoid some mistake in communicating. On the other hand, the same concepts of the two cultures should not be neglected. By sharing the same concept, language learning may become easier and happier. More importantly, since languages have influence on thought, when learning a second language, the L2 learners should at the same time strengthen their mother tongue. Therefore, the native culture is protected.
POINT III
Closing
  1. Conclusion
Language is a major component and supporter of culture as well as a primary tool for transferring message, which is inextricably bound with culture. Learning a second language also involves learning a second culture to varying degrees. On the other hand, language is influenced and shaped by culture. It reflects culture. Cultural differences are the most serious areas causing misunderstanding, unpleasantness and even conflict in cross-cultural communication. So both foreign language learners and teachers should pay more attention to cultural communication information.

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