1. katina

    katina Banned Contributor

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    does language represent culture?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by katina, Jan 27, 2019.

    ...to write is to represent oneself outright?

    Any comments most welcome. :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2019
  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Clarification is needed.
     
  3. katina

    katina Banned Contributor

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    I would like to say that language is part of our personalities and abilities.
    It is a conduct of expressions and feelings emotional and personal.
    I was thinking language is a tool that must have more then just story telling.
    Do you think that language is a cultural phenomena because when literature depicts time
    places and characters it is revealing who we are as people?
     
  4. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    I think art is much more revealing of culture than just "language" ("language" in this case meaning words and phrases and sentences). There's a saying that "art drives the culture" and, having lived and worked around the arts since I was a teenager, I've certainly observed evidence of that.

    Of course, the art of writing uses language, and some forms of art are in and of themselves forms of communication, so there's that. Still, if I wanted to know about someone's culture I'd look at their art first, because words are easily manipulated.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2019
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  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Maybe the issue here is what you mean by "culture". Because this feels a little bit like asking, "Do you think that language is important to communication?" How could language NOT be an incredibly important part of culture? Are you defining 'culture' as being something quite narrow, like art and music and folk dance only?
     
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  6. katina

    katina Banned Contributor

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    I am thinking language must represent culture in its ins and out.
    Language is a window onto who we are and where we come from.
    I take into consideration others who are from other cultures who read books written in English by English writers because lets face it it does and will happen.
    What impression do they take from the books they have just read?
    Does that make sense?
     
  7. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I'm still trying to figure out what you're saying. Are you asking if WHICH language you use determines culture? If speaking/reading/writing German influences your experience of culture in a way different from speaking English or Italian?
     
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  8. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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    The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis?
     
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  9. katina

    katina Banned Contributor

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    I am trying to say is does the language we write in reflect the way we are and how we behave and so impact on readers from different cultures who read what we write?
     
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  10. katina

    katina Banned Contributor

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    Great link thanks.
     
  11. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    By this, do you mean which language? English versus German versus Japanese, etc.?
     
  12. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    There have been studies done that shows bilingual people respond differently to questions depending on which language they're processing (I believe the study was conducted on German-English bilinguals in the US). How in English people are more focused on the timing of an event due to the existence of all our different tenses (or the grammar nerd would say, aspects. Technically we only have two tenses with numerous aspects of each tense) and German is more focused on the result of an event. (I'm almost certain that after a certain level of German, though, that continuous tenses exist too?) Either way, there have been studies! :D You'll have to verify them yourself.

    I've also read how Russians, for whom there're two words (or maybe more?) for the colour blue, can see the shades of blue more clearly than English speakers for whom "blue" is pretty much the only common term for the colour (I guess also navy, but the contrast of the typical blue you imagine vs navy is so drastic that I don't think it could accurately be attributed to language) - theory is because having a separate word for the colour trains your eye/brain to see the shades more accurately.

    There are also of course words that don't translate between languages and you've got to question why, sometimes - got no examples off the top of my head right now but I definitely know there're a tonne of terms in Cantonese that don't exist in English.

    The Japanese are notorious for being indirect and reading between the lines and their language certain reflects it. The same word for "yes" can also mean "no" - just depends on context!
     
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  13. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Under the umbrella of anthropology, language is the very vehicle of human culture.

    Yes. Language is crucial to how humans first unpackage the concept known as Theory of Mind, which is simply the understanding that the self is a separate paradigm from others, that we each have an insular battery of thoughts, needs, desires, wishes, intents, and knowledge that is separate and distinct for each and every other person we encounter. Sounds obvious to adults, but to a child who is just learning to speak, it is not obvious why his desire for the banana is not immediately fulfilled by mommy, because as far as he's concerned, his thoughts and her thoughts are the same thoughts and the frustration of this not panning out in the empirical world gives us the Terrible Twos.

    It certainly can be, but most humans live more pragmatic lives than we sensitive little artists. Language is more practical than artistic in the grand scheme.

    For human beings, the function of language as a data-storage medium is MUCH, MUCH more important. Without it, there are no doctors or scientists or... anything. A doctor is not just 12+ years of intense schooling. A doctor is the culmination of literally thousands of years of accumulated knowledge. Without the ability to acquire, somehow store, and then pass on that knowledge, every generation starts at square one. That's why, so very sadly, cool and smart as a cuttlefish certainly is, as long as their life cycle remains the way it is now - they die after spawning - cuttlefish will never reach for the stars. I wish they could, but every generation starts at square one.

    No, I think the opposite. Culture is a linguistic phenomenon. We have the ability to engage one another, through language, and pop the solipsistic bubble of our respective minds and share with others what lies within.
     
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  14. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Contributor

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    Yeah, one way languages represent the culture or environment they come from is their vocabulary. It's not uncommon for words or expressions to exist in one language and be completely absent in another. A simple example would be the lack of snow related vocabulary in English. Just the other day I was trying to remember if there was a term for "a hole in the ice" in English, but couldn't come up with any. And it's not like snow hasn't always been present in English speaking countries, or in countries whose languages helped shape English as we know it. What do you call hard snow? Well, it has a crust, but is there a noun for it? What do you call a hard ridge of snow formed on a snowy road? What about sleet that's instantly frozen after falling on the ground? What about hardened, heavy snow that hangs from eaves and trees, or snow that sticks to your shoe soles or horse's shoes? Even though it's been present as a part of nature in all its forms, it's probably never been such a defining, integral part of English speaking cultures the same way as perhaps of Canadian First Nation or Nordic cultures. Sure, snow specific vocabulary does exist (whiteout, snow squall, rime, sleet...), but I don't think it's particularly expansive for something that's a fairly common occurrence in the Northern hemisphere.
     
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  15. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Of for there to be a notable difference in what I call "semantic weight".

    In Spanish, we have the terms empalagar/empalagado. It's one of the words that always come up in Latino-oriented videos about the unique words that only we have. It's not really true. The word in English is cloying, but say that to Spanish speakers and back up because they're about to lose their shit. They'll point to the dictionary definition of the English word and protest at how broad the meaning is, how it includes other things that they feel aren't part of empalagar/empalagado, and you'll even get some who will insist that only Spanish speaking tongues (I mean the anatomical structure) are even capable of discerning this gustatory sensation since they can't find another language that has a word that satisfies the narrow meaning we give it.

    But seriously, it's just cloying.

    And yet, the same linguistic tradition is perfectly happy to call 9-bazillion different things, llave. There is no single word to differentiate between a cookie and a cracker, or a butterfly and a moth, and most confusingly, a commitment and a compromise are the same words in Spanish. :wtf:
     
  16. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Contributor

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    Oh definitely, when it comes to semantics, people tend to attach subjective layers and connotations to words. There's a Finnish word, sisu, that translates to 'grit', OH BUT NO NO IT DOESN'T IT'S UNIQUE TO OUR CULTURE DAMNIT. But imo, grit is a perfectly serviceable translation. It doesn't carry the historical significance, sure, but it gets the meaning across. Someone with sisu has grit, moxie, they're a tenacious individual. However, at the same time there are concepts, phenomena, tools, and things that have names only in some languages, and in this sense, sure, languages represent, or reflect, the culture they're spoken in.
     
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  17. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's super interesting that commitment and compromise are the same words in Spanish. Goes to show what they thought of each concept, and you can certainly see the overlap.

    I thought of two un-translatable words in Cantonese. There's a word we use to mean "love" except it isn't the word "love". If you say someone "loves" you, this "love" means that person is attentive to you, takes care of you, considerate towards you, will even make sacrifices and compromises for your sake. There's no other word I can think of in English that describes this word - the closest is "love".

    We also have a word for "whine" that has a positive meaning. It means the child is kinda affectionate, a bit clingy, and may exhibit cute behaviours to get your attention. The closest I can think of is "whine" but "whine" is decidedly negative in English.

    There's a third - we have a verb that expresses respect, care and love for your parents. No such single word exists in English to my knowledge.

    We also have two kinds of "thank you"s. One for receiving a gift and another for receiving help.

    Also, we rarely say "yes". We confirm the affirmative by repeating the relevant verb, even though the word "yes" does exist. Technically we have no word for "no". We simply convert the verb into its negative form.
     
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  18. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Spanish has something somewhat similar to this, not exactly, but similar. We have cariño and amor. Cariño is not romantic, amor is. I find it sad that English lacks a way to clearly make this distinction, sometimes (maybe?) robbing people of the ability to express afection for fear of it being misunderstood. As a Western Anglophone, saying "I love you" to a str8 guy feels off limits, even if I genuinely love him, non-romantically. In Spanish, I am at liberty to say, "Oye, 'mano, tú ni sabes el cariño que tengo por ti." (Listen, dude, you don't even know how much I love you.) That's perfectly sayable in Spanish and no one will think I'm trying to get my hands in their pants, just that the guy means the world to me.
     
  19. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Culture does definitely shape language. More than one Romance language omits "Good morning" from the repertoire of time-related greetings. In Spanish, the word for morning is the same a the word for tomorrow. I'd use caution in how to interpret these features, but they certainly treat morning differently than other times of day.
     
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  20. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh yeah, the Cantonese "love" is also non-romantic. You can say it of a parent to a child, or spouse to spouse - it's usually familial, but definitely not romantic.

    This whole love conversation reminds me of all the sermons I've been to - pastors often have to clarify the exact word for "love" used in Hebrew because they have 6 words for it, whereas in English everything translates to just "love".
     
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  21. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    If one were to swap out the word "art" for "language" that's also a beautiful explanation for what I feel is the power of art (of any kind-- paintings/drawings, dance, literature, whatever). It's all communication, and hopefully, it's genuine.

    I don't even speak Spanish, and that makes me sad.

    ^^^This too. As a native English speaker, compared to the descriptions of what the two of you are describing, the English word for "love" is severely lacking. That's sad. Your descriptions have a warmth to them that reminds me of that saying, "Love is a verb."
     
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  22. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Homonyms also muddy the waters considerably, generally requiring context to extract the meaning. This is especially problematic when you're trying to map equivalancies across languages. Consider "predate", which either means "appears earlier" or "treats as prey". It's not unreasonable to assume that some word variations are unused because they would form homonyms that would contradict the intended meaning if they were used. This may be more of a problem of English, because it is such a mongrel of older languages.

    On the other hand, such semantic ambiguities are the treasure troves of punsters.
     
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  23. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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    Oh yeah. It's been literally decades since I studied either Turkish or Korean, but Japan has some cultural similarities with Kor- hang on while I soak the angry mob outside the gates down with boiling oil. Haven't even hit "post" yet and they're already here...

    Anyway, one common workday "farewell" in Korean is "sugohaessoyo" (not sure on that romanization) which means "You worked hard." In Japanese, they say "Otsukaresamadeshita", which is "You are tired," both indications of how seriously you took things, how much you left on the field for your master employer.

    Turks, on the other hand, say "Gule gule". "Laughing laughing". Have fun buddy!

    And I love seeing the discussion of words that are not well-defined or useful in one's language. So often this sort of conversation turns to "My language is so much subtler than yours, we're the veritable font of shades of meaning." Yeah, well, let's talk about "love" or "snow" or the fact that Japanese, outside of doctors, don't differentiate between the names for anything below the shoulder. Arm, arm, arm, arm, hand (arm). Fingers, yes, each one has a name. Forearm? Upper arm? Nope. Wrist is "hand (arm)-neck", ankle is "leg (foot)-neck.

    But when I asked some of our office staff years ago how to say "Cockroaches are shiny," it turned into ten minute discussion involving the internet on which of the eleventy-seven different adjectives for "shiny" applied best. Pika-pika is more flashing, kira-kira is pretty damn close to 'bling-bling,' but teka-teka has an oily connotation, so they've forever been kawaii teka-teka goki-chan in my classes ('cute shiny roachies' is as close as I can express the meaning there. Kawaii is the particularly insipid Japanese form of 'cute', and cockroach is gokiburi, shortened to goki and suffixed with the diminutive -chan).

    On the other hand, when my students ask me the English word for sushi, tsunami, or karaoke* I just tell them:

    [​IMG]

    *carry okee. Cracks them up to no end, as it can be accurately spelled in katakana. Japanese kana has no irregular sounds**, so everything is pronounced*** exactly as it's spelled. How we can mispronounce kah rah oh kay as carry okee is beyond them. As is how we can mispronounce Mah ku doh na ru do as "McDonald's"....

    ** There's one has where "ha" gets pronounced as "wa," but it's a regular one.

    ***Kanji pronunciation can go fuck itself with a rusty chainsaw.
     
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  24. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    Your post cracked me up :D oh I hate katakana. It's my theory that that's why the Japanese can't pronounce English. And I find it awfully hard to take words from English in Japanese seriously...
     
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  25. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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    Kana doesn't have a short "i" sound or a short "u" sound. At times my students demand to know how to pronounce an English word correctly...without using either of those sounds.

    Not possible.

    Not that I don't feel for them. Turkish has a very short "i" (undotted "i") sound that, to my English ears, is indistinguishable from the umlauted "o". Apparently my tongue can differentiate though, as I always, always got it backwards, even when I reversed the two identical noises...
     
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