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Language, culture and thought


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Language, culture and thought

  1. 1. Language, Culture and Thought By: Zhian Fadhil Asaad 1
  2. 2. Introduction The phenomenon of language does not have natural divisions between varieties of language, which called (language, dialects, and registers),though there may be natural internal divisions within it on the bases of levels of language such as: vocabulary, syntax, morphology, and phonology. The external relation of language , whether there are natural boundaries between the phenomena covered by term language ,and other kind of phenomena ,notably those called culture and thought. 2
  3. 3. Language is both unique and autonomous • There are similarities between language and other phenomena rather than the differences • There are close connection between phenomena rather than their independence. • Many of the properties of language are also properties of culture in general. 3
  4. 4. To avoid confusion we must start with some matter of terminology 1.culture: is some thing that every body has. The term used differently by different anthropologists , but always refers to some characteristics shared by a community, especially those which might distinguished from other communities. So it refers to all that human beings learn to do, to use, to produce, to know, and to believe as they grow to maturity and live out their lives in the social groups to which they belong. 4
  5. 5. We shall follow Ward Goodenough in taking culture as socially acquired knowledge: •“a society's culture consist of whatever it is one has to know or believe in order to operate in a manner acceptable to its members…culture, being what people have to learn as distinct from their biological heritage, must consist of the end-product of learning: knowledge, in a most general … sense of term. •If culture is knowledge, it can exist only inside people’s heads so there is a problem in studying it!!!! •The solutions are much the same whether one is interest in culture or language. → → → → → → 5
  6. 6. Methods used in both cultural anthropology and linguistics: •Firstly: we can observe people’s natural behavior and draw our conclusion about the knowledge that must underlie it. •Secondly: we can arrange interviews & ask people more or less direct questions about their knowledge, taking their answers with a pinch of salt if need be. •Thirdly: we can use ourselves as informants. •Fourthly: we can conduct psychological experiments of one kind or another. such as measuring the length of time it take people to perform certain tasks in order to develop a measure of the relative complexity of the knowledge involved. 6
  7. 7. 2. Thought :The term covers a number of different types of mental activity, and lies in the province of cognitive psychology. Memory Concept thought Propositions Inference 7
  8. 8. • memory :is the process in which information is encoded, stored)and, • inference: is a mental process by which we reach a conclusion based on specific evidence. • propositions: may be either remembered (already stored in memory)or inferred(worked out) it may be either something we know or something we discover add to our memory so that next time it will be there as knowledge. •Concepts: may either exist in our memory as a category used in thinking, or may be created as a new category which could then be stored away in memory. as general categories in term of which propositions are formulated and experience is processed. 8
  9. 9. What is the relation between thought & culture? Given the definition of Cultural as socially acquired knowledge, so culture is one part of memory, namely the part which is acquired socially, it might be distinguished between propositions which are known to be true from one’s own experience and those which have been learned from other people. •Non culture concept: is one which we build without reference to other people, as a convenient way of interpreting our experience. 9
  10. 10. Kinds of knowledge 1.Cultural knowledge: which is learned from other people. 2.Shared non-cultural knowledge: which is shared by people within the same community or the world over, but is not learned from each other. 3.Non-shared non-cultural knowledge: which is unique to the individual. Note: Most of language is cultural knowledge, since it has to be learned from others, but some is shared non-cultural knowledge. 10
  11. 11. 1. The classical theory of concept is that each one consists of a set of features (criterial features) which are necessary and sufficient for something to count as an instance of that concept. as:( bird) 2. The most promising approach is based on the work of psychologist Eleanor Rosch, who showed that at least some concepts are organized around clear cases or Prototypes. •The first attraction of the prototype theory : is that it is not too hard to understand how people can learn such concept from each other. •Second attraction: is that it allows for the kind of creative flexibility in the application of concepts which we find in real life(it predicts that the boundaries of concepts will be fuzzy as they in fact are), as: (fruit & vegetable). •The third attraction: is the possibility of using the theory in explaining how people categorize the social variable to which they relate language- variable such as the kind of person who is speaking & circumstances in which they are doing so. 11
  12. 12. “What kind of bird are you, if you cannot fly”, said the little bird to the duck. “What kind of bird are you, if you cannot swim”, said the duck and dived. (Prokofiér, Peter und der Wolf) 12
  13. 13. Well established system of analysis developed by Joshua Fishman in term of Domains. the assumption underlying this system is that the choice of language in a bilingual community varies from domain to domain, & that domains are congruent combination of a particular kind of speaker and addressee in particular kind of place, talking about particular kind of topic. Note: The speaker has to use intelligence & imagination in deciding which language to use. 13
  14. 14. Language, Culture and Thought • Culture may be defined as the kind of knowledge which we learn from other people, either by direct instruction or by watching their behavior, since we learn our culture from those around us. We may assume that we share it with them so this kind of knowledge is likely to play a major role when we communicate with them& in particular when we use language. • The same will be true for any knowledge that we share with other people, regardless whether we learned it from them or not. Our knowledge consist of a vast network of concepts interrelated by propositions. 14
  15. 15. Three controversy points need to be considered: • The nature of concepts, when classical and prototype-based concepts, the outcome was negative verdict on the idea that concepts have a definition , a set of necessary and sufficient propositions which are distinct from all the other propositions that mention them. • The distinction between concepts and percepts, which are the outcome of direct perception, such as: a smell, a taste, a sound they do not depend on propositions for their content. • We shall also ignore the third distinction between knowing that & knowing how, & sometime called declarative and procedural knowledge. As in: (how to ride bicycle is different from knowing that it has two wheels. 15
  16. 16. There are points at which language makes contact with knowledge, more specifically with the kind of knowledge that we call culture. as a distinguished anthropologists said ‘ a society's language is an aspect of its culture… the relation of language to culture is that of part to whole’. 1.Language consists of concepts & propositions: in whichever way we understand the notion linguistic items ,we can see them as the categories which we use to analyze our experience (as concepts) 2.Meanings are concepts& propositions: there is widespread agreement that the meaning of linguistic item is its sense. Note: in point (1,2) hearer and speaker needs to know the relevant linguistic concepts (words, constructions…)& also the concepts & propositions that serve as their meanings. 16
  17. 17. 3.Understanding and using speech involves the whole of knowledge. The mental processes that take place in our minds are called inference; the hearer infers what the speaker intends,& the speaker infers the best way to express the message so inference is like a mental calculation. 4.Linguistically relevant social categories are concepts. Speakers located themselves in a multi-dimensional space in relation to the rest of their society& located each act of speaking in multi-dimensional space in relation to the rest of their social lives.& each dimension is defined by a particular concepts of a typical type of person or typical situation. 17
  18. 18. Linguistic & cultural relativity The first issue is (relativity):we shall concentrate on how far meanings may differ from variety to variety & whether there are any connection between differences in meaning &differences in culture. The second issue is Determinism :which is concerned with the influence of language on thought. Semantic relativity: different languages do not provide different ways of expressing the same ideas, but they are also different in more fundamental & interesting sense, that the ideas that can be expressed differ from language to language. 18
  19. 19. Some possibilities about semantic relativity •All the concepts that serve as word-meanings in different languages are simply different ways of combining a limited range of rather basic components. As: eat when translated into German. •It only applies to vocabulary. Semantic relativity is limited only by the limits of culture variation ,& it is at any certain that there is much more semantic variation between languages than most of us are aware of. 19
  20. 20. prototypes Rosch’s view support the argument that the notion of prototype is defined as: the best or most representative member of a given category. If meanings are examined in relation to prototypes, it can be shown that there Are fewer differences if we focus on the Prototypes around which the meaning of words are organised than if we try to cover the extensions of the prototypes as well. consider the analysis of kinship Terminology. Prototypes capture the way that our minds adapt to the similarity of things in the world 20
  21. 21. There are three different ways in which a word’s prototypical meaning may be extended: • A speaker or hearer may exploit the creative flexibility, by making an original extension to the meaning . • There may be accepted & clear rules for extending meaning. We may assume that some of the extended meanings are worked out afresh each time rather than being stored in the speaker’s memory.(table 3.1,p.86) • There are words whose meanings center on some prototype but whose extended meanings are presumably stored in memory as well.(eg: the sense of father which allow it to applied to a Catholic priest is stored in the memory.) 21
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