Jumat, 29 April 2011

Language and Culture

1.     What is language?
Language is Arbitrary & Conventional
The term arbitrary here refers to the fact that the symbol that people use is made or chosen without any principle, logic or reason. For example, people in Java do not have a principle or logic to call an animal with long tail, two hands, and two legs and like scratching and playing on trees as kethek. There is no logic either for people in Jakarta to call that animal monyet. This is what arbitrary means.
So, to answer Daniel's question: English people do not have any reason why they call the animal that produces "meauwww" as cat. Again, this is because language is arbitrary: no logical reason is used when choosing a symbol, and no direct relationship between the symbol and the symbolized.
Now that a group of people have chosen a symbol for something, all the members of the group should approve and use the same symbol to refer to the same thing. In the example above, the members of Javanese language society approve the use of symbol kethek to refer to that animal, while the members of Betawinese approve the use of monyet. Again, the symbol should be the result of the convention of all members of the (language) society. That's why language is called conventional.
To answer Wisnukurnia: How is language created?
When a group of people make a new symbol and the all the members approve, then they will make a new language, or at least they add a new word for their language. Remember, language is a system consisting of many elements that support each other.
Well, once the language is used by the people, it will exist. No society exists without language, and no language exists without the society.
Hope, it's clear enough now. For further info, please read Abdul Chaer. He has clear explanation about this.

2.    Why is language arbitrary?

Languages are said to be arbitrary because there is no necessary or natural relationship between the words of a given language and the concepts that they represent. For example, there is nothing in the word "tree" that connects it to the concept of a tree; which is why Spanish can use a totally different sign for the same concept: "árbol"; and so on with other languages.
Also, languages are arbitrary because the rules for the combination of signs in order to produce complete thoughts are different from one language to the other, and no set of rules can claim to be the "right" one. For example, in English you say "I like beer", whereas in Spanish you would say "Me gusta la cerveza". The translation/transliteration of the latter would be something like: "Beer is agreeable to me", or [is agreeable to me the beer], which sounds strange in English. And neither of these formulations has a better claim to accuracy, correctness or truth than the other.

3.     What is Culture?
Sir E.B Tylor: Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, moral, law, customs, and other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.
Margaret Mead (American Anthropologist) : Culture is the learned behavior of a society or a sub-group.

Carla’s Definition: For the purposes of the Intercultural Studies Project, culture is defined as the shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs, and affective understanding that are learned through a process of socialization. These shared patterns identify the members of a culture group while also distinguishing those of another group.

Banks, J.A., Banks, & McGee, C. A. (1989). Multicultural education. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
"Most social scientists today view culture as consisting primarily of the symbolic, ideational, and intangible aspects of human societies. The essence of a culture is not its artifacts, tools, or other tangible cultural elements but how the members of the group interpret, use, and perceive them. It is the values, symbols, interpretations, and perspectives that distinguish one people from another in modernized societies; it is not material objects and other tangible aspects of human societies. People within a culture usually interpret the meaning of symbols, artifacts, and behaviors in the same or in similar ways."
Damen, L. (1987). Culture Learning: The Fifth Dimension on the Language Classroom. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
"Culture: learned and shared human patterns or models for living; day- to-day living patterns. these patterns and models pervade all aspects of human social interaction. Culture is mankind's primary adaptive mechanism" (p. 367).
Hofstede, G. (1984). National cultures and corporate cultures. In L.A. Samovar & R.E. Porter (Eds.), Communication Between Cultures. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
"Culture is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one category of people from another." (p. 51).
Kluckhohn, C., & Kelly, W.H. (1945). The concept of culture. In R. Linton (Ed.). The Science of Man in the World Culture. New York. (pp. 78-105).
"By culture we mean all those historically created designs for living, explicit and implicit, rational, irrational, and nonrational, which exist at any given time as potential guides for the behavior of men."
Kroeber, A.L., & Kluckhohn, C. (1952). Culture: A critical review of concepts and definitions. Harvard University Peabody Museum of American Archeology and Ethnology Papers 47.
" Culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behavior acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievements of human groups, including their embodiments in artifacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional (i.e. historically derived and selected) ideas and especially their attached values; culture systems may, on the one hand, be considered as products of action, and on the other as conditioning elements of further action."
Lederach, J.P. (1995). Preparing for peace: Conflict transformation across cultures. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
"Culture is the shared knowledge and schemes created by a set of people for perceiving, interpreting, expressing, and responding to the social realities around them" (p. 9).
Linton, R. (1945). The Cultural Background of Personality. New York.
"A culture is a configuration of learned behaviors and results of behavior whose component elements are shared and transmitted by the members of a particular society" (p. 32).
Parson, T. (1949). Essays in Sociological Theory. Glencoe, IL.
"Culture...consists in those patterns relative to behavior and the products of human action which may be inherited, that is, passed on from generation to generation independently of the biological genes" (p. 8).
Useem, J., & Useem, R. (1963). Human Organizations, 22(3).
"Culture has been defined in a number of ways, but most simply, as the learned and shared behavior of a community of interacting human beings" (p. 169).

4.     What is society?

A society or a human society is

(1) a group of people related to each other through persistent relations such as social status, roles and social networks.

(2) A large social grouping that shares the same geographical territory and is subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations.


5.      Culture and Society
Culture and society are not the same thing.  While cultures are complexes of learned behavior patterns and perceptions, societies are groups of interacting organisms.  People are not the only animals that have societies.  Schools of fish, flocks of birds, and hives of bees are societies.  In the case of humans, however, societies are groups of people who directly or indirectly interact with each other.  People in human societies also generally perceive that their society is distinct from other societies in terms of shared traditions and expectations.
While human societies and cultures are not the same thing, they are inextricably connected because culture is created and transmitted to others in a society.  Cultures are not the product of lone individuals.  They are the continuously evolving products of people interacting with each other.  Cultural patterns such as language and politics make no sense except in terms of the interaction of people.  If you were the only human on earth, there would be no need for language or government.
6.      Is Culture Limited to Humans?
There is a difference of opinion in the behavioral sciences about whether or not we are the only animal that creates and uses culture.  The answer to this question depends on how narrow culture is defined.  If it is used broadly to refer to a complex of learned behavior patterns, then it is clear that we are not alone in creating and using culture.  Many other animal species teach their young what they themselves learned in order to survive.  This is especially true of the chimpanzees and other relatively intelligent apes and monkeys.  Wild chimpanzee mothers typically teach their children about several hundred food and medicinal plants.  Their children also have to learn about the dominance hierarchy and the social rules within their communities.  As males become teenagers, they acquire hunting skills from adults.  Females have to learn how to nurse and care for their babies.  Chimpanzees even have to learn such basic skills as how to perform sexual intercourse.  This knowledge is not hardwired into their brains at birth.  They are all learned patterns of behavior just as they are for humans.


7.      Relation Of language, culture and society?

8.      Why Culture limited Language?

On the other hand, in 1960’s a new linguistic school of thought was developed as a reaction towards the structuralism which is called sociolinguistics, introduced by some prominent linguists such as Joshua Fishman, John Gumperz, Charles Ferguson etc. and an anthropologist like Dell Hymes. This school of thought considers that language and society are related. This means that language can never be understood and studied fully without understanding its social and cultural contexts. Language is not merely a means of communication, but also an instrument to show human social identity and establish social and cultural relationships and that to speak the language is seen as a cultural event. From here, pragmatics was also developed.

The more systematic and wider way to investigate language as the speech of human groups dates to 1960’s when sociolinguistics came into existence as a new discipline. Some call it as an interdisciplinary linguistics. Others call it as sociology of language, linguistics plus and an opposite of theoretical linguistics. For long, language had been seen as a single discipline, completely separated as from society, since language was meant as just speech and a means of communication. Any effort to relate language and society was assumed useless, because society was the object of sociology, not linguistics.
Consequently, new approaches in language investigations, language learning and teaching were also developed with their new theoretical considerations. For example, social structure may either influence or determine linguistic structure and/or behavior. Certain evidence can be added here to support this view: the age-grading phenomenon (young children speak differently from older children and, in turn, children speak differently from mature adults); studies which show that the varieties of language that speakers use reflect their regional, social, or ethnic origin and possibly even their sex; other studies also show that particular ways of speaking, choices of words, and even rules for conversing are determined by certain social requirements. In short one’s social identity can be seen from the way he or she speaks and his or her choices of words.
The second possible relationship is opposed to the first one that is linguistic structure and/or behavior may either influence or determine social structure, as the view behind Whorfian hypothesis. The third possible relationship is the influence is bi-directional, that is language and society may influence each other. A variant of this approach is that this influence is dialectical in nature. In a Marxian perspective, it can be stated that speech behavior and social behavior are in a state of constant interaction and that “material” living conditions are an important factor in the relationship.
Seeing the relationship between language and society as stated should lead to the understanding that sociolinguistics is not merely a mixing of linguistics and sociology which takes concepts and findings from the two disciplines and attempts to relate them through correlational techniques or in any other simple way. Hymes (in Wardhaugh, 1986: 11) mentions that a mechanical amalgamation of standard linguistics and standard sociology is not likely to suffice in that adding a speechless sociology to a sociology-free linguistics may miss entirely what is important in the relationship between language and society.





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