Week 4: Language and Culture


In this seminar we considered language and its relationship with culture. We were asked to consider

—To what extent are languages and cultures ‘inexorably’ linked?
—Is your world view influenced by the language you speak?
—Can languages and cultures ever be separated
By looking at cultural dialogues between people that were from two different cultures speaking in English, we discussed how language is a semiotic system (a system of symbols).
In this I thought about how our language expresses the culture and society that we live in.The connection between language, culture and society is interconnected; language influences culture and culture influences language

This thought helped me to further understand how by calling language a semiotic system we mean, as Halliday puts it, “interpreting language within a sociocultural context, in which culture itself is interpreted in semiotic terms.” (1)

When considering whether my world view was influenced by the language I speak I found it hard to comprehend a different worldview to my own, a worldview from a different culture. Language must influence my worldview, and I felt my thoughts on the subject were well supported and articulated in Blommaerts writing:

—“there is a … shift … from a view in which language is narrowly tied to a community, a time and a place (the Saussurean synchrony also precipitated in the notions of speech community and related ones), and in which language is primarily seen as having local functions, to a view in which language exists in and for mobility across space and time.  This shift, … forces us to consider linguistic signs detached from their traditional locus of origin…and instead re-placed, so to speak, in very different loci of production and uptake – where the conventional associative functions of such signs cannot be taken for granted.” (2)
Following on from this I reflected on the idea that:
—The fluidity and ‘super-diversity’ of intercultural communication  has led to the suggestion that the notion of a language or the language is no longer helpful
—Instead we would do better to consider participants in intercultural communication as making use of linguistic repertories and resources
—We draw on these linguistic repertories when we engage in cultural practices.Although I didn’t agree with this premise, I found it interesting and important to my study of language and its relationship with culture. In my opinion, language reinforces and restablishes culture; it is not only a key element of how that culture is represented and communicated but it also reflects geographical and class positioning in a cultural group.

(1) Halliday, Text and context in functional linguistics [Volume 169 of 4], ed. M. Ghadessy John Benjamins Publishing, 1999

(2) Blommaert, J. (2003), Commentary: A sociolinguistics of globalization. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 7: 607–623.


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