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Flashcards in Language, Culture and Society Deck (25):


- seek to understand:
- whether grammatical categories and structures affect speakers' worldviews, influence, direct, and reflect people's thoughts
- the direct and indirect meaning of words
- two most influential figures is : Edward Sapir, and Benjamin Whorf


Sapir argued:

- the vocabulary of language can be the "inventory of all ideas, interest, and occupations
- all human experience is, to some extend, mediated through culture and language
- objects or forces in the physical environment become labeled in a language only if they have cultural significance
- a linguistic lag can account for the fact that words may reflect previous rather than current cultural interests


Whorf argued:

- the influence of language on thinking can be seen both through vocabulary and through more complex grammatical relations
- our impression of the world is organized by the linguistic system in our minds


The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

- broken down into two basic ideas:
- linguistic relativity
- linguistic determinism


linguistic relativity

- the differences between languages, and claims that because of these differences each language is likely to categorize the world in a unique fashion


linguistic determinism

- champions the idea that language can determine how we think about the world
- there are two versions of linguistic determinism: weak version, strong version
- the degree of which language is assumed to influence our thought and behaviour


"weak version"

- maintains that some elements of language influence speakers' perception and can affect their attitude and behaviour, but do not determine it completely


"strong version"

- claims that language really does determine thought, so that language and thought are effectively one and the same
- not widely supported


Sapri and Whorf conclusion

- "the picture of the world is different because the languages are different"


counter arguments against Sapri and Whorf hypothesis

- the possibility of translation from one language to another, using descriptive way of naming or labeling objects, processes etc.
- the usage of not only grammatical means, but also lexical means to express grammatical categories
- the differences of the pictures of the world do not emerge in a language but they are manifested in a language, because of different experiences of different people
- the perception of colours influences language and not vice versa
- language does not completely determine though, because most thoughts are unconscious
- the choice of language for the advertisement purposes is trying to influence thought
- different geographical, historical factors are also manifested in languages
- the same objects, events, actions, entities can be named/coined or labeled on different levels of categorization
- each object have different motivations in different languages
- language myths


do women and men speak differently?

- women speak more correctly than men
- women speak more politely than men
- who talks more: men or woman? depends on the situation


women speak more correctly than men

- men use more of vernacular (non-standard) forms than woman
- due to covert prestige = linguistic "street credibility" to prove their masculinity
- women use more standard forms, especially in formal speech
- overt 'official' prestige, may because of linguistic insecurity
- the forms the women use become the standard form because the community expects women to model the 'correct' forms
- if women adopt a new form, it becomes a change, because children grow up hearing it from women


women speak more politely than men

- women tend to swear less that men
- there are reasons why more societies accept swearing from men more readily than from women
- women are more likely to use language to build and maintain relationships, while men are more likely to use language to communicate factual information


who talks more men or women?

- men tend to dominate public in formal context, they talk more in public meetings
- women talk more in private settings
- men tend to see talk as a means of getting things done, organized, convey or obtain information
- women use talk to build, develop and maintain relationships
- men interrupt women more in situations where the men hold a more powerful position


signals of gender identity

- people usually wear specific clothes that signal their gender identity
- behaviour is another way of signalling
- speech is a very important way of gender identity


sexism and language

- language is able to create and promote unfair distinction between women and men
- language reinforces the widespread assumption that the basic, default or normal human being is male


interaction in multicultural and multilingual communities

- when people interact in multilingual communities they often use more than one language in a particular domain
- people are able to lose the language (mother tongue) in specific circumstances
- language choice is a subtle but powerful means of conveying not only identity, but also attitudes and values
- people are changing their speech styles in different social contexts
- government involvement in language planning often includes the declaration of official language for a particular region or entire country



- switching between languages


attitudes in dialect

- other varieties in different regions
- the local region dialect is used in everyday conversation
- it is assumed that everyone will learn the local variety in the home and acquire the stand language at school
ex. AAE - African American English


can your accent affect your life chances?

- negative attitudes towards accented speech
- RP (received pronunciation) is regarded as a prestige accent and an advantge by many employers in English
- certain regional accents are now an advantage if someone wants to get a job
- have to fight a battle with irrational prejudice in getting a job


mutual intelligibility

- used by linguists to determine whether people speak 'the same language'


pronouns of power and solidarity

- many languages have different second person pronouns which express the social relationship between the participants
- singular forms of the pronoun express familiarity and solidarity
- plural forms are more distant forms -> express formality
- the choice of pronouns differs in different cultures, in different societies, and in different eras or time periods


T and V

- T = powerful referred to the unpowerful with the singular form
- V = unpowerful referred to the powerful with the plural form
- to violate this usage would be worse than bad manners
- Use V as a sign of respect to elders and accept T
- between equals, people give and receive the same form
- upper classes use V to refer to equals
- lower classes use T to refer to equals

the power semantic and the solidarity semantic sometimes conflict

- if a person wishes to communicate power, it's necessary to use the T forms -> indicate solidarity

- if a person doesn't want to indicate solidarity, it's necessary to use the V forms -> indicate the lack of power


The English Case

- english also has two pronouns which signaled power
- the singular thou (thee) used by the powerful when addressing the powerless
- plural you (ye) used by the powerless when addressing the powerful
- thou disappeared and you became an all-purpose person pronoun


why did thou disappear?

1. antagonism against many of the new religious groups of the time
2. thou was shifted to express mood and tone than the pronouns of the continental languages
3. desire not to offend
4. thou was a more demanding pronound