Is Language Influenced by Culture?

1236 Words Mar 9th, 2014 5 Pages
The University of Hong Kong
CCHU9042
Human Language: Nature or Nurture?

Final Report

Is Language Influenced by Culture?

Culture and language have long been believed to be intimately interrelated. Defined by anthropologist Tylor (1871, p.1), culture is "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society." People learn culture through language. Language, one of the most distinctive characteristics of human, is unique to human with its productive and creative nature (Hockett, 1960). This essay aims to discuss how language is influenced by culture. CL7 and Gossophilia
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Although I agree with the point that religion shapes people’s language, these examples may not be logical enough. Suggested by Crystal (1965), the word “good” has completely different meanings for Christian and non-Christian. “Good” is associated with “penance”, “suffering” and “charity” for Christian but “happiness” and “satisfaction” for non-Christian. Their different contextual meaning of “good” could be explained by Christians’ belief to pay for their sins through penance and contribute to God through “charity” to fulfill goodness. This piece of evidence may reveal the influence of religion, which is a part of culture, on language.

Glossophilia justified social strata’s influence on language through honorific speech in Japanese, linguistic imperialism and social classes, with concrete examples, like English’s influence on Irish language. Their logical argument and evidence, which are coherent with the evidence about Japanese’s politeness marker and honorific speech raised by group CL7, have convinced me. I agree with their point that social strata, as a part of culture, influence how people use language. Both groups emphasize honorific speech of Japanese, which is suitable for this view. It is also supported by Tsujimura (1992) that Japanese uses honorific
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