By examining conversations of elderly Japanese women, linguist Yoshiko Matsumoto uncovers language techniques that help people move past traumatic events and regain a sense of normalcy. The broadening or dissolution of their original meanings tended to just happen slowly over time with usage. Or if you were learning English, you can find lots of examples of the historical and cultural values reflected in typical English expressions and idioms by just listening to an episode of NPR’s radio program “A Way with Words.”. The UK version tends to sound very formal and excessively wordy to the more casual and direct Americans and Australians. All Rights Reserved. It’s a hypothesis supported by professor Lera Boroditsky who wrote a whole paper on the topic of linguistic relativity. We’ve discussed how closely related language and culture is and by association, the importance of learning the etymology of a language. We all use language to express our thoughts. Cultural differences of the people in a group/team affect effective communication among them both positively and negatively. While cognitive scientists have found some evidence that language shapes thought processes, it’s difficult to tell to what extent language changes our culture and ethics, or whether it’s culture affecting language. Words like ‘giraffe’ come from the Arabic and ‘bungalow’ from Urdu, to name but a few. For their part, the English tend to view American communications as brash and ill-considered, and often more than a little too friendly for their tastes. How language and culture connects with each other? The culture in which a person develops will have its own values, beliefs and tools of intellectual adaptation. Or is it the other way around? Clearly, the influence of that culture has left its mark. All participants read one of two reports, identical apart from the last line in the first document being ‘ripped the costume’ and the second reading ‘the costume ripped’. The English-peaking participants were more likely to remember the culprits of the accidental events than the Spanish or Japanese speakers, which suggested that the active voice may encourage higher rates of blame. Have you just memorized their definitions or translations, or do you understand what they mean and what they imply when spoken? (Download). For example, just looking at all the Chinese idioms dealing with family demonstrates the value they place on this relationship and tells us a little about the family construct and potential dynamics. Language can play a big role in how we and others perceive the world, and linguists work to discover what words and phrases can influence us, unknowingly. Take a brief look into the world of etymology (the study of word origins and development) and you’ll find that many words once meant one thing but now mean something else entirely. It’s likely that native language speakers are critical for true market success. But new research suggests that inherent structures in languages shape our thoughts without us realizing it. The same goes with language and culture. If one compares American newspaper texts from a few decades ago to those of today, there is a noticeable drop in level of vocabulary and sentence complexity. It includes language, art, music, mannerisms, religion, games, dress, rituals, law and belief. And one more thing: if I’m ever in an accident, I hope it’s in a non-agency language like Spanish. Yet as Charles Sykes argues in “Dumbing Down Our Kids,” materials used to teach kids to read have been dumbed down as well, below the level of many newspapers. These distinctions helped evolve the respective language over centuries. But you’re kind of missing the point.
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