Does Language Shape our Cultural Understandings

Does Language Shape our Cultural Understandings - Does...

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Does Language Shape our Cultural Understandings? One very powerful tool used by human beings is our capacity for language. Language is a complex set of symbols which allow us to communicate verbally, nonverbally, and in written form. Chinese, Spanish, English, Arabic, Hindi, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese, Standard German, and Wu Chinese comprise about 40 percent of the spoken languages in the world. How you view the world around you, your social construction of reality, and your world- taken-for-granted all stem in part from the language you learn to speak. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis claims that when we learn a language, we also learn a framework for understanding and interpreting our social reality and environment. That means that your rules of conjugation, sentence structure, math, etc. shape your thought patterns. For example, in English (a language which descended from German) we describe our physical condition using the “to be” verb of “I am.” We say “I am: cold, hot, hungry, tired, 22 years old, or fat.” In many Latin-derived languages such as Spanish and French, they describe their physical condition using the “to have” verb. “I have: cold, hot, hunger, fatigue, 22 years, or extra weight.” Given the enormous pressure felt by women to be thin and to conform to unrealistic beauty standards, the “To have” verb is much more palatable. Since the language is the vehicle that facilitates socialization of the culture, it becomes a crucial factor in either the survival or eventual death of a culture—if the language disappears, so does the culture (Google search “Dalmatian language” for an example). In Quebec, Canada the French language was suppressed after Napoleon agreed to the Louisiana
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This note was uploaded on 12/04/2011 for the course ANTHRO 2000 taught by Professor Monicaoyola during the Fall '10 term at Broward College.

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Does Language Shape our Cultural Understandings - Does...

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