A universal language equals a boring existence

Language is a key component to culture.  You see the variations, even in similar languages such as the romance languages.  What sets Portuguese apart from Spanish?  Italian from these?  French from them?  Latin from all the others that came from it?  If you look at each language, and areas they came from, you see unique details that set each one apart.

Our language is shaped by what we as a cultural experience.  Our experience is shaped by our environment.  Our vocabulary is shaped by what we have need to describe or talk about.  An example is the word “snow”.  In English, we use the word “snow” to describe frozen precipitate.  We also can talk about sleet, slush, hail, rain, drizzle and a few others to describe differences in the precipitate.  However, we still use “snow” to mean the white frozen stuff on the ground.  We might describe it as slushy snow, wet snow, fluffy snow, and other terms, but we still use the foundational word “snow” with descriptors.  However, in Inuit languages they have numerous different words for “snow”.  In their culture and environment, being able to easily and concisely describe differences in snow is important.  Hence, their language is changed by their environment and cultural needs.

Words that mean one thing in one culture may very well mean another in a different culture.  Just do some research on “randy” in American English and in British English?  Generally, Randy is a name in America.  Given the meaning of the word in British English, it is very unlikely to be a formal name for a man but may be an unkind nickname instead.

Even in the same language, same location, and era, language can be affected by culture.  One generation may use a turn of phrase to express caring, while the next generation uses the same as a brush off.  This can cause a great deal of confusion at times and significant miscommunication.  Cultural changes over time affect language, and language changes affect culture in turn.  The viewpoint of the time and culture affects interaction and language patterns.  An example of this is even seen in music.  Think of the differences between urban rap music, popular country music, soulful jazz, and many others.  Each is reflective of a particular culture and viewpoint, complete with its own particular vocabulary, cadence and intensity.

Cultures also view non-verbal communication differently.  In one culture it may be impolite to look an elder in the eyes, and in another it is considered rude and disrespectful to NOT look the same person directly in the eyes.  Hand gestures mean very different things from one culture to another and many people have accidentally insulted someone when they were in a cultural context they were unfamiliar with.

Culture and language impact each other directly and indirectly and are both continuously changing.  This lends beauty and creativity to interaction, but also can lend many challenges.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.