7.1. Language and Culture
1)What Is Culture?
In a broad sense, culture means the total
way of life of a people including the
patterns of belief, customs, objects,
institutions, techniques, and language
that characterizes the life of the human
In a narrow sense, culture may refer to
local or specific practice, beliefs of
customs, which can be mostly found
in folk culture, enterprise culture or
food culture etc.
2) Classification of culture
1. Material cultural: concrete, substantial
2. Spiritual culture: theproducts of mind
(ideologies, beliefs, values and concepts
of time and space, for example), abstract,
ambiguous, and hidden
3). Culture Vs. Nature
Nature refers to what is born and grows, while
culture refers to what has been grown and
brought up with, in other words, what can be
Language and culture: A dialectical relationship
1. Every language is part of a culture. As such, it
cannot but serve and reflect cultural needs.
2. Yet, in another sense, language is not a passive
reflector or culture. It reinforces and preserves
beliefs and customs and conditions their future
course. (胡壮麟等 1988：250)
4) The relationship between language
Language and culture: A relationship of
“part to whole”
Culture is a wider system that completely
includes language as a subsystem.
5) Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
It is a hypothesis concerning the relationship
between language and thought, proposed by
Whorf, under the influence of Sapir, his
teacher. According to this hypothesis, the
structure of the language people habitually
use influences the ways they think and behave.
That is to say, different languages offer people
different ways of express the world around,
they think and speak differently.
All observers are not led by the same physical
environment to same picture of universe,
unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar,
or can in some way be calibrated. (Whorf
The strong and the weak version
Strong: the language patterns determine
people’s thinking and behavior.
Weak: the language patterns influence
people’s thinking and behavior.
L L C
1. Language both expresses and embodies cultural
2. As a product of culture, language helps
perpetuate the culture, and the changes in
language uses reflect the cultural changes in
3. Cultural determinism Vs. linguistic determinism
7.2 Language and Society
7.2.1The Scope of Sociolinguistics
Sociolinguistics is the sub-field of linguistics
that studies the relation between language
and society, between the uses of language
and the social structures in which the users
of language live.
The standard variety is a superimposed,
socially prestigious dialect of a language.
It is the language by the government and
the judiciary system, used by the mass
media, and taught in educational
institutions, including school settings
where the language is taught as a foreign
or second language.
Features of the standard variety
1. It is based on a selected variety of the
language, usually it is the local speech of an area
which is considered the nation’s political and
2. It is not a dialect a child acquires naturally
like his regional dialect, rather it is taught and
learnt in schools.
3. It has some special functions and it the
language used on any formal occasions.
Definition: A pidgin is a special
language variety that mixes or
blends languages and it is used by
people who speak different
languages for restricted purposes
such as trading.
Features: limited vocabulary and
very reduced grammatical structure
Definition: When a pidgin has become the
primary language of a speech community,
and is acquired by the children of that
speech community as their native language,
it is said to have become a Creole.
Features: the structure of the original
pidgin is expanded, the vocabulary vastly
enriched, new syntactic-semantic concepts
Bilingualism refers to the situation where in
some speech communities toe languages are
used side by side with each having a
different role to play, and language
switching occurs when the situation changes.
Note Rubin’s 5 major variables to be
considered in predicting language use in
Digglossia refers to the situation where in some
speech communities two varieties of a language
exist side by side throughout the community,
with each having a definite role to play.
Feature: the specialization of function of the two
varieties, each variety being the appropriate
language for certain situations with very slight