Thinking and communicating: Social and cultural role

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  • Created by: melissa
  • Created on: 09-05-15 13:08

Social and cultural role of language

Language= a combination of sounds and symbols used for communication. 

Social role= to shape attitudes and behaviour towards each other. 

Cultural role= to pass on culture to the next generation. 

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Sapir-Whorf hypothesis

There are certain thoughts of an individual in one language that cannot be understood by those in another. Language changes the way we think and act. Different cultures have different words for objects and people so will describe the world differently.

For example, the singing women of Naya; language has a symbolic meaning. The patua communities of west Bengal pain and compose on scrolls to transmit culture and social concerns. 

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language and power: Bourdieu

Cultural capital is the ideas and knowledge that people draw upon as they participate in social life. Everything from rules of etiquette to being able to speak and write effectively can be considered cultural capital.    Capital =something of value 

Bourdieu: defined it as high cultural knowledge that ultimately redounds to the owner's financial and social advantage.

We respond to hearing dialects or accents subconsciously- we associate it with someone's identity/status. All words convey some form of ideology. What emerges as the prominent language in society can be the result of extensive conflicts: in France, French became the official dialect whilst local dialects became subordinate. 

The kayapo value themselves as beautiful speakers, as opposed to all other groups who speak harshly and are looked down upon. In important religious ceremonies men will speak as if they were being punched in the stomach. By changing their tone of voice they can emphasise importance of the ceremony. 

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Chomsky: species specific, universal and instincti

Humans have a more developed language and can use language creatively. Complex rules for syntax and grammar allows us to speak about things not present (displacement). We have a separate model in the brain for language. Instinctive not learnt as we can just do it, infants acquire language piece by piece in basically the same way worldwide regardless of the culture. 

e.g. Jody lost her memory of events in her life but not the ability to speak. 

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Dunbar's evolution language : social grooming

Social grooming hypothesis- language evolved to make social relationships in primate groups easier. In non-human primate groups- social order and cohesion can be maintained through long periods of physical grooming. This grooming promotes close bonds and intimacy and dampens social conflict. Language evolved as an effective way to communicate that includes complex vocalisations as well as physical action. Speech can be used to "groom" more than one member of society at a time. 

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Language: issues of cultural relativism

There is no advanced language, all languages are adequate to meet the needs of the people who speak them. Although the content varies, language may be thought of as a code system. Anthropologists can only gain depth of understanding of a society by learning the language people use to communicate, including the non-verbal language and what is considered taboo: difficult to gain a subjective understanding through transition alone. 

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David Crystal: "txting":

national survey carried out by Kate Fox in 2001 for the Social Issues Research. Most of her focus-group participants saw texting as an important means of maintaining contact in a large social network. texting can help them to overcome their awkwardness and develop their social and communication skills; they communicate with more people and more frequently than they did before having access to mobile texting. 

Texting is cheaper than ringing and speaking but among young people quickly emerged as an index of belonging.  Shared text behaviour shows you belong to the same ‘gang’. Doesn't require time.

Functions: social and informative. 

Concerns over texting: Text messages blamed for declining standards in written language. Text messages destroying our language.Text messaging appearing in exam answers – but in reality this is rare.  

English has had abbreviated words ever since it began to be written down. Words such as exam, vet, fridge, cox and bus are so familiar that they have effectively become new words. empowered the deaf, the shared writing system reducing the gap between them and hearing people.   Young people value its role both as a badge of identity, like accents and dialects. 

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