Relationship between Language and Culture

Intro to Sociolinguistics
An exploration into the relationship
between language and culture.
Fundamental Question
a. What is the relationship between language and culture?
b. Humans are the only animal to have culture.
c. Humans are the only animal to have language.
d. How do the two connect?
e. What is language? “what members of a particular
society speak” (Wardhaugh 1).
Different Meanings of Language
a. I know I don't speak English correctly.
b. Most French-Canadians prefer to speak French, even though they can
speak English too.
c. The treaty wasn't ready to sign until both sides had a chance to look over
the language.
d. A polyglot is someone who knows many languages. A linguist is someone
who can analyze language structure.
e. English is the most widely-spoken language in the world.
f. American thought and language.
g. I need to work on my language skills.
h. When Fred speaks to Sam, sometimes he uses English and sometimes Arabic.
Let’s have a go at discussion
question 4 on page 7 of
Three Views of Language
o Language as Grammar:
o Language as communication:
o Language as thing:
Language as Grammar
The object of a science of linguistics (Saussure).
Noam Chomsky
•Syntactic Structures
•Review of Skinner: ‘Verbal
Behavior’ (1959)
Universal Grammar
difference between surface structure and
deep structure in language
• Three sub-systems
• Representational
• Phonology (sounds), graphic, gestural
• Lexical
morphology; words and morphemes
(Syn)tactic = syntax
Language as communication
Language as Text.
The Interaction of People
The Interpretation of Texts
What do you communicate? Ideas? Emotions?
How do you communicate?
The interpretation of messages
The construction of messages
Language as thing
• Language as an element in social constructs.
• Language planning, code switching, dialect
Note: to distinguish between and language
and communication,
look at the following questions:
1. Is language as Dawkins suggests part of the
DNA of homosapiens?
2. Is there a “creative” component (the horrible
honeybee story)
Competence v. Performance
Approaches to language and culture
Wardhaugh, quite sensibly, argues that sociolinguistics is
both macrolinguistic and microlinguistic:
• Microlinguistic-- language emphasis
• Macrolinguistics – social emphasis
• Whorf, Politeness; French Structuralism (Lévi-Strauss).
Communicative approaches: p. 14
Language and power (Fairclough), Social construction of
reality (Berger and Luckmann); Language and
Symbolic Power (Bourdieu); Pragramatics (Austin)
Use Approaches:
Language Planning, Multilingualism
Let’s take five more minutes to
chat about discussion questions
2, 5, and 6 on pp. 15 and 16 of
Relations between language and
culture Wardhaugh pp. 9-11
1. Social structure may influence or
determine linguistic structure
and/or behaviour
2. Linguistic structure/behaviour
influences or determines social
structure (Whorfian hypothesis)
3. Language and society affect
each other
4. No relationship at all between
language and culture
Desperate Definitions:
Sociolinguistics is an attempt to
find correlations between
linguistic structure and social
“whatever it is, is about asking
important questions concerning
the relationship of language to
society” (Wardhaugh 11)
This is not reassuring
• Even our textbook seems unable to give us
a straightforward, agreed upon definition of
• Let’s try the discussion questions on page
12 of Wardhaugh. Get into groups of 4 or 5
and take 15 minutes to go over questions 1
and 2.
Methodological principles
Wardhaugh p. 18
1. Cumulative
2. Uniformation
3. Convergence
4. Subordinate shift
5. Style shifting
6. Attention
7. Vernacular
8. Formality
More Discussion
• There is a connection between questions 1
and 4 on p. 19 of Wardhaugh. What can we
say about historical vs synchronic
linguistics, about written vs spoken
• I told you sociolinguistics is squishy. Can
you all remind me what we learn about our
topic of study from chapter 1 of Wardhaugh
and this pitiful powerpoint? What is most
important? 3 things? 5 things? 10 things?
• What will you remember in 10 years about
Irrelevant but interesting
L. Ron Hubbard
• All men are your slaves," he once
wrote in a diary entry unearthed
during a 1984 lawsuit. He
reportedly once claimed to have
written a manuscript that contained
such brutal truths that anyone who
read it went insane or committed