02 April 2008

Language, Speech, and Discourse. Outcome #5 (Advanced Mastery Endevour)

Discuss the importance of analyzing the connections between language and culture.

We know that culture can be learnt and shared between people. But the most obvious and probably most important is that it carried out by means of language. Language and its relation to culture has key value for cultural anthropology. Language plays the major role in culture as it is primary transmission of the information and a management between people. But actually it not simple information interchange. This stronger effort by means of what we use language to influence outlook and actions of others.

I imagine that language is inseparable component of human culture. Besides, it is one of bases of human culture. I consider Language as an original matrix on which centuries had been put knowledge, concepts and beliefs by previous human civilizations. Further all this knowledge and belief is read out by the subsequent generations and in turn forms their culture. Thus language influences on the cultural environment.

Identify and explain one of the approaches to studying language

presented in the course material.

One of ways to comprehend communication between language and culture is Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

Hypothesis Sapir-Whorf (SWH) - a hypothesis of a linguistic relativity — the concept developed in the thirties of the XX-th century according to which the language structure defines thinking and a way of knowledge of a reality. According to this hypothesis it is supposed, that the people speaking in different languages, differently perceive the world and differently think. In particular, the relation to such fundamental categories as the space and time, depends first of all on the native language of the individual. The author of the concept is Whorf; this concept was conformable to some sights of the largest American linguist of first half of XX-th century Sapir (rendering Whorf support) and consequently usually is called not as "hypothesis Whorf», but as «Sapir-Whorf hypothesis».

SWH asserts, that our realities are generated or defined by our language, and that it so strongly influences our intellectual processes, that we can test only the world in frameworks and dynamics which gives us language. SWH forces us to think of the language and culture power to generate our sight and perception us of the surrounding validity and thus to generate our lives. To put it briefly, language on which people speak, operates their sight of the reality; it defines their perception of the world. The Universe picture moves from language to language. There are at least two various versions SWH. Stronger and more linguistic version of the determinist assert, that the reality-is an ideological construct. The second and less determined version, asserts, that language shapes and influences our prospects of the reality.

Exists another approach language influences on the person which has more applied character - it is Speech Act Theory.

One of basic concepts Speech Act Theory is that -if we are speaking something , we are actually doing something. When we speak, we not only do statements, exchanging the information, but we also give commands, forming relations, basing expectations. The pronouncing manner plays a key constituent role in events. In other words, that people speak, can define a way by which events are developed. According to Speech Act Theory, language it is not simple action as it is accepted in the "classical" theory of speech acts , but also influence on the interlocutor, as finds reflexion in aspect of the speech act. In other words, it is possible to tell, that language not simply displays a word meaning but also can force to operate whom or under influence words. One of positions Speech Act Theory consists that minimum unit of human communications is not only the offer or the statement, but realization of a certain kind of acts, such, as ascertaining, a question, an order, the description, an explanation, an apology, gratitude, a congratulation etc.

Apply the approach you chose to an example.

I think, that Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and Speech Act Theory are extremely important and have practical application. That is, they represent not only abstract and or abstruse ideas. If we consider prospects of how words form us and our validity, words which we use in any given speech case, we see that they have much more importance. Investigating speech actions by strict and thoughtful way, we can penetrate and understand essence of other cultures and subcultures.

As I would like to present an example, how language can influence formation of the whole nations and the people, on example a country where I was born - Ukraine . On the given example we will see practical application Sapir-Whorf hypothesis - as language (in this case Russian) can influence change of mentality of millions people.

Ukraine is the multinational country . The share of ethnic Ukrainians makes 77,8 %, 17,3 % of ethnic Russian and 4,9 % representatives more than 130 various nationalities. Historically so has developed that in the west of Ukraine ethnic Ukrainians talk only in the Ukrainian language, in the central regions of Ukraine the population uses two languages-the-Ukrainian language and Russian in the daily use (bilingual). In the east of Ukraine though ethnic Ukrainians make 61 % of the population but they practically do not talk in the Ukrainian language – the basic language of dialogue is Russian.

In view of that, our country throughout centuries was war arena; different parts of Ukraine were under control of different empires. Ukraine as the independent country exists only 17 years. East regions and the center of the country during of centuries were under the severe control of Russian empire where any ethnic self-identity of Ukrainians was pursued and destroyed. Thus ethnic Ukrainians have been compelled to use Russian as in a life and as an official language. Russian language has taken roots in these regions. This circumstance has strongly affected culture and mentality of east Ukrainians. The western regions were under control and influence of Austria-Hungary and Poland. In difference from Russian Empire in Austria-Hungary Empire Ukrainians were authorized to use widely the language (universities, schools, newspapers, magazines) and they have kept language in daily use. In turn , it has given the chance to keep the culture. The obvious parallel is observed – in western and partially central regions the Ukrainian language has remained; therefore, the Ukrainian culture has remained also. Unlike it in east regions the culture of Ukrainians has undergone serious changes under the influence of Russian and accordingly under the influence of Russian culture. During the period since 1917 to 1939 year the Center and the East of Ukraine were under the control of the USSR when practically all schools, colleges and Universities used Russian of studying instead of Ukrainian language. Since 1939 year all territory present Ukraine has appeared under the control of the USSR and even in the Western regions the Ukrainian schools and other educational institutions it also were closed and has strengthened influence on mentality of ethnic Ukrainians.

Fig#1 Used language in Ukraine.

In times of the USSR , known representatives of culture, the Ukrainian literature and art were pursued , and even put in prison or sent to Siberia. The Ukrainian language was less used even in a daily life of Ukrainians. All it was very seriously influence on culture of Ukrainians, especially in east regions of the country where, substantially ,their mentality became similar with mentality of Russian.

On the next example we actually will see practical application the Speech Act Theory - that if we are speaking something , we are actually doing something.

Practical level of consideration which I would like to show it as interrelation language and cultures relates to the power. Ideology and propaganda - one way to investigate this communication between culture and the power. If language really forms our thoughts, actions and desires which we hear things and we speak, should make necessarily huge impact on us or associates. It happens in set of levels, from mutual relations between people through political speeches. Understanding of that process, as people use words to convince other people, always is in the centre of political and social scientific reflexion and research.

As discussion continuation, I would like to show as division on language of the Ukrainian nation have been used by unscrupulous politicians in last ( 2004year ) the presidential elective company in Ukraine.

The candidate for presidents from east regions (Yanukovych), having strong support of the Russian mass media (on all territory the east of Ukraine Russian television channels have been broadcasted without hindrance for all time of presidential election ), constantly tried to use methods of split of Ukraine and Ukrainians by a language principle. He was as the representative of interests of the large Russian capital and Russian mafia in Ukraine.As result elective propaganda enmity among western, central and east Ukrainians was sowed. Intentionally and constantly president candidate from the east focused attention in the performances about sharp difference of Ukrainians from the east and Ukrainians from the West. Eventually Yanukovych even has started to suggest to separate east and southern lands from Ukraine and to attach them to Russia.Such destructive as a matter of fact for the country ideology has put Ukraine on a split and disorder side. People in the east and the south of Ukraine in view of that they looked telecasts read newspapers only in Russian were intensively are subject to Russian propaganda, and for Yanukovych 44,20 % of voters have voted. Inherently , it was dangerous enough - that for the person which proclaimed separative speeches , has voted so many Ukrainians. But this fact specifies in that what strong influence of propaganda in a modern society and as language can strongly influence consciousness of people.

In the western regions where ethnic self-identity has remained, people supported the candidate for presidents from democrats–Yushchenko (for it 51,99 % of voters) have voted. In view of that they used Russian language a little, and Russian television propaganda influenced their consciousness a little. Their values have been generated and focused on Europe. It is a lot of people from the Western Ukraine went often for work in the European countries. Therefore it is a lot of from them understood the European languages (Italian, Spanish, German, Polish, анлийский).They often looked television channels which were broadcast from the European countries , or they looked only television channels on Ukrainian language. It has led to strong enough influence on their outlook. Finally people from the western land of Ukraine have in large quantities acted in democratic nonviolent protest actions when it became known about massive falsifications of elective process on the East lands of Ukraine where on governor's posts there were people of a mafia. In the subsequent they were supported by Ukrainians from the central regions of Ukraine and there was a known Orange Democratic Revolution and Ukraine when was won by democracy, and the candidate from democrats Yushchenko became the president.

Characteristic citations from the press of those times (2004):

If anybody represents an above-regional Ukrainian solidarity, it is clearly Yushchenko. He speaks proper Russian as well as Ukrainian and his being a native of one of Ukraine’s most eastern oblasts and having spent his student and working life in western as well as central Ukraine cannot be matched by Yanukovych, whose biography is strictly mono-regional and whose Ukrainian is not perfect.”

“It’s also not a much of a news item that Yanukovych managed to scare some Russian speakers. There’s no language on earth whose speakers he wouldn’t scare. It’s much more remarkable how Yushchenko’s campaign let itself be turned into a handy scarecrow for the same constituency. Even its main slogans weren’t translated. When people gather at pro-opposition rallies in strictly russophone cities, they can only make speeches in Russian, but their chants are all in Ukrainian. In a way, it’s been remarkable to see Ukrainian make the transition (in Ukrainian-Russians’ eyes) from its traditional place of a bumpkin cousin of Russian to the language of civic courage”

Fig #2 Official breakdown Ukraine's presidential vote.

As we see in this example there is as an overlaying and peculiar connection between Speech Act Theory and Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

On the one hand we see as Russian use has considerably changed consciousness of Ukrainians and their culture (this real confirmation Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which argues that our realities are shaped or determined by our Languages) On the other hand we see as elective propaganda (it as a matter of fact practical application Speech Act Theory - that in saying something we are actually doing something) has led to serious changes in consciousness of people as in the east and in the west of Ukraine. It in turn caused widespread actions of the protest - Orange Democratic Revolution.

Evaluate the approach you chose and relate it to your own perspective on language.

In fact , earlier, I looked at language enough simplified - as on a communication tool between people .But, after I have studied a material, I’ve tried to use it in practical application. As a result, mine perspective on language has strongly changed.

Even in the beginning of studying of this theme, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and Speech Act Theory to me seemed as abstract and a little applicable ideas in practice. But when I have started to study more deeply them , I have made for myself opening of those processes in consciousness of people that occurred in Ukraine. To me it became clear as language intensively influences and shape culture. Therefore, I have started to realize importance Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and Speech Act Theory. I have seen that they in general are extremely important and have practical application. I also have realized as influence elective propaganda and ideology on people , and that it can result to serious and drama events .

1 comment:

Matt Archer said...

Another awesome post Highlander! Your conceptual discussion was clear and right on target. Your example was wonderfully done!

You've demonstrated ADVANCED mastery of the Language, Speech and Discourse learning unit.