Grammar Essay

4566 words - 18 pages

The relationship between language and culture is a reciprocal one. With the understanding that culture is defined as learned perceptions and reactions to the world around us; language, to some extent, reflects and defines how we think about and view culture. An example of this idea is the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. This hypothesis contains two main principles; Linguistic Determinism and Linguistic Relativity (Yazdani). The first principle speaks to the idea that language, to one degree or another, determines how we think about the culture within which we exist. The second principle strengthens the first by asserting that a particular culture's language develops and exists relative to its culture's beliefs, values, feelings and behaviors. In essence, language and culture help to create, foster and promote each other.An example of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis may be found in the different vocabulary used to describe English and Korean sibling relations. English uses the words "sister" and "brother" to describe any and all female or male siblings (although it is understood that speakers may preface either word with "older" or "younger" if more specificity is needed). Korean, however, has a separate lexicon with at least eight different terms for sister or brother. Each of these eight terms corresponds with the age and gender relationship of the speaker towards the sibling. An example of this is "noona" which is used by males to describe an older sister and "oh-ni" which, in turn, is used by females to describe an older sister. The relationship between these English and Korean language features is grounded in their respective cultures. The English language is used in cultures where family relations are generally linear and equitable. Korean family relations, however, are hierarchical in respect to age and gender as proscribed by Confucian ideals. This means that English language culture places limited value on sibling relationship and therefore has a limited nomenclature to describe. The Korean language culture, in contrast, places a high value on sibling relationship and, as a result, has a detailed vocabulary to describe. When using their languages to express sibling relationships, English and Korean speakers both define, internalize and reaffirm their respective cultural paradigms of 'family.' This is true for all other language uses and cultural manifestations.With the above relationship of culture and language understood, I will now look at a particular aspect of culture that is universal yet disparate. Humor and culture have a relationship not dissimilar to language and culture. Mintz points out "our contemporary humor confronts virtually everything that is important to us in ways that make us understand ourselves and our society more thoroughly, more deeply, more meaningfully" (Mintz p. viii). People everywhere laugh but they laugh at different things. During the time that I lived in Korea, I experienced this phenomena many times as I, one in an...

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