Fishman: Language in relation to culture
A sociolinguistic view of language
In this chapter, Risiger describe the two ' natural' loci of language, linguistic practice and linguistic resources. An analysis of the relationship between language and culture must start with a basic distinction being made between three points of view concerning language: a sociological, a psychological and a system–oriented view.
The concept of languaculture include three dimensions:
the semantic–pragmatic dimension;
the poetic dimension;
the identity dimension.
Michael Agar: Languaculture
In Michael Agar books Language Shock. Understanding the culture of conversation, the author distinguished two conceptions of culture. On the one hand, there is the widespread conception that culture is something one 'has'; on the other hand there is the conception of culture of which he himself is a spokesman, that culture is something that happens to the individual in everyday life:
Culture is.... what happens to you when you encounter differences, become aware of something in yourself, and work to figure out why the differences appeared. Culture is an awareness, a consciousness, one that reveals the hidden self and opens paths to other ways of being (Agar, 1994).
Agar introduces the concept of 'languaculture' in order to sum up culture and language in one world.
He has in general highly language–oriented conception of culture, as he says 'Culture starts when you realize that you've got a problem with language, and the problem has to do with who you are' (Agar, 1994). Culture is personal and relational: it arises in concrete situations and has to do with differences between concrete individuals.
Agar expresses a clearly integrative views of language that focuses on the semantics of language and its use in linguistic practice, especially in conversation ( we can use 'discourse' as do Tannen, Gumpertz and Scollon&Scollon). He says about language that it is loaded with culture:
Language, in all its varieties, in all the ways it appears in everyday life, builds a world of meanings. When you run into different meanings, when you become aware of your own and work to build a bridge to the others, 'culture' is what you're up to. Language fills the spaces between us with sound; culture forges the human connection through them. Culture is in language, and language is loaded with culture.
The term 'languaculture' stresses two relations: ' The langua in languaculture is about discourse, not just about words and sentences. And culture in languaculture is about meanings that include, but go well beyond, what the dictionary and the grammar offer'. Agar is favourable with the weak version of Whorfian hypothesis, with formulation like that: “ Language carries with it patterns of seeing, knowing talking, and acting. Not pattern that imprison you, but patterns that mark the easier trails for thought and perception and action (Agar, 1994).
The places in conversation where people misunderstand each other are referred to by Agar as 'rich point'. It is there that there is the opportunity to glimpse ' culture', to become conscious of cultural differences. So there are three phases on the way to 'culture': mistake, awareness, repair'.
Agar says that words are the surface of culture: ' culture is a conceptual system whose surface appears in the words of people's language. Agar also uses the structuralist contrast between expression (signifiant) and content (signifié) when he says that 'Language is the signifier of culture concepts' (Agar, 1994).
Paul Friedrich: Linguaculture
Friedrich describes the concept of 'linguaculture' in these words:
a domain of experience that fuses and intermingles the vocabulary, many semantic aspects of grammar, and the verbal aspects of culture, both grammar and culture have underlying structure while they are constantly being used and constructed by actual people on the ground.
Risager argues for a 'languaculture' in a differential sense in order to say that ' the individual language' has its special languaculture; Newcastle English has its special languaculture, ecc.
This differential concept of languaculture will be analysed in three dimensions:
• the semantic–pragmatic dimension;
• the poetic dimension;
• the identity dimensional
The single linguistic event is fusion of linguistic, langua–cultural and discursive practise. It is this fused unity that Risager intends to use as my point of departure.
Van Dijk makes this following interim definition : “we may provisionally define a context as the structure of those properties of the social situation that are systematically relevant for discourse'.
In Schiffrin (1994), there is an overview of various ways of understanding the concept of context n linguistis. Schiffrin distinguishes between a cognitive and a social/situational undestanding of context: linguistic speech act theory and universal pragmatics see context as a type of knowledge that is linked to linguistic competence, cognitive approach. Disciplines such as interactional sociolinguistics and discourse analysis, the ethnography of communication, linguistic anthropology and ethno–methodological conversation analysis operate with a concept of context is perceived as part of the reality between the interlocutors and cognition. The ethno–methodological conversation analysis operate with a concept of context that also comprises the text itself, where a central research interest concentrates on showing how people via the course of conversation create and reshape the social situation and interpret and reinterpret in an ongoing way what has already been said and thereby also what is expected to be said.
Cultural context in a systematic functional perspective.
Halliday and Hasan (1989) describes the content of the concept 'context of culture':
The context of situation, however, is only the immediate environment. There is also a broader background against which the text has to be interpreted: its context of culture. Any actual context of situation, the particular configuration of field, tenor and mode that has brought a text into being, is not just a random jumble of features but a totality of things that typically go together in the culture.
People do these things on these occasions and attach these meanings and values to them: this is what a culture is.
In Risager, the concept of cultural context emphasise the side of every context that conveys meaning and can be seen both as social life and cultural life. While the analysis of social life will typically be interested in the relational aspects of activities and institutions, the analysis of cultural life will typically be interested in the aspects that convey and create meaning. These two sides cannot be separated from each other. All social life conveys and creates meaning, and all exchange of meaning is relational, inscribed in power relations of various kinds. Indeed, it is necessary to distinguish between its objective and subjective dimensions. The objective dimension has to do with the concrete, material anchoring in time and space, and with the actual social organization, the material interests and power relations. The subjective dimension has to do with the conception of the situation (scene), with the ascribing of meaning, with how people and groups interpret the world.
Linguistic/languacultural and discursive practice mainly creates (constructs) images of culture and society, models of situations and roles. It can also contribute to changing the material conditions,but this again calls for power if it is to be effective. The development of society contributes to a great extent on the other hand to language users developing and differentiating their linguistic/languacultural and discursive resources, including their conceptual potential and linguistic behavior patterns.
The life context
The life history of the individual can be considered as a special type of macro–context: a life context that can be analysed in an objective dimension and subjective dimension. The life context has to do with the social and personal development of the individual in a sociocultural perspective, and so it differs from the cognitive understanding of context.
Michael Byram (1989) said: “... the tendency to treat language quite independently of the culture to which it constantly refers, cannot be justified; it disregards the nature of language.
The language–specific denotations and connotations are a part of the languacultural resources. They have accumulated through linguistic practice in fairly small first–language communities and spread via various networks, including such cultural apparati as the national school.
cultural representations are built up in discourses, and they convey images of or narratives of culture and society in particular contexts. One must distinguish between two different ways of understanding the concept of cultural representation: it can be either be a representation of 'culture' in a particular context, or a representation that adopts a particular cultural point of departure or perspective. One could refer to two kinds of look: a look at culture and a look out from culture.
The communicative Event
The basic unit of the link between language and culture is a particular interpretation of the communicative event, a concept that is central in linguistic anthropology, especially within the ethnography of communication. Saville–Troike defines a communicative event as follows:
The communicative event is the basic unit for descriptive purposes. A single event is defined by a unified set of components throughout, beginning with the same general purpose of communication, the same general topic, and involving the same participants, generally using the same language variety, maintaining the same tone or key and the same rules for interaction, in the same setting.
Languacultural dimensions in Michael Agar.
Agar deals with the misunderstandings and cultural awareness that can arise in connection with conversations, both when it is a question of the ‘ same language’ and when it is a question of ‘different languages’. He refers to Gumperz’s work on interethnic conversations and to R. Scollon and Scollon’s work on intercultural (interdiscursive) communication, and also to Hannerz.
Agar (1994:20) argues that: Culture is... what happens to you when you encounter differences, become aware of something in yourself, and work to figure out why the differences appeared. Culture is an awareness, a consciuoness, one that reveals the hidden self and opens paths to other ways of being.
Agar introduces the concept of ‘languaculture’ in order to be able to sum up culture and language in one word. Agar has in general a language–oriented conception of culture, as he says ‘Culture starts when you realize that you’ve got a problem with language, and the problem has to do with who are you’ (Agar, 1994). Culture is personal and relational: it arises in concrete situations and has to do with differences between concrete individuals. Agar expresses a clearly integrative view of language that focuses on the semantics of language and its use in linguistic practice, especially in conversations (here he uses the term ‘discourse’, as do Tannen, Gumperz and Scollon&Scollon).
He says about language that it is loaded with culture:
Language, in all its varieties, in all the ways it appears in everyday life, builds a world of meanings.
When you run into different meanings, when you become aware of your own and work to build a bridge to the others, ‘culture’ is what you’re up to. Language fills the spaces between us with sound; culture forges the human connection through them. Culture is in language, and language is loaded with culture. Agar deals with the so–called weak version of the Whorfian hypothesis, with such formulations as: ‘language carries with it pattern of seeing, knowing, talking and acting. Not patterns that imprison you, but patterns that mark the easier trails for thought and perception and action (1994:71). Agar proposes that what Whorf was really talking about was ‘languaculture’.
The places in conversation where people misunderstand each other are referred to by Agar as ‘rich points’. It is there that there is the opportunity to glimpse ‘culture’, to become conscious of cultural differences and he says that words are the surface of culture: ‘culture is a conceptual system whose surface appears in the words of people’s language’. At the same time, he also uses the structuralist contrast between expression (signifiant) and content (signifié) when he says that ‘Language is the signifier of culture concepts’.