This morning my roommate, Alisa and I all went to Alisa’s university for a second lecture on culture differences. Below are some excerpts from my notes as notated with quotation marks. They began by asking what culture is. To define culture it was contrasted with nature (from the Latin nascere: to be born). According to the presentation, “nature refers to what is born and grows organically” while “culture refers to what has been grown and groomed.” The main question was: “Are human beings mainly what nature determines them to be since birth or through socialization?”
Then we moved on to discuss language and culture. Claire Kramsch’s book “Language and Culture” was referenced for this portion of the presentation. We learned that language and culture “express, embody and symbolize cultural reality.”
Express: “language is the principal means whereby we conduct our social lives. Words refer to the knowledge about the world that other people share and reflect attitudes, beliefs and points of view that are also those of others.”
Embody: “through verbal and non-verbal aspects. The way people use mediums creates meanings that are understandable to the groups they belong to.”
Symbolize: “language is a system of signs that has itself a cultural value. Language is a symbol of people’s social identity. Speakers identify themselves through their use of language. The prohibition of its use is perceived as a rejection of their social group and their cultureàrejecting social identity.”
I was especially intrigued by the element of symbolization. I think identity through language is fascinating, especially when someone is bi- or multi-lingual.
What do you think? Is one of these elements more interesting than the others? What about the nature vs. nurture debate? Have you read Kramsch’s book? Has it been accurately interpreted?
More on the second half of the lecture in tomorrow’s post.