Language and Culture

Subtopic 1: The Role of Media’s Influence on Language and Culture

Description of Concrete Experience: I was born and raised in Mullins South Carolina in the United States. At the age of 19 years old, I moved out to Atlanta Georgia where I met my husband, Olayinka Akinsowon, then 20 years old. Akinsowon is from West Africa and a native Nigerian.

It is from him that I experienced the African language and culture. Essentially, the South Carolina’s people are very slow though very hospitable. The people freely communicate with each other regardless of whether they are familiar with each other or not.

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If you don’t speak to others freely, then you are considered rude and this hospitality makes other people feel comfortable. The southern people commonly use food to welcome another person into their home or place of work. They may use the media to announce a family dinner to everyone so that even the customers can visit and patronage their businesses.

Reflection: I became interested in the spread of English as a language used by many cultures across the world. The media-bound varieties of language are increasingly coming up and a result I deduce that media are both vehicles of culture spread and diversification and also contribute to the changing use of language. I think that media are more than a neutral channel by which American culture spreads since it has been very dominant.

English paramountcy as language has been cemented by the dealers in media properties like computers, television, and music etc. the media is not limited to spread of language but the new varieties of English like slung and culture in general. I consider the media as a tool and infrastructure of passing information among people as a result also passes their character and beliefs which naturally have an effect on language.

Generalization/Principles/Theories: the effect of media on language and culture play a crucial role in the distinction of the American society and also affects it in national terms by comparing the American English and other varieties of use of English in different cultures.

For example, my husband comes from the Yoruba people of Nigeria and he is from the tribe of Ibo. As part of their business strategy to win the trust of clients and business partners, they usually offer food of gifts of good monetary value to create friendships. Language is a kind of capital that is used differently by different kinds of people to address cultural and social issues.

This is why I think that linguistic prowess influences beliefs. for instance if an individual in Nigeria just like my husband is able to switch between the standard English and local dialect depending on the situation, then this individual can attain a higher social status or identity or power in the community.

Testing and Application: the many improvements in the media are greatly influencing the way we live and behave. I strongly believe that the media and entertainment in general has already influenced our thinking and feelings as the American society.

The southerners consider media as a learning opportunity in that they can easily believe facts that are passed through the media. The media has improved from paper texts, to voice in radio, to pictures and voice on TV to broadband on internet, hence making this a media rich society.

With media taking almost every aspect if our lives, I think it is a great influence on values and beliefs. Extensive use of English in media for instance has served to reinforce foreign culture to societies that are originally non-English speakers. This demonstrates that there is cultural distinction between those fluent in English and those who are not. People are therefore seen adopting sedentary lifestyles and materialistic norms part of their normal way of life.

Subtopic 2: The Influence of Science and Technology in Language and Culture

Description of Concrete Experience: before we observed great advances in media technology, all the children could do was to read, play with educational toys and non-advertising content. This made all the change in the society and as far as see it was not detrimental to culture. However the great developments of today have sparked a new wave of living our daily lives.

We spent the day playing video games, watching television or listening to music on our iPods, as such, technology is more important than ever hence making the society a materialist one. The level of technology development sometimes can affect communicative interaction with users. In the US, telecommunication has developed to its best potential and signal for call is strong and always available.

However I realized that I always took that for granted until when I experienced communication problems when talking to my husband when visits his relative back in his village in Nigeria. He explained to me that even in the smaller villages of Ondo, several families share one phone line! Someone may have to go to another family member to inform them that they have a call to receive.

Reflection: the communicative affordances play a crucial role in facilitating or limiting interaction. The medial type is very significant in this case. In some parts of the world like in the villages of Nigeria where my husband comes from, telephone signal is interrupted or very week hence this can affect the use of language.

Besides, advance technology like chat room on the internet is not available to them. Otherwise in the American society I have seen the way such technologies have affected our language. Chat rooms have steered a certain language that is attached to it for effective communication. This language has certain terms that denote certain actions or meanings.

Slang is the most advanced language influence from technology. It is usually seen when we use contractions of phrases and abbreviations or modification of words from Standard English. New media brings with it new forms of communication and ensures a great deal of linguistic creativity and innovativeness. I find myself using words like … ‘LOl!’ meaning laughing out loud, and ‘am cul’ meaning that I am doing fine… among other expressions when chatting with friends on the internet.

Generalization/Principles/Theories: I realize that the use of language is generated by a different media hence it is not possible to speak a single new language on the internet and over the phone or other media. Rather language has different usages depending on what we are talking about, for example a chat or an email.

This essentially means that the features offered by the technology being used and the cultural contest where it is being applied have decisive influence on the kind of language that will be used. Despite the great differences that exist among the media technologies, there have been some common uses and the most salient have been mixing of the oral and written expressions.

It is amazing how these media types have influenced our vocabulary and how words that begun as company names are used as verbs by most people to mean the same thing. I of tell people to “google it” when am asking or telling them to search of find something from the internet. ‘Tweeting’, ‘googling’, ‘friending’, ‘facebooking’ and so on are the new words being used commonly in the new internet world.

Testing and Application: based on the level of technological development, communication is often interrupted or facilitated and this posses a question of reliability of some communication media. In the Ondo village of Nigeria, calls drop on continuous bases due to the distance from cell towers as well as cell towers being scarce. Therefore, the strength of the signal is weak. In larger areas such as Lagos, Nigeria, there are Calling Centers that have great telecommunication.

In the wake of new media under the influence globalization, there has been standardization of English and several other varieties and creativity. However, the media has played a big role in the spreading of English at the expense of other languages. Media industry in terms of software manufacturers, designers and other domains is dominated by English usage hence making it a language of globalization.

Subtopic 3: Slang Is Influenced By Culture

Description of Concrete Experience: In South Carolina, there is unique dialect that is common to people of all classes (low, middle, and upper class). People from different areas of the United States will not understand the broken English “slang” the South Carolinian’s are speaking. Here are some of the common phrases:

Way day go? ~ meaning, where did they go?
Day car gone down yonder ~ meaning, their car is over there.
I reckon so ~ meaning I guess so.
They finna go home ~ they are going home.

Slang language can be used by Nigerian from different tribes and have similar meanings. Therefore, when Nigerians of different tribes comes together for conversation, they use broken English “Slang” to communicate. Such as:

Kalo happen ~ means what’s up, man?
Ke sele ~ what’s happening?
Ekale ~ means Good Evening
O fumble ~ He messed up

Reflection: the origin of the word slung is obscure and in most cases I has been associated with a language of being obscene, indecorous and irreverent. However, slang has come to be accepted are a unique language characteristic of particular area, groups of people like a social class and culture in general.

Slang that emerges from a certain culture of a problem f multiplicity hence it is destined to be a subculture aspect. This therefore means that slang is not just mere use of words, rather a particular way of using these words. It’s this subcultures that demonstrate characteristic phenomenal linguistic usage – slang that varies greatly in form and content from standard language and in relation to a dominant culture.

Generalization/Principles/Theories: analyzing the human society, it is evident that the human civilization is very diverse with all sorts of subcultures and these subcultures have their own behavior and thinking patterns. It’s these behavior and thinking liens that develop cultures.

When some of the subcultures feel threatened, they revolt violently. And it’s in such a manner that slang is developed. It is a social phenomenon rather than individual composition hence it is very hard to determine how certain words that we use came about. However, it is important to note that in most cases, slang comes from conflict of social values which could be fundamental or superficial.

Testing and Application: I have seen the American society which is a civilized culture and dominant get divided into subcultures with specific language phenomenon. These subcultures are very common among the young people who use that specific language to show that they belong to a certain group and well informed. Looking at the hip hop culture, food, drugs, sex and drink has wide-ranging slang vocabulary – wack, cool, fresh, dope, nerd are example of such slang.

The changing culture among the youth has caused characteristic linguistic change common to media and the formal and informal expressions are now mixed up. This is because the media has less formality and the development of slang brings about ne informal expressions and these affect formal expressions of language.

Subtopic 4: Vocabulary Can Be both Expanded and Limited Through Cultural Influences

Description of Concrete Experience: I believe that the vocabulary of any language especially slang is expanded by culture. This is because as identified already, culture is all about the way a certain group is people behave and their line of thinking. Language is a consequence of thinking because it’s the most expressive way individuals can articulate their thoughts, attitude and feelings.

The southerners’ culture for instance, we use words that the rest of Americans cannot understand easily. The same goes for even the English speakers outside America like in the Ondo village of Nigeria, where my husband comes from. I can say that because, one way of language development is by creating words that are a form of secret code for a certain social group like thieves, secret gatherings and even businessmen.

Reflection: I have noticed that job-related groups and groups with secret or discrete beliefs are the legions of slang creation though they tend to identify with dominant culture. As such, there is little social and linguistic hostility that helps the groups to continue cohesive connection.

These groups have a lot of new words that introduce new vocabulary to slang as such it is common to find that words are used for quiet sometime by a subculture and as it gains more popularity they are adopted into the popular culture. These groups that develop slang wards include ghetto groups, drug addicts, the army, criminal gangs, and institutional populations among other groups.

Generalization/Principles/Theories: currently, new words in any language are emerging basically in slang and they are used for various purposes but the most general is the expression of emotional attitude towards something. For instance, in southern Carolina, we use the word doll sometimes to refer to a beautiful girl but when it is used as Barbie doll, it is an insult to describe a person as stupid.

Sometimes the new words are used to euphemize insightful thoughts though evident euphemism cold break the norm efficiently than a less modest expression. New words come to be used by people sometimes based on their place in the society and at times they even fail to notice that these are not formal words as the choice of expressions naturally flows in unconscious manner.

Testing and Application: when a language develops new vocabulary, is very difficult to keep the rules of grammar. For instance, “lemme see, ama love it” to mean let me see, I will love it. When I use such words, I will only be expressing myself in pronunciation and in intonation and other specific means of forming new words and eventually a language.

In the study of the new word formation or vocabulary, it is important to understand how they are used or how they might have been formed. For slang vocabulary, the suffixes are very important. New phrases often include proverbs, invectives, comic threats and satire slogans among others.

There are non-standard pronunciations like lemme, gonna and gimme; Sometimes the suffix make all the difference, eatin’, drivin, rockin, reduced assimilation like yo! ya’, wanna, and use of ‘z’ ending sound like beatz, stunnaz, rimz, galz. The new vocabulary formation tends to follow more simplified rhythmic design with iambic, trochaic model and truncation.

Subtopic 5: Changes in Meaning of Language and Idiomatic Expressions In Everyday Language

Description of Concrete Experience: in the past linguistic studies, researcher thought that every language was well structured with distinct formation. However, there has been great change in the way idiomatic expressions are used. As new words are incorporated in the dominant culture language use, so is the emergence of new idioms.

In south Carolina, we use expressions like Ain’t Mary is used to mean Aunt Mary, the word ain’t basically means ‘No’ and the expression push the door translates to mean ‘close the door’. Slang is a language that presents informal expressions and words that are commonly found in speech rather than in writing. Every culture has its own type of idiomatic expression like in Nigeria, Bimbo means short for girls while in the US the same word means dingy woman. Nigerians use Abimbola to mean a girl born to be wealthy.

Reflection: the change in idiomatic expressions has come about because of same beliefs that come from common interests. These words are usually string emotional expressions and at times they can be offensive. Some of the idioms emerging include the following;

It was ‘big bucks’ for me, but ‘chickenfeed’ to her

The idiom big buck is drawn from the word bucks which informally mean dollars therefore big bucks means a large sum of money and chickenfeed is contrasted to mean small cash.

‘Her ex’ is ‘absolutely bonkers’

Her ex may refer to her former boyfriend or husband while absolutely bonkers translates to mean being unpredictable.

Generalization/Principles/Theories: the idiomatic expressions that we use in our daily conversations are very important because they provide sense of belonging and expression of culture. An idiom is a word or a phrase which is used figuratively to provide a meaning different from the literal meaning of the words used.

Sometimes the idioms can be mistakenly interpreted especially when the listener is not familiar with the expressions. The idiomatic expressions have become popular in language use because they provide a very easy and convenient way of portraying a message in a succinct manner rather than using explicit world to explain a meaning. For instance;

His grandfather had ‘deep pockets’ – deep pockets is used to mean wealthy or rich
His wife was ‘decked’ in a scuffle – decked mean that she was knocked down
I feel it is too early for me to ‘cut out’ – this idiom cut out means to Leave

Testing and Application: there has been gradual change in the use of words in language and we often try to meet the daily needs of our expression of feelings by temporarily deviating words from the ordinary sense. Many of these deviations usually attain permanence and the primary sense slowly fades away. The major ways that I feel idioms have changes include euphemism, generalizations and elevation. These are some of the important expressions being adopted;

This students is a ‘couch potato’ to mean that this students is very lazy
To handle this problem, I had to ‘have it all together’ used to mean that I have to be mentally all there
Our politician have often filled our minds with idea and thought that are ‘all wet’ – this mean their idea are all wrong

Subtopic 6: the Impact Advertising Has On Language

Description of Concrete Experience: I believe that advertisements are very influential in changing the behavior and the way people express themselves. This has been very evident in the advertisement sector. I believe that the choice of the language to use in advertisement to convey the message so as to influence the beliefs and actions of people and this is vitally pertinent.

The design and visual content usually have immense influence on the consumers but it is the language used that assists people to identify products. In South Carolina, doing business can be tricky for people coming from other parts of the US. This is because communication can be hampered as the outsiders could have some difficulties in understanding the way the business owners converse. The southerners are slower in pronunciation of some words when they talk.

Reflection: English contain extensive vocabulary where many other languages would have one or no word for certain meanings. Therefore while it would be difficult to choose words to use in another language to communicate, English would offer about six words to choose from.

Furthermore, these meanings could somehow differ in very subtle manner. The connotation of the wording is more important than the actual meaning. Usually the targeted audience is the one to put a meaning to the word depending on their interpretation.

The word ‘armchair’ tells of a very comfortable seat while ‘chair’ does not cause any emotional feeling towards it. Marketing and advertising seeks to cause emotive reaction on the clients based on the choice of words. This is probably why Nigerians sometimes advertise in their native language of Yoruba but most advertising is in English. Therefore, everyone in regardless of the tribal area that he/she comes from is able to understand and identify with the product being sold.

Generalization/Principles/Theories: advertisers often take a language and then modify words to use them for their own benefits as adjectives. These compound words eventually become part of that language hence developing new vocabulary. For example words commonly used in advertising are top-quality, longer-lasting and economy-size among others.

When a language is used in advertisements, it is usually expressed positively with emphasis on why a certain product is better than the rest. Language used in advertising may not always be formal or used correctly in a normal sense but it is seen as superior to other languages.

Testing and Application: the language of advertising has grown to become very pertinent in development of new vocabularies since we find that the commonly used words and phrases are adopted in daily language use. These words are very crucial in culture and social make-up.

I realize that the advertisement language is inherently associated with throw-away culture where new expressions find their way into the language being used with great velocity. Sometimes, these words disappear and may never be heard again, that is why I usually recall with nostalgia the advertisement slogan from the days when I was a child. However, they are not having the same impact they had in the past.

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