Monday, 28 March 2016

Methodology of Humanities

 2nd Chapter – Language and Culture

Short questions
1.       What is language?
Language is defined as a system that uses sounds or written symbols to communicate. This is a system of communication used by human beings only. The study of language is called linguistics. Language is based upon words and combination of words into sentences. The smallest unit of language is ‘sign’ which is a combination of ‘the concept and the sound image. The concept is called the signified and the sound image the signifier.
2.       Define culture?
Culture is defined as the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings, transmitted from one generation to another. Food, clothing, celebrations, religion, and language, shared values, customs, histories, knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, law and habits are included in the definition of culture. Above all, culture is a symbolic meaning system.
3.       Who wrote ‘ A Course in General Linguistics’ ?
‘A Course in General Linguistics’ was written by the great Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure.

4.       How can we define meaning?
In his famous book titled ‘A Course of General Linguistics’ Ferdinand de Saussure developed the theory of the ‘sign’ which is the combination of the concept and the sound image. The concept is the signified and the sound image is the signifier. The relationship between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary. So meaning is defined as the relationship between words. In short language is a link between thought and sound.

5.       Distinguish between langue and parole
In his famous book title ‘A Course of General Linguistics’ Ferdinand de Saussure defines Langue and Parole. Langue is the actual language spoken by people, for example Malayalam, English Tamil etc.
Parole is the individual speech act.

6.       Define Genderlect
Genderlect is a product of social context. Deborah Tannen, a Harward Professor found out many differences in the masculine and feminine styles of discourse. There is a belief that women talk more than men. But in research it is found that men talk more than women in meetings, debates and on other occasions. Women’s speech style is always co-operative, whereas men are highly competitive. Similarly, women are always uncertain in their talk and they often use the words, ‘I think”, I’m sure”,  “you know”. Women always use more standard forms of English, whereas men use non standard forms frequently.

7.       Define Sociolect
People of different geographical areas who speak different languages will think and behave differently depending on the language they use.  Thus the sociological environment of a person determines the type of language he or she uses. These variations in a language are called a Sociolect.

8.       Distinguish between Pidgin and Creole
Pidgin is a term used to define the language that is born out of the regular contact of two linguistic groups that have no language in common. A Pidgin is a restricted language which arises for the purpose of communication between two social groups of one is in a more dominant position than the other. The less dominant group develops the Pidgin. Historically Pidgin is born in colonial situations. In India the people who are known as ‘Anglo-Indians speak Pidgin. There are Indian-English, Australian English, African English which are called Creoles.
In the course of several generations the Pidgin is developed into the mother-tongue of a group of speakers. Such languages are called Creoles.

9.       Define social constructionism
Social Construction of Reality is a term coined by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckman in their book titled “The Social Construction of Reality”. It says that our reality is shaped by our life experiences and the way we interact with people around us. Our upbringing and our value systems have deep impact on how we present ourselves how we understand others. In a society, social interaction leads to the creation of knowledge. This knowledge includes, beliefs, superstitious ideas, folklores, proverbs, religious ideas, customs, traditional values which have become part of the social system, a process that is called institutionalization. This institutionalization leads to habitualization. This set of beliefs that emerge through practice and institutionalization is called symbolic universes.  Thus our reality is shaped by our beliefs and back grounds. Society exists both outside as well as inside our minds. Thus, we the humans are always making and remaking our society. This is called social constructionism.

10.   What is nativism?
Nativism is an argument that writing in English encourages the continuity of colonial oppression, and as long as we continue to write in English, we cannot be free from the colonial oppression.
Many writers like Balachandra Nemde argues that we should write in our mother tongues. But novelists like Salman Rushdie says that post colonial writers Indigenized and nativised English language through the device of ‘chutnification’ and mixing of regional languages with English. Thus there are Indian English, Hinglish, Mangleesh etc.

Paragraph questions
11.   “The ‘real world’ is to a large extent unconsciously built upon the language habits of the group” – Comment.
Language is defined as a system that uses sounds or written symbols to communicate. Only human beings use this symbolic system of communication. It is a system of communication based upon words or ‘signs’ . A sign is the combination of a signifier (sound image) and a concept (the signified). Language is used as a vehicle of thought and ideas.  Thus language has become an integral part of human life. As a result he lives in many worlds. First he lives in an objective (real) world and in the world of social activity which is the second world and finally he lives in the world of ideas and thoughts. Thus we are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. The ‘real world’ is to a large extent unconsciously built upon the language habits of the group. Every language shows quite different social reality. The worlds in which different societies who speak different languages live in very different worlds. So people of different geographical areas  who speak different languages think and behave differently. English man thinks and behaves differently from a Malayalee. These variations in a language is called a sociolect.

12.   Why is culture called a symbolic meaning system?
Culture is defined as the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings, transmitted from one generation to another. Food, clothing, celebrations, religion, and language, shared values, customs, histories, knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, law and habits are included in the definition of culture. Above all, culture is a symbolic meaning system. It is semiotic system in which symbols communicate. Culture is inherited socially and share by all community.



13.   Discuss the relationship between language and culture.
There is a strong relationship between culture and language. Meaning of words is shared between speakers of the same language. But there are some symbols which are similar the world over. Example traffic rules.  When we live in a certain way, we use the language in tune with our life style and status. The language of a teacher, a priest and collector, magistrate contains upper vocabulary.  The language and dialect of the upper class is different from that of the lower class.  In Malayalam, M.T.Vasudevan Nair and Kamala Surayya used the ‘Valluvanadan dialect, which is considered as an upper class one. The Eskimos have seven different words to denote ‘snow’ as it is an integral part of their life.  The Swiss linguist  Ferdinand de Saussure developed the “theory of sign” which is a combination of two elements namely the concept and the sound image (the signified and the signifier). This shows the progress of our culture.

14.   What is discourse? How is it connected to culture?
 Discourse is an integral aspect of agency in language. Discourse is defined as both written and spoken communication.  Discourse means specific choice of words or vocabulary used in various fields of social life such as legal discourse, medical discourse, teaching discourse, religious discourse and so on. These discourses show their belief systems, values and socio-cultural experiences over a period of time. The discourse reflects the rights and duties of an individual in a particular social position. For example the discourse of a class room positions the teacher as one who will impart knowledge and the students as willing to accept the knowledge. Here the teacher wields power over the students. Thus discourse is intimately connected to culture.
15.   Analyse the concept of identities
Identity is something that we are constantly building and planning throughout our lives through our interaction with others. Identity is neither fixed nor intrinsic. It is a socially constructed dynamic product of the social, political contexts of an individual’s livid experiences.  This is an anti-essentialist concept of identity. Our social identities are defined by our membership in various groups along with the values, beliefs and attitudes connected with them. There are four types of identities. (1) Master identities. These identities are relatively stable, unchanging. Eg., gender, ethnicity, national and regional origins.
(2) Interactional identities. Eg. I am a teacher to my students. While travelling I am a passenger, In my apartment, I am some one’s neighbor. If I am sick, I am a patient to a doctor and so on.
(3) Personal identities are relatively stable. Eg. Honest, reasonable, arrogant, but personal identities are frequently contested.  (4) Relational identities change from moment to moment. It refers to the kind of relationship that a person enacts with his/her partner in a situation such as conversation, way side talk etc.
16. Is English a gendered language?
       17. Comment on the influence of gender on the use of language
Yes, English is certainly a gendered language where we can find genderlect very clearly. There is utter discrimination against women. English speakers and writers tend to use masculine nouns and pronouns in situations where the gender of their subject is not mentioned and when they refer to a group which contains members of both sexes, the word ‘mankind’ was used. Thus the preference goes to man. Similarly, chairman, police man, post man and certain professions such as doctor, sir, driver, engineer all give preference to man not woman. ‘man’ and words ending in ‘man’ are the most commonly used gendered nouns. When we say that all men are equal, we are certainly excluding woman. Another example of English as gendered language is the way the words ‘Mr’, ‘Miss’, and ‘Mrs.’ Are used. ‘Mr.’ can refer to any man married or unmarried. But women are different! Women are defined by their relationship to men. In modern time we use the title ‘Ms’ to woman whether married or not.  Another example to show English a gendered language is about professional names. People think doctors are men whereas nurses female!
        18. Discuss language with reference to the caste system in India
Language is an integral part of human culture. In India, language is mixed with caste and religion, because caste is inseparable aspect of the identity.  Identity politics is shaped by the shared experiences of members of certain social groups. Identity politics work for empowerment and recognition of social groups. The identity markers are language, culture, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, caste positions, religion, tribe and race.  In India, caste specific names fix the identity of a person. Inferior caste names are used in a low (derogatory) sense.  Mahatma Gandhi used a new term ‘Harijan’ (God’s children) to describe the untouchables, but they rejected it. They accepted the term ‘Dalit’ which reflects their painful life. Similarly the terms like Scheduled caste, scheduled tribes are neutral and do not have any derogatory sense in it.  The dialects spoken by different castes, their speech styles are also considered as ignorant or backward, whereas the speech style of the upper caste has a label of acceptance.

        19. What is linguistic imperialism?     
 The term ‘linguistic imperialism’ was first used by Robert Philipson. It refers to the imposition of the language spoken by the dominant class to others. It is not only language, but culture, religion, way of life and style are also imposed on the native people by the ruling, dominant class. It happened in India and many other countries where the British had set up colonies.  The great writer Cooke uses the term ‘Trojan Horse’ for linguistic imperialism, because just like the gift of the Trojan Horse by the Greeks to the people of Troy, English language was welcomed in India in the beginning as a gift of the British to eliminate ignorance, superstitious customs and give education to the people of India, finally turned out to be a curse and trap for India, because English education destroyed Indian languages, culture, traditional values and religion.  In British colonies where native languages came in contact with English language, produced new languages that can be either called Pidigins or Creoles, new dialects of English languages, such as Australian English, South African English, Indian English and so on.

      20. Was the Englishing of India a successful venture?
The Englishing of India was partly a successful venture because the Europeans tried to spread Christian religion through Missionaries for this purpose they set up schools and colleges to give English education to the natives. This followed social and religious reforms helped to eliminate many social evils such as ‘Sati, female foeticide, untouchability and other superstitious ideas. English education helped people of different states and communities to communicate and exchange ideas of nationalism. Above all English education fostered national unity and the awareness of freedom and equality. But Englishing of India has brought many evils too. It destroyed regional languages, traditional values and habits. It imposed western culture and habits and the native children followed the life style and religion of the ruling class which brought them nothing but illusion because the blacks cannot become whites.

Essay questions
      21. How does language create subjectivity?
Emile Benvenists, the great French linguist said that it is language which gives human being a sense of their subjectivity. Language alone gives man the concept of ‘ego. Language possesses a special property which creates subjectivity.  It is through discourse that a speaker or writer established his/her subjectivity. It is through ‘Parole that people establish a sense of their own subjectivity. The speaker or writer has got the personal pronoun ‘I’ and ‘You’.  They refer to a particular individual and at the same time other individuals can utilize the same term to refer to themselves. Thus language allows each speaker to designate himself or herself ‘I’. This is the core of the subjectivity that language provides every person.
       22. Language not only expresses ideas and concepts, but shapes thought. Comment with examples  to justify your answer.
 Language is defined as a system that uses sounds or written symbols to communicate. Only human beings use this symbolic system of communication. It is a system of communication based upon words or ‘signs’ . A sign is the combination of a signifier (sound image) and a concept (the signified). Language is used as a vehicle of thought and ideas.  Thus language has become an integral part of human life. As a result he lives in many worlds. First he lives in an objective (real) world and in the world of social activity which is the second world and finally he lives in the world of ideas and thoughts. Thus we are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. The ‘real world’ is to a large extent unconsciously built upon the language habits of the group. Every language shows quite different social reality. The worlds in which different societies who speak different languages live in very different worlds. So people of different geographical areas who speak different languages think and behave differently. English man thinks and behaves differently from a Malayalee. These variations in a language are called a sociolect.

There is a strong relationship between culture and language. Meaning of words is shared between speakers of the same language. But there are some symbols which are similar the world over. Example traffic rules.  When we live in a certain way, we use the language in tune with our life style and status. The language of a teacher, a priest and collector, magistrate contains upper vocabulary.  The language and dialect of the upper class is different from that of the lower class.  In Malayalam, M.T.Vasudevan Nair and Kamala Surayya used the ‘Valluvanadan dialect, which is considered as an upper class one. The Eskimos have seven different words to denote ‘snow’ as it is an integral part of their life.  The Swiss linguist  Ferdinand de Saussure developed the “theory of sign” which is a combination of two elements namely the concept and the sound image (the signified and the signifier). This shows the progress of our culture.
           23. Discuss the cultural impact of Lord Macaulay’s Minutes
English arrived in India as the language of Imperial power. It replaced Sanskrit and Persian as the language of administration. Warren Hastings, T.B. Macaulay, William Jones and others studied Indian languages of Sanskrit and Persian, and translated texts into English. In the second stage of introducing English in India, Missionaries like William Carey learned local languages and translated the Bible into these languages.
 In the third stage, English was made the medium of instruction in schools and colleges. The Minutes of 1835 prepared by Lord Macaulay was passed in the British parliament and English became the language of education, law and commerce.  With the introduction of English education, western ideas, the conversion of natives to Christian religion and western culture and habits began to spread in India. This helped to eliminate many social evils. This followed social and religious reforms helped to eliminate many social evils such as ‘Sati, female foeticide, untouchability and other superstitious ideas. English education helped people of different states and communities to communicate and exchange ideas of nationalism.
 Above all English education fostered national unity and the awareness of freedom and equality. But Englishing of India has brought many evils too. It destroyed regional languages, traditional values and habits. It imposed western culture and habits and the native children followed the life style and religion of the ruling class which brought them nothing but illusion because the blacks cannot become whites. The first Indian novels in the 19th century were inspired by English novels. Many English novels were translated  into Indian languages. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s “Anandamath’ was translated in English and other European languages. This novel contained our national song ‘Vande Mataram’ that inspired the nationalists in India. R.K. Narayan, Raja Rao wrote novels in English expressed nationalist sentiments.  The forward to “Kanthapura” reflect this national spirit.


            24.  Discuss the various levels of reality with proper theoretical analysis.
 Social Construction of Reality is a term coined by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckman in their book titled “The Social Construction of Reality”. It says that our reality is shaped by our life experiences and the way we interact with people around us. There are various levels of reality. Our upbringing and our value systems have deep impact on how we present ourselves how we understand others. In a society, social interaction leads to the creation of knowledge. This knowledge includes, beliefs, superstitious ideas, folklores, proverbs, religious ideas, customs, mythology, traditional values which have become part of the social system, a process that is called institutionalization. This institutionalization leads to habitualization. This set of beliefs that emerge through practice and institutionalization is called symbolic universes.  Thus our reality is shaped by our beliefs and back grounds. Society exists both outside as well as inside our minds. Thus, we the humans are always making and remaking our society. This is called social constructionism.

           25. Discuss historiography focusing on language
History is revealed through language. Historiography is the history of history. It means the subject of historiography is the history of history. It is the history of the history of any particular event that has been described. The underlying sentiment of historiography is skepticism (doubt).  This is due to the fact that historians have their own agendas and wants to prove a particular event in the past as favourable for him and therefore select a particular event in the past and wish to prove certain preconceived notions or points. History is therefore never truly objective (honest) or impartial. For example the concept of nationalism is defined as loyalty and devotion to a nation state. So the historian uses chosen phrases and words to prove the loyalty to a particular nation or culture and considers it superior to others. The feeling of nationalism is aroused by creating a sense of shared cultural heritage, the language spoken in the country and the use of some symbols. Thus history is recreated to serve the interest of nationalism. History is written to glorify the nation state, heroes are created and sometimes unreasonable xenophobia (contempt of foreigners) is created in the minds of the people.
Kjt/29-03-2016






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