Language and Tradition

Tradition has been defined as ‘the total set of beliefs, attitudes, customs, behaviour, and social habits of the members of a particular society’. Our culture informs us what’s appropriate, what is normal, what’s acceptable when dealing with other members of our society. Our tradition lets us know what to expect from others, what they will say in sure situations, and the style in which they will say it. It lets us know how they will act, and the way they will react. It is the wisdom of the ages handed down to the present. We’re affected by it, and it is affected by us. Tradition is in a constant state of flux, changing incrementally, altering the way we speak and the way we think, the way we act and the way we react.

That culture is indelibly linked to language is undeniable, for language is a vehicle by which it is transmitted, probably its chief vehicle. One observable way in which language acts as a vehicle for, or a transmitter of, tradition is in the use of idiomatic language. Idiomaticity is arguably the most common form of language, by way of percentages of the whole. Idiomatic language, most frequently discovered within the form of phrases consisting of more than one word, typically doesn’t conform to say the grammatical construction of non-idiomatic language. For example, within the phrase, ‘at massive’, as used in the expression, ‘the general public at giant’, or in the sentence, ‘The escaped convicts had been at large for 2 weeks before being recaptured.’, the preposition ‘at’ appears before what seems to be an adjective, ‘giant’. This appears to be in direct contradiction to the ‘normal’ place such a part of speech occupies in a grammatically right sentence, viz. earlier than a noun, resembling in the following examples, ‘at dwelling’, ‘at work’, ‘at the office’ et al. The phrase, ‘at massive’ appearing on the page in isolation from any context that might make its that means more clear, has an opaque quality where semantic meaning is worried, and maybe still retains some of its opacity of which means even within the context of a sentence.

To members of the community using such idiomatic language, there’s tacit agreement on what these phrases imply, despite their opaque quality. Idioms are cultural entities.

To learners of a overseas language, any overseas language, tradition imbues language with this opacity. The word, table is well understood and discovered, but what in regards to the phrase, ‘to table a motion’? That phrase carries a cultural value that isn’t readily appreciated or obvious to a learner. The that means doesn’t reside in the particular person words that make up the phrase. The verb, ‘to table’ should initially seem nonsensical to a learner. Likewise, ‘a motion’ must seem like an anachronism, having learned that motion is a synonym for the word ‘movement’.

Every culture has its own collection of phrases that are peculiar to it, and whose meanings should not readily apparent. Had been this not so, George Bernard Shaw’s adage that America and Britain are nations separated by the same language would haven’t any ironical appeal. Ostensibly, we speak the same language, the British and the Individuals, however both varieties use many various words, and have many different phrases which might be often mutually unintelligible, and generally uttered very differently. Generally only the context in which a phrase or word is used serves to disentangle. Sometimes even the context just isn’t quite enough. Typically we think we have understood when we have now not.

This points out one other characteristic of tradition bound language; that it exists within a bigger entity, that localized varieties exist. What is comprehensible to an individual from one area could also be unintelligible to 1 from another. If this is true within the community of a particular set of customers of one language, how a lot more should it hold true to learners of that language. Many a learner of English, feeling herself proficient, has gone to England only to find the language at worst totally unintelligible, and at best emblematic, however still not absolutely comprehensible.

The ‘cultural weighting’ of any language, in the form of idiomatic phrases, is understood by members of that cultural community, or maybe more correctly, and more narrowly defined, by the members of that particular speech community, and conversely, shouldn’t be readily understood by those that come from another culture or even one other speech community, albeit ostensibly within the same culture.

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