English 102  ,  Tom Gibson

Cultural and social background contributes to the variations in English as a language.

In the interaction between individuals who have different communities of origin and studying various forms of literary materials, it comes out that there are various forms of variations in English as a language. As a language, English has several variations from a country to the next and also from one community to the next. The kinds of interaction can range from speaking with the individuals to reading their literary work.I have always asked myself what could be the reason behind these existing variations. I tend to believe that there are other scholars and researchers in the field of linguistics or even social sciences who have asked themselves the same question. The variation exists in different ways. My take is that the variations English as a language used for communication is a result of the differences that exists in social and cultural backgrounds of different communities. Even though this is the case, there has not been much explanation given regarding the situation.Every time a country or a society adopt English language for whatever purpose for example communication or learning, the variations increases.I therefore hypothesize that the variations in English language are caused mainly by the differences in the social and cultural backgrounds communities, groups of people and societies. However, there are some critics on this position of mine. It is important to understand that the critics from the others are also important and I tend to believe that the critics can be responded to relevantly.

After trying to combine various things I have experienced during my study in class and interaction with different people with different backgrounds in the community I came to realize this topic is interesting and needs further research. I have tried pronunciation for various words and writing them down to determine whether there exists any difference. I have also interacted with different individuals from different countries across the world in class and in the society in which I live. My main focus has been on the pronunciation of various words by various individuals. I presented this topic to my group for brainstorming and members provided various views and after the discussions by the members, we came to agree that the issue was a good one for further research and analysis.Personally, I feel it is very important and at the same time very interesting to try and analyses the causes of the variations and gain an in-depth understanding. My main interest is the relationship between variability in spoken English and the differences in some of the words in terms of spelling and cultural background. Further interest is to determine whether culture could be the major cause or there may be another major cause.

I have most of the time listened to the pronunciation of certain words by the people from the United States and performed comparisons to the pronunciation from individuals whose origins are India, Russia, and Britain.  I very clear difference often come out in their pronunciation of certain words. I like watching movies during my free time. Other than watching these movies for entertainment purpose, I do listen to how the people in those movies speak and try to associate them with various countries or communities based on the accent produced while speaking English.  Remember that despite the differences that are noticeable in how they speak the language, all those are termed English. Therefore,movies have formed a basic part of my sources in the research process. I can tell when a Russian pronounce the word men and make a difference from the pronunciation of an American and an Indian. I understand that as a language, English is primarily used for communication purpose and despite the variations in the pronunciations, people from these countries can still understand each other when they speak English.

Experts in English language have accepted that this variability exists, brainstorming with my team members further makes clearer that research and analysis into this topic is fundamental. I did have other topics but after the in-depth discussion and analysis of the topic, we settled on this one.I also had the chance to conduct an interview to help put this ideology to light. I managed to interview two individuals whom I consider experts in linguistics. The first person interviewed was Chomsky Noam who is a professor of linguistics at Massachusetts University. The other was Maria Bittner who is also a linguistics professor at Rutgers University. The whole concept of research into the literature sources, the listening and the interview provided an enough information to use in putting my thesis to light and further proving it.

First, culture and social background greatly influence our spoken English and even how we use the language. There is a relationship between language, culture and society and this is what is termed sociolinguistics. The society in which individual lives have very big influence in their belief, opinion and even the entire life of a person. The main components in culture are social identities and communication (Tsui, et al. 30). A person is identified with a given society and culture by how he communicates among other mechanisms. Culture and language exists interdependent an interdependent manner. Culture depends on language as a means of communication and language consequently depends on culture as a means of determining which word or group of words would represent which object. How an individual pronounces them will hence depend on which pronunciation does his culture use and understand.

It is important to note that most of the variation exists in societies where English as a language has been adopted as the second language and not the first. They can be called the outer ring speakers (Bara et al., 23). English as a language is dynamic in the communities and they seem not to pick every aspect or word and use it in the same way it has been used by the original speakers. The net effect is the tendency in most speakers to bring in some elements of their first language into English language during their informal communication. This is common among a certain generation in each society. Overtime, such a mix-up word begins to gain formal use in the community and it becomes part of their English language. Then there is the attempt by the outer ring speakers to blend pronunciation to match their local dialect. The blending aspect is one thing that results to variation in the pronunciation of the same words in different English speaking communities.

Culture of a person and his society influences human behavior in general (Moran et al., 25) and therefore, language whether first or second is hence influenced by culture. It is necessary to note; culture and society is dynamic and so is every aspect of the society including the languages used. When a generation comes, they pick almost all the social aspects they find in place and then tends to combine it with their own. A new generation hence tends to pronounce words in the manner they find it being pronounced. However, overtime, changes taking place in the accents in the first language will result to some blending effect resulting to a change in pronunciation and hence variation in the pronunciation.

The object names are derived from the regions they are first identified. While acquiring English as a language, there are some objects that may not exist in the English societies hence lacking an English term. Generally, it is not possible to name what does not exist. However, in the societies where they exist there must be a name for such an object hence the development of names accepted as English names in those communities. According to Barac et al., (35), due to globalization, these items are transferred to other communities who also name them creating the possible of different names for the same items.

However, there are various arguments that tends to critic this take.Arguments that I have different opinions based on the perspective I take on this this question and the sources from which I have drawn my information about the same topic. Firstly, there is this argument that culture and social norms affects the way in which English as a language is used rather than the manner in which the English words are spoken or written. According to this argument, there are differences in the roles between the adults and children tends to define how the language is used (Hughes et al., 28). It indicates that in the context of home presents a different culture from that of school hence defining how English language is used in school and the difference in how it is used from one community to another. It however does not affect how it is spoken both at home and in school.This argument also takes a traditional perspective that anyone who did not use Standard English had no valid language. That implied according to the critic that English language was standard in all aspects and the inability of an individual to use that standard one was considered a verbal deficit problem.

However, this point of view fails to take into consideration the reality on the ground. It may be a fact that the use of English is affected by social and cultural issues but it does not eliminate the fact that culture and social backgrounds eliminates the aspect of standardization.  The fact that the written English varies between the British and the United States English is a clear indication that the concept of standardization least applies (Hughes et al., 32). This is just but one example of two countries with different cultures and social beliefs which is exactly what defines their spoken and written English. The whole idea is that language is applied based on how a given group perceives the world or the environment. The way the environment is perceived by people is influenced of culture and social values.

Secondly, there is the critic that the variations in English language results from communities trying to blend their mother tongue (Crystal and David 34). According to the argument, this is arrived at by blending the community’s speech pattern such that it fits into local language of the region in which they have moved to (O’Donnel, et al. 15). In other words, this aspect associates the variations to immigration and interaction of the people. British English for example reached some parts of the world through the colonization process. Examples of English believed to be as a result of this aspect are the London Jamaican and the Bradford Asian English.

Even though this perspective tries to eliminate the aim idea of the variation’s being influenced by culture, it has left certain aspects unexplained which when it looked into keenly still takes back to culture. Firstly, English as a language is still evolving and new forms and key words are coming into place with the evolution of culture implies that culture is still an aspect (Bennett et al., 25). As already stated, culture defines how various groups of people perceive the world, in the American English, there are new words that have developed that were never in it. These words have been applied in the description of various features such as landscape, vegetation’s and even lifestyle. Again, English used in the countries such as Australia, South Africa and New Zealand have evolved and become very distinct from that of the British community (Collins et al., 34). An implication that at the beginning of their development, they were similar to British English, however, as the cultures evolved, the English also changes and became distinct.

Clearly, there may be various aspects that can associated with the existence of the variations in English language. No matter how much they try to eliminate the relationship between variations and the social and cultural background it remains a fact that culture plays a key role. The existing critics are just but going around the concept of culture and the social norm, none of them has provided a clear disapproval of the thesis. Generally, English as a language is as dynamic as the cultural norms since they are interdependent. Further, trend by most of the communities to try and bring in aspect of their dialect into English language further creates the variation. Therefore, culture and social background is a major cause of the variations in English language.

WorksCited

Barac, Raluca, and Ellen Bialystok. “Bilingual effects on cognitive and linguistic development: Role of language, cultural background, and education.” Child development 83.2 (2012): 413-422.

 

Bennett, Tony, Lawrence Grossberg, and Meaghan Morris, eds. New keywords: A revised vocabulary of culture and society. John Wiley & Sons, 2013.

 

Collins, Beverley, and Inger M. Mees. Practical phonetics and phonology: A resource book for students. Routledge, 2013.

 

Crystal, David. English as a global language. Cambridge university press, 2012.

 

Dewey, Martin. “English as a lingua franca and globalization: an interconnected perspective.” International Journal of Applied Linguistics 17.3 (2007): 332-354.

 

Hughes, Arthur, Peter Trudgill, and Dominic Watt. English accents and dialects: An introduction to social and regional varieties of English in the British Isles. Routledge, 2013.

 

Hughes, Arthur, Peter Trudgill, and Dominic Watt. English accents and dialects: An introduction to social and regional varieties of English in the British Isles. Routledge, 2013.

 

Tsui, Amy BM, and James W. Tollefson, eds. Language policy, culture, and identity in Asian contexts. Routledge, 2017.

 

Moran, Robert T., Neil Remington Abramson, and Sarah V. Moran. Managing cultural differences. Routledge, 2014.

 

O’Donnell, William R., and Loreto Todd. Variety in contemporary English. Routledge, 2013.