Language – Symbolic Representation Essay
Language – Symbolic Representation
Language is a way of communication that involves symbolic representation.
Language allows information about culture and society to be passed down from one generation to another. It is there to make people understand each other. Language is not only descriptive but is also an action.
The way people use language is how they see things in the society they live in. People who speak the same language will up to a certain point share a perception of reality. This is different to people who speak more than one language. ” No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the some worlds with different labels attached.” Edward Sapir, Understanding Language. If we are to believe this quote from Sapir, then language is probably the most important influence on building a society or any other social group.
Language is more than a balance of communication or a means of bonding people together in a society, it is power, whether it be maintaining the status quo or changing it. When the countries of Africa regained independence, one of the first things they did, was to restore the mother-tongue names, Rhodesia named after the British colonialist Cecil Rhodes, was quickly changed to Zimbabwe. Also, the city in Northern Ireland known to the English as Londonderry is known to Irish nationalists as Derry. Londonderry only became so, after the London merchants who controlled it several centuries ago changed the name, it had always been Derry before that.
Women are referred to as Miss or Mrs, which gives their marital status, whereas men are just Mr, and when a women does get married it is expected that she take her husbands surname, why? Is it, that the way language is used, it is telling us that men are superior to women and their family name is more important, maybe in the past when women were inferior to men, but not now. More and more women are keeping their own family name when they marry and refer to themselves as Ms, which doesn’t give any clues as to marital status. Even women who are not married don’t like to be referred to as Miss, so they too are being referred to as Ms.
Names are very important in societies, when naming a newborn child it normally indicates the sex of the child. Once a certain name is used for a girl it loses it popularity as a boys name, e.g. Beverley, Gayle and Shirley were all popular boys names. Names that are for both sexes normally have different spellings, e.g. Tony / Toni, Terry / Terri and Lesley / Leslie. In some cultures girl’s names are derivatives of boys, by adding a few letters to the end of a boys name it becomes a girls name, e.g. Henry / Henrietta, Pat / Patricia and Robert / Roberta. Many boys’ names in English have no obvious meaning, girl’s names do, and girls are sometimes named after virtues, such as, Faith or Patience. Girls are also named after flowers, Rose, Lily or Daisy all meaning pretty. Class distinction can also be recognised in names, Tracey, Sharon, Kelly, Kevin, Paul, John, Steve and Chris all sound common but Chloe, Charlotte, Harry, William, Oliver and George all sound upper-class and would be perceived to be so.
The way in which language is used shows a difference in social class, working class people tend to be abrupt with their children saying don’t do that, and when the child asks why they say because I said so, and middle class people would be more likely to explain in detail why. Middle class people tend to talk to their children more than lower class people.
Working class children will grow up with a limited amount of language to do well in the society in which they live, therefore restricting the job or career opportunities open to them, they will more than likely have a manual job rather than a non-manual job. Whereas middle class children will grow up with a much broader vocabulary, so they will do well and go on to university and have better non-manual well-paid career. This is why children from a middle class background do well at school and go on to university rather than lower class children. Although, it is not being said that lower class children are less intelligent than middle class children, but because middle class children grow up with a better and broader vocabulary they do well as adults.
There are so many different ways, in which language is used in society, slang for example, they way a sum of money is relayed, a ton meaning one hundred pounds, a monkey meaning five hundred pounds and a score meaning twenty pounds. People who are deft use sign language. Body language is another, the way people look when they are lying, the way people act when they are attracted to somebody, this is body language. Swearing is a form of language, why is fuck offending? Who said that a certain word is offensive? Its just a word, but it’s the way people are taught from a young age that they learn what words are acceptable to use in polite society and what words are not acceptable to use in polite society. When someone dies, people aren’t meant to mention it for fear of upsetting them, people don’t want to use language in the wrong way.
People don’t like speaking in black and white, they go for a grey way of speaking known as ‘euphemisms’ e.g. people don’t say menstruation they say, got the painters in, red flag day or mouse in the house. Another example would be, people don’t say died, they might say something like, pushing up daises, kicked the bucket or meet the maker. Euphemisms are used mainly when people don’t want to face the bluntness of a situation so they try to make things sound nicer. Someone will say, I had to have the dog put to sleep, when really what should be said is, I killed the dog.
Most euphemisms begin from childhood, passed down from mother to child, the naming of things, pee pee for urinating, winky or willie for penis, minnie for vagina, woo woo for dog, poo poo for excretion, din dins for dinner etc. People use euphemisms all through life, as adults we use them not unlike children, when we say, shag, rumpy-pumpy, hanky panky, a bit of how’s your father or nookie we mean sexual intercourse. Adults also use euphemisms to name sexual organs such as, prick, dick or knob all meaning penis, or a women’s organ’s can be referred to as bush for vagina, and then there’s always boob’s, tits, baps etc. all meaning breasts. People use euphemisms all through language to make things sound innocent rather than harder and fuller.
Euphemisms are even used to name food, people eat pork but really its pig, but do people go into a restaurant and ask for a slice of pig. The same for beef, its cow but people don’t go into a restaurant and ask for cow.
Language is used all the time in people’s day-to-day lives, people use language from the moment they are born and sometimes even before they are born. Some expectant
mothers play classical music or relaxation sounds to their unborn child, in order to make them have a good cultural beginning before the child is even born. All people in society use some form of language all the time, whether it be sign language, body language, verbal language, language through a computer for handicapped people, sign language for the deft, euphemisms etc. As humans we communicate all the time and the way we communicate is through language. Even doctors, nurses, bank workers, teachers etc all have a way of using language which is known as jargon.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 7 July 2017