Culture, Language, and Communication Language is a universal psychological ability possessed by all humans. Language forms the basis for creation and maintenance of human cultures. In many instances, language differences reflect important differences between cultures. The Structure of Language All languages have: Lexicon Syntax and Grammar Phonology Semantics Pragmatics Two key linguistic concepts: Phonemes: smallest, most basic units of sound in a language Morphemes: smallest, most basic units of meaning CULTURAL INFLUENCES ON VERBAL LANGUAGE Cultural Influences on Language Acquisition Culture influences language acquisition from the very early stage through the entire developmental process. Culture influences all aspects of language. It is through use of language the an individual is transformed into agent of culture. Culture has a powerful influence on verbal and nonverbal encoding and decoding processes. Culture affects not only language lexicons, but also the function and/or pragmatics. Language differences across cultures Culture and Lexicons Self-Other Referents In U.S., the use of “I”, “we”, is prevalent, but in Japan there are cultural rules governing how to refer self and other. It is dependent largely on the status relationship between you and the other person. This reflects importance of status and group differentiation in Japan. Language differences across cultures Counting Systems Different objects counted by different suffix in Japan. Basis for number In Japanese (and many languages, including Spanish), cultural meanings of numbers based on the words for one through ten. Language differences across cultures Culture and Pragmatics Drop of pronouns The dropping of pronouns occurs Less in individualistic than in collectivistic cultures. Language use and communication styles Collectivistic cultures use principle of equity involving greater social penetration when communicating with ingroups Cultural differences in apology, self-disclosure High vs. Low Context Cultures This has to do with the extend to which the specific contents of messages are spelled out. In Low Context Cultures, everything is made crystal clear; no need to read between the lines. “What part of ‘NO’ don’t you understand” mode of communicating. The opposite is true for High context Cultures. If you don’t read between the lines and understand the cultural context of the words used, you won’t get the meaning of what was said. In-group vs. outgroup communication, Use of apologies, Self-disclosure, Compliments, and Interpersonal criticism. Link Between Culture and Language At a more technical level, culture can affect the structure of thought processes ala SapirWhorf hypothesis. Despite legitimate criticism of the link between culture and thinking, research on bilingualism shows a close relationship between culture and language. Language and Thought: The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: speakers of different language think differently because of differences in languages. In support of Sapir-Whorf: Navajo children are more likely to categorize objects by shapes than European or African American children. Challenging Sapir-Whorf: Dani speakers did not have lower ability to discriminate or remember colors than Americans even though they only have two color terms (dark and light). Comments on Bilingualism The unique circumstances surrounding communication by individuals who speak more than one language has generated much interest among experimental psychologists, psycholinguists. educators and politicians. I will address only a few of the more critical issues. Perceptions of Bilinguals People have negative impressions and stereotypes about people communicating in their second language. Foreign language processing difficulties: cognitive difficulties while processing information due to lack of fluency in speaking a language. Foreign language effect: temporary decline in thinking ability of people using foreign language. Language Development of Bilinguals The context in which the various languages are acquired is a good starting point for our discussion of bilingualism. Compound vs. coordinate development Subordinate Development Meaning Language A Language B Compound Development Meaning Language A Language B Coordinate Development Meaning Language A Meaning Language B Linguistic Interference “…those instances of deviation from the norms of either language which occur in the speech of bilinguals as a results of familiarity with more than one language.” Types of linguistic interference 1. 2. 3. 4. Semantic Syntactic Lexical Phonological Linguistic Integration? The Tex-Mex phenomenon. Psychological Differences as a Function of Bilingualism It’s often the case that bilinguals have two mental representations of culture encoded in their minds. Some research even suggests language-related shifts in personality. Culture-affiliation hypothesis: immigrant bilinguals tend to affiliated themselves with values and beliefs of culture associated with language currently speaking. Psychological Differences as a Function of Language Minority group-affiliation hypothesis: immigrant bilinguals adopt behavioral stereotypes of majority culture about their minority as their own. Code frame switching: bilinguals switch back and forth from one cultural meaning system to the other when accessing one language or another. Cognitive independence vs. interdependence Primary DV = Reaction Time Blue Green Red Red Green Blue Azul Verde Amarillo Overarching Conclusions Bilinguals access different cultural systems in their minds when speaking their respective languages. Culture also affects nonverbal behavior. Despite the well-documented universality of many facial expressions such as anger, contempt, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise, as noted in precious lectures, cultures differ in display rules for these pan cultural expressions. Overarching Conclusions In addition, there are well-established cultural differences in gestures, gaze and visual attention, interpersonal space, body posture, and voice and vocal characteristics. Basically then, both verbal and nonverbal encoding and decoding processes are influenced by culture.