On cognitive and cultural linguistics

Аннотация. In this article author tackles about the relationship between language, human, thought and environment first. Then he mentions about the relationship between culture, language and environment. After that he emphasizes the importance of cognition and culture in language teaching. Finally he compares Cultural Linguistics with Cognitive Linguistics form some mailstone points.

There are many studies and researches have been done to investigate and find out the relationship between language, thought, culture and environment so far. A great deal of attention is also given to cognition of the world and expressing it by using a language and dedicated to explain this mechanism. It shows that perception of the external world and to be able to express our cognition by using a language is crucial. Cognition, perception and conception of life, time, gender, events, domination and etc., changes from society to society depending on the cultural, and historical environmental differences and also these we can meet the traces of these differences in their languages. Cognition depends on environment and culture of any society one belongs to. Language, culture and mind are interrelated to each other to very high extent but not completely. They are almost inseparable. In foreign language education we should take into consideration cultural awareness depending on environment, background and conception of the students. Yet the presence of linguistic facts that are irrelevant or even inconsistent with culture does not necessarily negate the possibility that language and culture might be congruent in other ways. Furthermore, our opportunities to pursue this possibility are just opening up as more analyses are being made in Cognitive Linguistics. The correlations presented

here are preliminary and tentative. They are presented in the hope that they will inspire a new line of research using Cognitive Linguistics to examine the cultural linguistic phenomena that help to define the identities of thousands of speech communities on Earth. A lot of methods have been searchedand applied to be able to find out the better, easier and more beneficial, techniques and principles of teaching a language more effectively.The ‘cultural background’ in language teaching has, for a number of reasons, recently moved to the foreground.

This page is dedicated to point a little light on these phenomenons. We have tried to open a small gate to our colleagues under the enlightening ideas and researches of the pioneers and dominant scholers in these fields given in our page. In this article relationship between human-languagecognition and culture and importance of culture in FLT is analyzed. The most remarkable common induction from all of the articles and references used in this article is that human-language and culture are indispensible and without applying culture in teaching a foreign language is not complete especially for intercultural communication competence.

That the human beings are affected or shaped by their culture or they influence to shape their culture is quite clear. Nobody can deny that somehow there is strong relationship between language-culture and human perception of environment called cognition. As we uttered above this relationship hasn’t been solved and clearly explained yet. Humans also have always wondered the mechanism and relationship between meaning, language and thought. (Griffin 1997) There are many sub-branches, disciplines and inter-disciplines appeared like cognitive science, artificial intelligence, anthropology, cognitive linguistics, cultural linguistics, ethno linguistics and etc., to be able to understand, explain or provide an understanding the nature and mechanism of this phenomenon. The questions like; how do people perceive the external world? How does his environment and culture affect his perception? Does his environment and culture influence his perception and thoughts? In what way his culture, thoughts and cognition influence his language? To what extent language influences thought or vice versa? And etc., have always been subjects for investigation. We cannot claim to answer all these crucial questions in our short and modest article but with the lights of our pioneers in this field we can try to express our point of view and cognition.

To tackle some terms and seek for short definitions for them and then discuss our subject will be more profitable we assume.

Cognitive Science and Cognitive Linguistics. To cognate or cognition is mental processes characterized by knowing, thinking, learning and judging. It is faculty of understanding things, compare them, make judgements, and deductions. Cognition is the mental process involved in knowing, learning, and understanding things and processes of perception and cognition. It includes every mental process that may be described as an experience of knowing (including perceiving, recognizing, conceiving, and reasoning), as distinguished from an experience of feeling or of willing. Philosophers have long been interested in the relationship between the knowing, mind and external reality; psychologists took up the study of cognition in the 20th century. (http://www.seslisozluk.com/?word=cognate#cognition) To do research and provide satisfactory explanation about how poeple cognate and perceive external world and utter this perception by using a language, some disciplines like cognitive science and cognitive linguistics were founded. Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of the human mind. As far as the exact relationship between the cognitive sciences and other fields is concerned, however, it appears that interdisciplinary exchange often remains unrealized, possibly because of the unidirectional application of theories, concepts, and methods, which impedes the productive transfer of knowledge in both directions. In the course of the ‘cognitive turn’ in the humanities and social sciences, many disciplines have selectively borrowed ideas from ‘core cognitive sciences’ like psychology and artificial intelligence. (http://www. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9154010) Cognitive science deals with cognitive process of mental which we percept, represend and reproduce in our mind. There is a special level of mental represantation beyond biological, social and cultural specificaions should be researched. Prof. Aibarsha says that this is not enough. The effect and input of environment should also be taken into consideration. (Aibarsha. I, Lecture notes) Language is the main topic of cognitive science. Because the structure of language affects our way of brains workings. (Aibarsha. I, Lecture notes) The genre of cognitive linguistics and cognitive science is to search the relationship between language, cognition and communication in general. Cognitive process in cognitive lingustics involve understanding literary texts. Mostly, this research results in models of how processes of comprehension work in the minds of human beings. The central question addressed is which cognitive processes of text understanding are involved in and contribute to the formation of knowledge about an extra-literary field on the basis of narrative fiction. (David Lodge2001), (Richard Powers 2.2,1995). Our mental faculties are obviously geared to produce a smooth experience and to homogenize disjunctive information and conflicting sensorial data. (Dirk Vanderbeke)

Attempts to understand the mind and its operation go back at least to the Ancient Greeks, when philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle tried to explain the nature of human knowledge (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cognitive- science/) and certainly must include writers such as Descartes, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Benedict de Spinoza, Nicolas Malebranche, Pierre Cabanis, Leibniz and John Locke. But, although these early writers contributed greatly to the philosophical discovery of mind and this would ultimately lead to the development of psychology, they were working with an entirely different set of tools and core concepts than those of the cognitive scientist. The modern culture of cognitive science can be traced back to the early cyberneticists in the 1930s and 1940s, such as Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_science).

Cognitive anthropology expands the examination of human thinking to consider how thought works in different cultural settings. The study of mind should obviously not be restricted to how English speakers think but should consider possible differences in modes of thinking across cultures. Cognitive science is becoming increasingly aware of the need to view the operations of mind in particular physical and social environments. For cultural anthropologists, the main method is ethnography, which requires living and interacting with members of a culture to a sufficient extent that their social and cognitive systems become apparent. Cognitive anthropologists have investigated, for example, the similarities and differences across cultures in words for colors. (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cognitive- science/) Although Cognitive science and cognitive linguistics have tried to explain the nature and mechanism of cognition of world, the way of expressing it meaningfully by using a language and relationship between language, mind and culture, there are some philosophical critics claiming that they have some weak points in explaining this phenomenon. Hubert Dreyfus (1992) and John Searle (1992) have claimed that this approach is fundamentally mistaken. Critics of cognitive science have offered such challenges as:

  1. The emotion challenge: Cognitive science neglects the important role of emotions in human thinking.
  2. The consciousness challenge: Cognitive science ignores the importance of consciousness in human thinking.
  3. The world challenge: Cognitive science disregards the significant role of physical environments in human thinking.
  4. The body challenge: Cognitive science neglects the contribution of embodiment to human thought and action.
  5. The social challenge: Human thought is inherently social in ways that cognitive science ignores.
  6. The dynamical systems challenge: The mind is a dynamical system, not a computational system.
  7. The mathematics challenge: Mathematical results show that human thinking cannot be computational in the standard sense, so the brain must operate differently, perhaps as a quantum computer.

Thagard (2005) argues that all these challenges can best be met by expanding and supplementing the computational-representational approach, not by abandoning it. (http://plato.stanford.edu /en- tries/cognitive-science/)

Cultural Linguistics. We think it is better to begin with giving some definitions of some terms. Culture is the beliefs, values, behavior and material objects that constitute a people’s way of life. The complete way of life of a people: the shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterize a group; their customs, art, literature, religion, philosophy, etc., the pattern of learned and shared behavior among the members of a group. (http://www.seslisozluk.com/?word= cog- nate#culture) Culture is background of a society and set of belief, traditions, values, and etc., formed by the history of a group of people living together. (Aibarsha.I) We can infer from these given definitions that culture includes almost everything in one’s growing, up-bringing and shaping. Our points of views, thoughts, perception of the world, cognition and even beliefs are formed along with the culture or vice versa. Thus, conveying that every single person is production of his environment and era wouldn’t be an exaggeration. Communication is being able to express yourself and enabling your audience to understand you appropriately. Or it is exchange of our beliefs, thoughts, feelings or culture in brief. It is quite clear that we can exchange our culture or communicate with each other using a language verbally most of the time in written or oral form. We have an idea that it is convenient now to discuss about the relationship between culture, environment, language and mind. O.B Jenkings explains the relationship between culture and language by giving situational examples like Experience in Language, Experience to Worldview, and Language in Culture, Enculturation and Perception and so on. “First of all each culture group has a language, which is usually the primary identifying factor” (O.B Jenkings). A.N. Leveridge describes it by giving references like Analects (Xu, 1997), (Brooks, 1968), Hantrais (1989), Emmitt and Pollock (1997), (Emmitt & Pollock 1997), (Byram 1989) to prove his ideas about languages depending on the background of the people and also their environment. The example given to determine the relationship between culture-individual is very remarkable; “when an infant is born, it is not unlike any other infant born, in fact, quite similar. It is not until the child is exposed to their surroundings that they become individuals in and of their cultural group”. Thanasoulas uses highly rich quotations in his article to explain and prove the indispensible relationship between human-language and culture, he also gives rather theoretical background for these ideas supported by authors like (Eleanor Armour-Thomas & Sharon-ann Gopaul-McNicol, 1998), (Fairclough, 1989: vi), (Duranti, 1997: 28-29), (Durkheim, 1912 [1947]). Especially the quotation given here “Language is a social institution, both shaping and shaped by society at large or in particular the ‘cultural niches” rather striking. (Eleanor Armour-Thomas & Sharon-ann., Gopaul-McNicol, 1998) In Genc’s and Bada’s article to prove the interaction of language-human and culture, recourses are used and given like, Wittgenstein (1980; 1999), Saussure (1966), Foucault (1994), Dilthey (1989), Von Humboldt (1876), Adorno (1993), Davidson (1999), Quine (1980) and Chomsky (1968). The statement given here is very original, “There is no such a thing as human nature independent of culture” for this topic. We, as language teachers, have to take the background of language that we teach, into consideration to be able to get rid of misconception. (Doganay. Y, A Critical Analysis of for Articles). Laura A. states that language is part of culture and culture is part of language. The two are inseparable. (Laura A, From Cognitive Linguistics to Cultural Linguistics). But this doesn’t happen always in this way, Aibarsha I. doesn’t agree with Laura, Genc and Bada at this point, she says that language can also be independent from culture because it has its own independent system. (Aibarsha I, Lecture notes) Language is a part of culture because language is the vehicle for nearly every type of cultural expression. (Laura A, From Cognitive Linguistics to Cultural Linguistics) Culture is a part of language because the language that has grown with a community has also to some extent been molded to the task of expressing that community’s culture. As a result, cultural concepts are embedded in language, and the architecture of each language contains culturally-specific features. These include both lexical and grammatical characteristics. The lexical characteristics are often the most obvious and tend to attract more attention. (Laura A, From Cognitive Linguistics to Cultural Linguistics). Indeed the acts of perception and conception are concurrent and cannot be meaningfully separated, a fact that led Talmy (1996) to coin “caption” as an umbrella term for the per-/conceptual process. Beyond “caption”, we must recognize that any information can be subject to various construes, and furthermore that linguistic utterances present more than observations on perceived reality: they can express mental states, imagined scenes, hypotheses, and pragmatic intentions. (Laura A, From Cognitive Linguistics to Cultural Linguistics). Dewey insisted that human beings are best understood in relation to their environment (Society for More Creative Speech, 1996). With this as his inspiration, Herbert Blumer outlined Symbolic Interactionism, a study of human group life and conduct.

Blumer came up with three core principles to his theory. They are meaning, language, and thought. These core principles lead to conclusions about the creation of a person’s self and socialization into a larger community (Griffin, 1997) The first core principle of meaning states that humans act toward people and things based upon the meanings that they have given to those people or things. Symbolic Interactionism holds the principal of meaning as central in human behavior. The second core principle is language. Language gives humans a means by which to negotiate meaning through symbols. Mead’s influence on Blumer becomes apparent here because Mead believed that naming assigned meaning, thus naming was the basis for human society and the extent of knowledge. It is by engaging in speech acts with others, symbolic interaction, that humans come to identify meaning, or naming, and develop discourse.

The third core principle is that of thought. Thought modifies each individual’s interpretation of symbols. Thought, based-on language, is a mental conversation or dialogue that requires role taking, or imagining different points of view. (Lindsey D. Nelson, 1998) After this long introduction to Cultural Linguistics, trying to explain the relationship between human, culture, language and environment we can talk about Cultural Linguistics itself.

Cultural linguistics is a branch of linguistics that explores the relationship between language, culture, and conceptualization. (www.seslisozluk.com) It has some sub branches like, sociolinguistics, ethno linguistics, and ethno psycholinguistics and lingua culture. Cultural linguistics draws on, but is not limited to, the theoretical notions and analytical tools of cognitive linguistics and cognitive anthropology. In cultural linguistics, language is viewed as deeply entrenched in the group-level, cultural cognition of communities of speakers. The approach of cultural linguistics has been adopted in several areas of applied linguistic research, including intercultural communication, second language learning. Cultural linguistics is a recent branch of cognitive linguistics. Its specific focus is on the cultural dimension of language, i.e., broadly speaking, on how the “world view” of socio-cultural groups is expressed in language. This approach has a strong interdisciplinary commitment: It draws on congenial strands in other social and human sciences, especially in cultural anthropology. Cultural linguistics investigates a social or ethnic group at a definite period of time or lingua cultural situations. It uses diachronic method of research; investigating the lingua cultural changes of the ethnic group for the definite period of time. The roots of Cultural Linguistics back to Wilhelm Von Humboldt (17671835), Franz Boas (1857-1942), Edward Sapir (1884-1939), and Benjamin Whorf (1897-1941) some pioneers.

Having given the definitions for cultural linguistics we thing it is convenient now to give some examples about how the conceptions are uttered accordingly different in languages. In Korean, however, the important distinction is between tight (kkita) and loose (nehta) fit (Bowerman & Choi 2003). Thus whereas speakers of Czech and English would make a distinction between kazeta v obalu/a cassette in its wrapping and prsten na prstu/a ring on one’s finger, for a Korean speaker, both are described as kkita ‘tight fit’, and overall the pattern of how locations are categorized is quite different. In both Russian and Czech the Dative case can be used with verbs that denote human relationships, be they equal or unequal. So in both languages, verbs denoting human relationships where the two parties are equally matched use the Nominative for the subject and the Dative for the object, as in Russian ravnjat’sja ‘equal’, protivostojat’ ‘withstand’ and Czech rovnat se ‘equal’, odolat/odolávat ‘resist’. Slavic and English speakers often describe differences in understanding of time as a major contributor to culture shock when visiting each other’s countries. Perhaps this could be due to the fact that Slavic speakers are focused on precise understanding of the contours of an event as Perfective vs. Imperfective and are less concerned about when the event takes place, whereas English speakers are more interested in when something takes place than in what kind of event it is. In all of these examples, we see that Russian (with or without some neighboring languages) has a strong tendency to prefer the Imperfective, thus choosing a diffuse, fluid representation for what other Slavic languages would characterize as discrete, unitary events. This is consistent with another linguistic boundary described by Corbett (2000:80), who finds that Russian, which uses singular-only mass nouns for items such as kartofel’ ‘potatoes’, kljukva ‘cranberries’, and izjum ‘raisins’, tends to use diffuse, mass designations for relatively larger items than other Slavic languages (cf. the Czech count-noun plural equivalents brambory ‘potatoes’, brusinky ‘cranberries’, and (h)rozinky ‘raisins’). (Laura A, From Cognitive Linguistics to Cultural Linguistics). There are numerous studies that prove that languages shape how people understand causality. Some of them were performed by Lera Boroditsky. For example, English speakers tend to say things like “John broke the vase” even for accidents. However, Spanish or Japanese speakers would be more likely to say “the vase broke itself.” In studies conducted by Caitlin Fausey at Stanford University speakers of English, Spanish and Japanese watched videos of two people popping balloons, breaking eggs and spilling drinks either intentionally or accidentally. Later everyone was asked whether they could remember who did what. Spanish and Japanese speakers did not remember the agents of accidental events as well as did English speakers. In another study, English speakers watched the video of Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction”, accompanied by one of two written reports. The reports were identical except in the last sentence where one used the agentive phrase “ripped the costume” while the other said “the costume ripped.” The people who read “ripped the costume” blamed Justin Timberlake more. Russian speakers, who make an extra distinction between light and dark blue in their language, are better able to visually discriminate shades of blue. The Piraha, a tribe in Brazil, whose language has only terms like few and many instead of numerals, are not able to keep track of exact quantities. In one study German and Spanish speakers were asked to describe objects having opposite gender assignment in those two languages. The descriptions they gave differed in a way predicted by grammatical gender. For example, when asked to describe a “key” — a word that is masculine in German and feminine in Spanish — the German speakers were more likely to use words like “hard,” “heavy,” “jagged,” “metal,” “serrated,” and “useful,” whereas Spanish speakers were more likely to say “golden,” “intricate,” “little,” “lovely,” “shiny,” and “tiny.” To describe a “bridge,” which is feminine in German and masculine in Spanish, the German speakers said “beautiful,” “elegant,” “fragile,” “peaceful,” “pretty,” and “slender,” and the Spanish speakers said “big,” “dangerous,” “long,” “strong,” “sturdy,” and “towering.” This was the case even though all testing was done in English, a language without grammatical gender (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_langu age#Mind_and_language).

Conclusion

There are many studies and researches have been done to investigate and find out the relationship between language, thought, culture and environment. A great deal of attention is also given to cognition of the world and expressing it and dedicated to explain this mechanism. It shows that perception of the external world and to be able to express our cognition by using a language is crucial. Cognition, perception and conception of life, time, gender, events, domination and etc., changes from society to society depending on the cultural, and historical environmental differences and also these we can meet the traces of these differences in their languages. Cognition depends on environment and culture of any society one belongs to. Language, culture and mind are interrelated to each other to very high extent but not completely. They are almost inseparable. In foreign language education we should into consideration cultural awareness depending on environment, background and conception of the students. Yet the presence of linguistic facts that are irrelevant or even inconsistent with culture does not necessarily negate the possibility that language and culture might be congruent in other ways. We should not reject that possibility without having thoroughly investigated it. Furthermore, our opportunities to pursue this possibility are just opening up as more analyses are being made in Cognitive Linguistics. The correlations presented here are preliminary and tentative. They are presented in the hope that they will inspire a new line of research using Cognitive Linguistics to examine the Cultural Linguistic phenomena that help to define the identities of thousands of speech communities on Earth.

References:

  1. Michael Chi-keung Kam, Ethnolinguistic Vitality, Motivation and the Learning of English for Ethnic Chinese Students in Hong Kong and Sydney.
  2. Callies, Marcus, Wolfram R. Keller and Astrid Lohöfer (eds.), Bi-Directionality in the Cognitive Sciences: Avenues, challenges, and limitations. 2011
  3. Gerard J. Steen, Genre between the humanities and the science.
  4. Stephan Freissmann, Cognitive poetics and the negotiation of knowledge.
  5. Dirk Vanderbeke, The mind and the text / the mind in the text.
  6. Gary Thoms, Strathclyde University, Glasgow, Stefano Versace, Strathclyde University, Glasgow. How does the mind do literary work?
  7. Anatol Stefanowitsch, Cognitive linguistics as a cognitive science.
  8. Thagard, P.2009. “Why cognitive science needs philosophy and vice versa, ” Topics in Cognitive Science, 1: 237-254.
  9. Laura A. Janda, University of North Carolina and University of Tromsø , From Cognitive Linguistics to Cultural Linguistics, for publication in Slovo a smysl/Word and Sense (ISSN 1214-7915)
  10. Sebastian Mahfood, A Survey of Cultural Linguistics: The Superfluous Conformity of Ethnic Groups to the Mainstream, Written as an entrance essay for a doctoral program at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
  11. Islam. A, Lecture notes on cognitive anc cultural linguistics.
  12. Doganay, Y.A Brief Analysis of Four Articles, on language, mind, culture, environment and language education.

Electronic and web references

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9154010, The interaction of language and thought in children’s language acquisition: a crosslinguistic study.Weist RM, Lyytinen P, Wysocka J, Atanassova M.
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_lan guage#Mind_and_language, Mind and language
  3. http://www.colorado.edu/communication/meta- discourses/Papers/App_Papers/Nelson.htm, Herbert Blumer’s Symbolic Interactionism, Lindsey D. Nelson, Comm 3210: Human Communication Theory, University of Colorado at Boulder,Spring 1998
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_science.
  5. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cognitive- science/, Cognitive Science, First published Mon Sep 23, 1996; substantive revision Wed Jun 9, 2010
  6. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Cultural linguistics.
Magazine: KazNU BULLETIN
Year: 2018
City: Almaty
Category: Philology
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