Relationship Between Language and Culture

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Is there any connection between culture and language? What is the relationship between these notions and how does one affect another one? Linguists and philosophers have sought answers for these questions for many ages. The connection definitely exists, as language is an inseparable part of any culture, as it is the means of communication between people within society. To understand the relationship between language and culture deeply it is essential to provide the definitions of these notions. According to Oxford Dictionaries, language is the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way (Oxford Dictionaries). Under the notion of culture is understood social behavior, the ideas and customs of a particular people or society (Oxford Dictionaries).

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Therefore, there is a clear relationship between language and culture. First of all, the influence is mutual culture influences the language as well as language affects culture. American linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf hypothesized that language, thought and culture have connection as the language the person speaks forms the way he perceives the reality. According to their hypothesis people see the world in the way their language describes it. The theory contains two main components linguistic determinism and linguistic relativity. Determinism means that people are able to perceive the world only in the way, which is encoded in their native language or languages, while relativity supposes that all the categories encoded within one language are completely unique and unrepeatable in other languages (Sapir). This is why the worldview of people reflect their languages greatly.

Certainly, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis cannot be easily proved and much discussions have been held since its introduction to public. Yet, there are some examples, which make the evidence clear. The Eskimos people have great amount of words, which signify different kinds of snow. It is explained by the fact that snow is an essential part of Eskimos life and in order to make it easier and to distinguish between different kinds of snow were invented different words (Whorf). Therefore, it proves that the language people speak highly depends on the way people perceive the world, i.e. their culture. Another famous linguist, the founder of Structural linguistics Ferdinand de Saussure also claimed that language influences the thought, therefore it influences the culture (Holdcroft). According to his idea, if a researcher is interested in a culture, first he should start with the language of this particular culture.

Russian writer and playwright Anton Chekhov was sure that the more elevated a culture, the richer its language. The number of words and their combinations depends directly on a sum of conceptions and ideas; without the latter there can be no understandings, no definitions and, as a result, no reason to enrich the language. It proves the idea, that culture and language are inseparable as language is a part of culture, definitely reflecting peoples worldview, and at the same time helps to understand the culture itself better. This is why it is said, that learning a foreign language means becoming a part of another culture, and it enriches peoples minds.


Holdcroft, D. (1991). Saussure: Signs, system, and arbitrariness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sapir, E. (n.d.). The Status of Linguistics as a Science*. Retrieved April 09, 2016, from Dictionaries - Dictionary, Thesaurus, & Grammar. (n.d.). Retrieved April 09, 2016, from, B. (2012). Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. S.l.: MIT Press.

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