Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

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Londoner
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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Londoner » Wed May 10, 2017 9:39 am

Seleucus wrote: Terms like Black, Chinese, Austronesian, Filipino, Islamic, English, Pakistani, Persian, European are normative in standard English. It seems likely there is cultural-genetic feedback. For example, the fact that Oriental people do not have body-odor may be related to having lived in cold climbs in tents where washing was chilly and having smelly armpits didn't favor selection. The difference of breast size of women and penis size of men of different regions might possibly be the result of long employment of particular ancient social arrangements? Baldness and facial hairiness too? Overall, I don't believe there is anything highly relevant to the language policy issues this discussion is aimed at unpacking that would be better explained by genetics than with cultural explanations. I'm not personally uncomfortable with using the word "race".
The terms you list are not normative in any strict sense. For example, 'English' and 'Islamic' and 'black' are not exclusive.

And no, it does not seem likely there is a 'cultural-generic' feedback. What would the mechanism be? My genes were fixed at the moment of conception; how I live my life (my culture) cannot alter them, so my children cannot genetically inherit my culture.

Regarding 'race', certainly humans display some variation, but to pick out any particular physical feature and use it to group them into 'races' would be arbitrary. If you picked a different feature, you would get different 'races'. Looked at objectively, humans are highly homogeneous, as you would expect with such a recently evolved species.
I'm not surprised that in a discussion that I see as connecting to political correctness some one is claiming to be "offended" and calling another a "bigot" and racist. That has become a trope or cliche of the genre.
I do not know if you are a bigot or a racist, but it seems you may have mistaken ideas around 'race'.

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Seleucus
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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Seleucus » Wed May 10, 2017 3:58 pm

Londoner wrote:Regarding 'race', ... 'races' ... 'races'.
...
racist, ... ideas around 'race'.
I'm not convinced that a digression into the issue of race is going to contribute to the topic of national language policy or the relationship between strong Whorfianism and critical theory, which this discussion is aimed at exploring. Go ahead and unpack that if you believe otherwise. In fact, I suspect that pivoting away from the critical theory that heavily informed applied linguistics between the 60s and recently, and towards pragmatism would considerably benefit the field, and also national policies. Given the strong global trend of the last few years, this is presumably a likely direction for things to come. I tend to agree with the admonition from Sylwia Scheuer (who researched a Latin-English analogy discussed on the previous page of the discussion), "how bad things may wind up when you mix education with ideology!"
Last edited by Seleucus on Wed May 10, 2017 4:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Skip
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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Skip » Wed May 10, 2017 4:42 pm

Oh, dear. I smell another right-wing talking-point.

Londoner
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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Londoner » Wed May 10, 2017 6:57 pm

Seleucus wrote: I'm not convinced that a digression into the issue of race is going to contribute to the topic of national language policy or the relationship between strong Whorfianism and critical theory, which this discussion is aimed at exploring. Go ahead and unpack that if you believe otherwise. In fact, I suspect that pivoting away from the critical theory that heavily informed applied linguistics between the 60s and recently, and towards pragmatism would considerably benefit the field, and also national policies. Given the strong global trend of the last few years, this is presumably a likely direction for things to come. I tend to agree with the admonition from Sylwia Scheuer (who researched a Latin-English analogy discussed on the previous page of the discussion), "how bad things may wind up when you mix education with ideology!"
You introduced the term 'race' and wrote 'It seems likely there is cultural-genetic feedback'. I simply pointed out that this does not make sense. So, if you feel 'race' is peripheral to what you want to discuss, I suggest you leave it out.

I do not think the problem will go away however, since all the other ways you want to divide up people into 'clusters' (supposedly representing 'cultures' and 'values') seems similarly arbitrary, being more likely to reflect the preoccupations of whoever is doing the dividing than identifying anything objective.

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Seleucus
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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Seleucus » Mon May 15, 2017 7:24 am

Londoner wrote:I do not think the problem will go away however, since all the other ways you want to divide up people into 'clusters' (supposedly representing 'cultures' and 'values') seems similarly arbitrary, being more likely to reflect the preoccupations of whoever is doing the dividing than identifying anything objective.
In gender studies it might be recognized that there are males and females, and also intersex. Further there will be the identity that others tend to take one as, the identity one views oneself as having, and official legal gender, as well those who deny gender all together, or admit a large number of genders, even shifting non-fixed genders, and then there will be medical and scientific approaches to sex and so on. There is here considerable analogy with other forms of identity, including language identity. Language can be considered as a dialect continuum, (the only true dialect continuums true are in Africa and Asia, perhaps North America because all the major languages have some element of standardization as a part of their history, Arabic developed against Qur'anic Arabic, the Romance languages developed against the Latin of the late Republic period as codified by Charlemagne's court scholars, an so on). English is also standardized by dictionaries, language tests for students and immigrants, and a large corpus of Received Pronunciation (standard British) and Broadcast (standard American). Meanwhile there are those who advocate for other versions of English, Jennifer Jenkins is known for her efforts to standardize an International English as a lingua franca, B.B. Kachru's work inspired a concept of Global Englishes in which Malaysian English, Jamaican English and so on would be considered as distinct languages. Ranges between standard English and pidgin can be described, English must also be undefinable and fluid in the way sexual essentialism can be critiqued. Meanwhile, ordinary people and also linguists are other language experts use the word English. The same can be said for culture groups like Black or Islam or English, these words are used in normal communication and also by experts, it would be threatening to a possibility of communication generally where this undermined.

How this might relate to language policies?

State structures and languages go hand-in-hand, as the expression goes, "a language is a dialect with an army and a navy. This is a significant difference between Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, or between Dutch, English, Flemish, and German which might otherwise be viewed as dialect continuums. (Notice that there is no dialect continuum between Spain and Morocco.) Hence, the state of Indonesia seeks to establish a national language, Indonesian, which to a large degree was never historically spoken by Indonesians. Identity groups are related to power politics.

Ibn Khaldun, sometimes called the father of sociology believed that the Arabic of Mecca and Medina was the true pure Arabic, at the time that wasn't true due to dialect continuum running through the Semetic languages, but today it is more true since Arabic has standardized based on Qur'anic language. Khaldun, wrote that people who do not have Arabic, or have only a distant dialect of Mecca and Medina Arabic could not learn science, or Islam. (Recall that Arab supremacism was a major political force in ancient North Africa and the Middle-East, and was part of an important debate about whether converts were true Muslims or not, in fact still is). It seems Khaldun hit on what today is part of the Whorfian debate: what is the relation of language, additional languages and culture. Khaldun seems to agree that learning a language doesn't, and even can't alter the underlying "rooted habit". Following Khaldun, this might imply that in cultures where democracy doesn't exist, it might be very difficult to transplant, and language policy couldn't have much of an affect.

This brings to mind the line from Joseph de Maistre, "in the course of my life, I have seen Frenchmen, Italians, Russians, etc.; I am even aware, thanks to Montesquieu, that one can be a Persian. But, as for Man, I declare that I have never met him in my life. If he exists, I certainly have no knowledge of him". There seems to be multiple layers however, one that puts language on the surface, and culture at a deeper level, then there will be another position that sees the both of them as something superficial against the deeper level of "bare life" as Giorgio Agamben calls it. This issue needs to be further investigated, the dissolution of identity, a common interest for both nation building and Neo-Advaita...

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Seleucus
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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Seleucus » Wed May 17, 2017 4:53 pm

I contend that the Thai government who requires Thai culture courses for foreign workers has the correct approach, the aborted policy in Indonesia that required foreign workers to attain levels of Indonesian language competence was misguided.

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