Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

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Seleucus
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Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Seleucus » Sat May 06, 2017 3:55 am

I would like to get some input on the subject of the separability of language and culture. On why a supposed unseparableness might be essential to critical theory (political correctness), and the implications for national language policy and nation building.

The structuralists, Lévi-Strauss or Saussure for instance, took the view that language could be analyzed independently of the cultural milieu it resided in, or at least this position was attributed to them. Sapir and Whorf, or Wittgenstein, however linked culture and language. The post-modern or critical theory position, which includes post-structuralism, assumes this enmeshed view of "languaculture".

This has bearing for national language policies and nation building where, for example in the UK, it is believed that teaching immigrants the national language will facilitate integration and adoption of national values. It also has bearing on national educational policies, governments may be reluctant to include languages such as English, Mandarin, Arabic or local languages in national curriculum out of fear they threaten nation building projects and local culture.

Some considerations however seem to contradict the hypothesis that language and culture are inseparable...

In the case Arabic, it seems to have been a carrier of Arab culture in the form of Islam. Meanwhile however, while Greek and and Persian medicine and mathematics advanced during the Islamic golden age, politics and other cultural items like philosophy and literature were repressed. Greek and Persian cultural artifacts we separable from their language. This is somewhat opposite of the situation today where in many places medicine and engineering are taught in English, while in school classrooms the language has been carefully separated from its culture so as not to impose Western hegemony on the local cultures.

Furthermore, following Nietzsche for example, who called civilization a process of violence, it would follow that watching Hollywood movies and studying textbooks in school does not involve an immediate immersion in American culture, in the sense of paying taxes, being bullied, holding employment, and the sort of more visceral and emotional experiences that create cultural transmission.

Inglehart and Welzel seem to be showing that cultures tend to have enormous inertia, and that their components are multiply reinforces and therefore very resistant to change. Timur Kuran says the same in his work on cultural change, or rather resistance to it.

It seems therefore that countries like the UK or Australia who insist that immigrants learn English as a way of encouraging integration may be misguided. And countries the educational policies of which avoid teaching foreign languages out of fear of undermining their local cultures and national identities may be worrying for nothing?

A question continues to be outstanding, at least to me, which is why are language and culture held to be inseparable for critical theory? Since critical theory is the dominant narrative against which nation building and educational policies are being designed today, it is an important theoretical point that needs to be addressed, particularly as most lessons from history tend not to be scientific or conclusive but more anecdotal.

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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Harbal » Sun May 07, 2017 1:54 pm

Seleucus wrote: It seems therefore that countries like the UK or Australia who insist that immigrants learn English as a way of encouraging integration may be misguided.
Although it might not be possible to say to what extent teaching immigrants the language of the host country encourages integration, I think it pretty obvious that being unable to speak the language is an obstacle, if not an outright barrier to it.

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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Seleucus » Mon May 08, 2017 5:56 am

Harbal wrote:
Seleucus wrote: It seems therefore that countries like the UK or Australia who insist that immigrants learn English as a way of encouraging integration may be misguided.
Although it might not be possible to say to what extent teaching immigrants the language of the host country encourages integration, I think it pretty obvious that being unable to speak the language is an obstacle, if not an outright barrier to it.
It doesn't seem to be lack of a national language that is threatening the EU with break-up... A national language could be a treat to a state as for example the proposition of having Hindi, or Javanese as the national language of India or Indonesia respectively have been perceived. In some cases, such as Achaemenid Persia, there was a national language: Aramaic, but it was a language of bureaucracy, not the language of the dominant peoples, or the majority. A common language might be a neutral point? Something that is assumed to underpin nations, but actually doesn't. Belgium, Canada, and Switzerland are among the wealthiest nations in the world and do not have a single national language. Meanwhile, Hungary and Finland have deeply different languages from the rest of Indo-European languages and yet are culturally European like their neighbors. There are sometimes allied races such as the Jews and the Europeans or the Sikhs and the Dravidian peoples, who have little in common linguistically or racially, but throw their lot in together in a national endeavor. As you see, I'm taking the position that the importance of language to nation building is overrated...

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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Skip » Mon May 08, 2017 7:13 am

The subject is a bit too large and unfocussed for useful responses.

Of course, language can be analyzed separate from culture; a kidney can be analyzed separate from a body - but what use is it?
Culture and language are intertwined parts of a people's experience, its history, it's customs, world-view and relationships.

But then, you have a bifurcation: organic culture, in its same geographic location wherefrom it arose, and emigrant culture.
These are very different events, with different outcomes; a very different experience.
What do people going to a new country expect? To continue in the old routine unchanged? Of course not.
The old routine must have broken down or malfunctioned or been disrupted in some drastic way to make people travel around
half a globe to find a new home. They must be wanting, hoping for, an improvement. And they must be willing to adapt.
Those two requirements are inseparable. If you seek change, you must be willing to change.

Then, too, you have to consider nations that have (relatively) homogeneous populations: same physical features, language, customs,
beliefs, aesthetics, cuisine, sexual mores, family structure, etc, over centuries -
and patchwork countries that have had an influx of different population at fairly frequent intervals.

Empires have had variable luck imposing their own language and mores on conquered peoples.
Generally, forced assimilation leads either to open rebellion or genocide (or both) and long-term hatreds
that keep on being disruptive to both people long after the cause is dead and buried.
That's obviously the wrong way to build international accord.
Everybody will probably not learn Esparanto, though it was a lovely idea.

If you study English, you have to take into account all the languages that have contributed to it over the past millennium and half.
It doesn't embody and express a single monolithic culture: it is a constantly-changing dialogue, carrying many histories.
That makes it more alive and flexible and serviceable than many other languages (any other?)- and far less rigidly tied to a culture.
People all around the world are learning it voluntarily - as they once learned Latin.
Why?
So they can communicate with other people.

If you live in the world, English is an asset.
If you live in a predominantly English-speaking country, not speaking it is a handicap.
That doesn't mean giving up the language and memory of your ancestors; it means moving them to a new home.

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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by uwot » Mon May 08, 2017 8:07 am

Skip wrote:The subject is a bit too large and unfocussed for useful responses.
Worse than that, it's actually about philosophy, but if this is what you mean to conclude:
Seleucus wrote:...I'm taking the position that the importance of language to nation building is overrated.
then while it isn't clear who is rating it, or how much, you may have a point.

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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Seleucus » Mon May 08, 2017 4:11 pm

uwot wrote:
Seleucus wrote:...I'm taking the position that the importance of language to nation building is overrated.
then while it isn't clear who is rating it, or how much, you may have a point.
This is probably the first and most important point to address since the dominant narrative is that culture and language influence each other. Meanwhile, Wardhaugh enumerated three broadest categories: language controls culture, culture controls language, or they have little influence on one another. What I've personally come to believe is that when someone learns a new language, he or she puts that language to use in pursuit of their ends. A relatively simple but oft cited example would be the use of Mr or Mrs as an honorific title by persons of Asian culture when it is linguistically and culturally inappropriate in English. A more serious example would be the publication of ISIS's magazine Dabiq, the language is generally obtuse, but this is due, in my view, to the poor quality of the translation, not due to an impossibility of English language being used to express Islamic or radical Islamic ideas.
Skip wrote:Culture and language are intertwined parts of a people's experience, its history, it's customs, world-view and relationships.
This seems to be the dominant narrative, but as you can see from my comments above on Uralic and Indo-European languages, both easily carrying the same culture. Taken a bit further, and seeing Western ideas move in and out of Hebrew, Korean, and Japanese, the thesis that language and culture are so closely connected seems very questionable.
But then, you have a bifurcation: organic culture, in its same geographic location wherefrom it arose, and emigrant culture.
These are very different events, with different outcomes; a very different experience.
Unless I'm misunderstanding your point, it seems to me that China-towns are little bubbles of China...
What do people going to a new country expect? To continue in the old routine unchanged? Of course not. ... If you seek change, you must be willing to change.
My view is exactly the opposite. As the quote goes, "You can take the boy out of America, but you can't take America out of the boy", or Turkish, or whatever. Cultures are highly resistant to change, this is the argument in Kuran's "Explaining the economic trajectories of civilizations". A culture can pass through changes of languages, and be uprooted to new continents and it has defense mechanism that maintain its integrity. The resistance of Turks in Germany, Pakistanis in England, or Blacks in America seems to support the view that culture carries enormous inertia and is exceedingly resistant to change.
Then, too, you have to consider nations that have (relatively) homogeneous populations: same physical features, language, customs,
beliefs, aesthetics, cuisine, sexual mores, family structure, etc, over centuries -
and patchwork countries that have had an influx of different population at fairly frequent intervals.
Agree. Controlled studies being impossible, these sorts of examples are the grist for analysis.
Empires have had variable luck imposing their own language and mores on conquered peoples.
Have they actually had any luck? Egypt is still Egypt after passing under however many conquerors...? What about overt efforts at cultural transformation as in the Philippines during American occupation? The cultural trajectory of the Austronesian race has tens of thousands of years of inertia, despite the quality of their English, Filipinos none-the-less are essentially equal to Indonesia on the Human Development Index, (and the difference from Malaysia or Singapore, is probably the large population of Chinese with their historically high level of culture).
Generally, forced assimilation leads either to open rebellion or genocide (or both) and long-term hatreds
that keep on being disruptive to both people long after the cause is dead and buried.
That's obviously the wrong way to build international accord.
I disagree. As I say above, violence is the thing that can change a culture. Unpopular as it may be to say, the internement camp system of the British in Kenya or Malaysia was extremely successful. Please note, this is a very serious claim obviously and I don't mean to throw it around lightly. Afghanistan has been a war zone since 1979, almost half a century, can't it reasonably be argued that an internment camp system that totally controlled and rebuild the culture would have been a much more humane approach?
If you study English, you have to take into account all the languages that have contributed to it over the past millennium and half.
It doesn't embody and express a single monolithic culture: it is a constantly-changing dialogue, carrying many histories.
That makes it more alive and flexible and serviceable than many other languages (any other?)- and far less rigidly tied to a culture.
People all around the world are learning it voluntarily - as they once learned Latin.
The analogy with Latin is probably limited, Scheuer has unpacked it at some length. As I say at the head of the thread, the difference between Latin and English, is that English is being propagated stripped of culture, largely due to the politically correct sensitivity of language policy theorists.
If you live in the world, English is an asset.
If you live in a predominantly English-speaking country, not speaking it is a handicap.
That doesn't mean giving up the language and memory of your ancestors; it means moving them to a new home.
I agree you are here hitting on a very important point. And I agree that in a century the world will speak English. But -- I don't believe, and this is what makes English different from Arabic or Latin, which carried culture (or Koine Greek, which was an exclusive language, more similar to Dutch colonial language policy), is that in a century, the much expanded English speaking World will not hold Anglo-American values...

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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Skip » Tue May 09, 2017 1:38 am

Seleucus wrote:...I'm taking the position that the importance of language to nation building is overrated.
I have no idea what nation-building is.
Wardhaugh enumerated three broadest categories: language controls culture, culture controls language, or they have little influence on one another.
I think it's none of those: they grow together, like mutually dependent organs in a body. It's the people who influence and are influenced: whatever they do and whatever happens to them enters their language and culture concurrently.
[Culture and language are intertwined parts of a people's experience]
Taken a bit further, and seeing Western ideas move in and out of Hebrew, Korean, and Japanese, the thesis that language and culture are so closely connected seems very questionable.
Which part? That the ideas which "move into" a language do not also influence the culture, or that the language doesn't change in response to foreign ideas? Why would a foreign idea be included in a language if it had no other effect? What changes cultures? What changes languages? Neither is static, so there must be influences of some kind.
[ organic culture and emigrant culture.]
Unless I'm misunderstanding your point, it seems to me that China-towns are little bubbles of China...
No, they are not. They are islands of imported culture, new trade (both regulated and illicit), immigrants in transition; stepping-stones for the young toward their new ambitions and havens - or repositories - for unassimilated old people. In China-towns, as in other enclaves of immigrant population, you're likely to find a mix of a nationality from different regions, urban and rural backgrounds, which wouldn't happen in the old country; in a sense blending that immigrant population. You also find that most of the inhabitants are bilingual, though not necessarily fluent: they deal with local authority, some members of the family have jobs outside the enclave; they can figure the local money and exchange-rate, use local goods and services, pass freely in and out of the adjacent neighbourhoods, and often venture much farther afield.
It's not a bubble: it's a staging-area.
[What do people going to a new country expect?]
My view is exactly the opposite. As the quote goes, "You can take the boy out of America, but you can't take America out of the boy", or Turkish, or whatever.
Except, that's not true. The younger the boy is, the more likely to assimilate. Many immigrant children repudiate their parents' culture - greatly to their parents', and even more, grandparents' chagrin: it's an on-going source of conflict in immigrant families.
However, the older a person is, the harder to learn and accept new speech and habits, and especially different moral codes. That, too, causes mush domestic trouble.
Cultures are highly resistant to change, this is the argument in Kuran's "Explaining the economic trajectories of civilizations". A culture can pass through changes of languages, and be uprooted to new continents and it has defense mechanism that maintain its integrity.
I don't know how he measures cultural integrity. When the social infrastructure is broken, what carries culture?
The tendency to remain intact is proportional to the size of the population. There has to be a critical mass to contain the necessary economic and social processes - publish a newspaper, keep up a theater or cinema, import books, organize an orchestra and dance troupe, build churches and carry on youth programs. An immigrant population that's large enough and poor enough to have very few resources, compared to the dominant culture - for example, Mexican migrant workers - may remain isolated longer, but if it doesn't get regular transfusions from the old country, it will disappear through attrition.
The resistance of Turks in Germany, Pakistanis in England,
Look at the ambient atmosphere. How welcome did they feel? It's not all up to the immigrants; the dominant population has a huge role in what kind of relations new people have with their foreign neighbours and the host government, what opportunities they have; where they can settle, what work they do, the quality of education and social services - and the amount of hostility they encounter.
I can only speak for Canada, where several waves of immigrants have disappeared almost without a trace, just since WWII. (You can tell who came, when, by reading the names on a high-school honour roll. Count back ten years from a cluster of Greek or Polish names.)
or Blacks in America
I don't think you can use that one. First, you'd have to identify the African culture they brought over... Well, they didn't; they were kidnapped from many places, nations, cultures, backgrounds and dumped into a mixed population with zero social structure or resources. They had to build a new hybrid culture from scratch. That that culture is still distinguishable from mainstream America is a function of segregation and discrimination.
[Empires have had variable luck imposing their own language and mores on conquered peoples.]
Have they actually had any luck? Egypt is still Egypt after passing under however many conquerors...?
It's still called Egypt. I don't see any pharaohs or big tombs from the last few hundred years. I imagine every conquering civilization left some mark on the country, but I'm not familiar enough to say what particular footprints were left by which.
British forms of governance, law and administration have been taken up by many of the colonies in Africa - and, of course, all of the African map was redrawn by European empires, so there's no telling how the cultures would have developed on their own. In the Americas, the conquerors wiped the map clean by the simple expedient of leaving very few natives alive, or in situ.
What about overt efforts at cultural transformation as in the Philippines during American occupation?
I don't know how much the American's changed, but the Spanish had a profound effect - right down to the gene-pool.
The cultural trajectory of the Austronesian race has tens of thousands of years of inertia, despite the quality of their English, Filipinos none-the-less are essentially equal to Indonesia on the Human Development Index, (and the difference from Malaysia or Singapore, is probably the large population of Chinese with their historically high level of culture).
Not sure how this relates.
Afghanistan has been a war zone since 1979, almost half a century, can't it reasonably be argued that an internment camp system that totally controlled and rebuild the culture would have been a much more humane approach?
It's been a war zone quite a lot longer than that!
The most humane approach would have been to leave them alone. The most efficient would have been to kill them all.
What do you want with half-measures?
English is being propagated stripped of culture, largely due to the politically correct sensitivity of language policy theorists.
And when did this sensitivity kick in? English has been spreading for a while, not always kindly. The first - culturally freighted - phrase some Indian and African youth learned was "Boy! Two gin and tonic here!"
in a century, the much expanded English speaking World will not hold Anglo-American values...
Of course not! Most of the population USA today don't hold British values - whatever those are. They don't even hold the same values from one state to the next, and never really did, though they spoke the same language. I have some trouble believing there is a discrete entity identifiable as an Anglo-American value system - except maybe Capitalism, and that's certainly caught on in other parts of the world.

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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Seleucus » Tue May 09, 2017 4:15 am

Skip wrote:
Seleucus wrote:in a century, the much expanded English speaking World will not hold Anglo-American values...
Of course not! Most of the population USA today don't hold British values
Actually they do hold very similar values as Inglehart and Welzel demonstrate.
Skip wrote:I have no idea what nation-building is.
Paul James uses it something like, the construction of a state apparatus and national identity. For example the country of Indonesia, or the Seleucid Empire. Carolyn Stephenson uses the phrase especially where a previous state entity has collapsed. James Dobbins uses the term in a way that includes the use of military force with an aim specifically to getting to a democracy. I'll concur with Dobbins that rarely would the process be separate from violence, and, in my view, a free society is the assumed aim of nation-building, as I'm at least concerned with it.

(Just as a side comment, because it is an interesting and related subject, I'm open to the view that the spread of Indo-European language was not under the wheels of war chariots, but by way of endogamous marriage, or the spread of pagan religion.)

Having mentioned the Seleucids I want to just briefly discuss nation building and language policy in the Hellenistic states. The Seleucids seem to have taken the typically Greek position, they administrated in Greek and did not learn local languages, however, the Seleucids had an inclusive view of their subject peoples, the Persians, (usually) the Jews and so on. The Ptolemies had a different policy. They embraced bi-lingualism, but had an elitist view of their Egyptian subjects, Cleopatra was the only Ptolemy to learn to speak Egyptian, the result was that Ptolemaic Egypt was plagued by race wars. Mithridates of Pontus took yet another approach, he was himself a polyglot. Incidentally, Darius was fluent in Greek as reported by Quintus Curtius, he administrated his empire in Aramaic, and was himself a native speaker of an archaic form or Farsi.
Skip wrote:immigrants in transition; stepping-stones for the young toward their new ambitions ... if it doesn't get regular transfusions from the old country, it will disappear through attrition.
Possibly what you are describing is the desire of host countries, not what seems to be happening historically? Gypsy people have no home-country and have maintained identity over more than a millennium. Chinese in South-East Asia have also maintained their identity for more than a thousand years despite imperial Chinese policy that stranded them and cut them off from the home-land for centuries. When the Ptolemies came to power in Egypt there were enclaves of Greeks who had been there for centuries. Brian Morgan (linguist) reports that Chinese Canadians in major cities are able to live in a parallel Chinese world with no need for English or French. Kuran's view, and it is the same as in Deleuze and Guattari incidentally, is that psychologies 'write' institutions and institutions 'write' psychologies, that creates something like when we back-up files on our computer: this is why when Korea or Germany were utterly destroyed after WWII or the Korean war they could rebuild themselves in 30 years, but in Indonesia, little has changed developmentally since the Dutch retired.
Skip wrote:Turks in Germany, Pakistanis in England, ... Count back ten years from a cluster of Greek or Polish names.
Some cultures are more resistant to assimilation than others. Inglehart and Welzel demonstate that culturally Poles and Greeks are neighbors as far as values go, Turks and Germans or Pakistanis and English are in opposite corners of the grid. I'd like to add a further point about Islam which is that many of the habits of Muslims, in my view, which are otherwise not well accounted for are explainable in terms of creating in-group cohesion and differentiation from an out-group; this is an explanation for the distinctive fashion, waking and sleeping times, dietary taboos, hand-shake, very noisy prayer rituals, and very lengthy holiday celebrations.
Skip wrote:The younger the boy is, the more likely to assimilate. ... African culture they brought over... That that culture is still distinguishable from mainstream America is a function of segregation and discrimination.
My view differs. African people do not assimilate because as you say, culture by in large forms in early childhood, (the Jesuits had an expression about this). Because African children tend to be raised by African parents, there is an appearance that the low IQs of Blacks is genetic, but it isn't. Sub-Saharan Africans, like the Indians of the Americas, were a stone age people, even into present times. They didn't have the benefit of 5000 years of civilizing influence the way Eurasian peoples do. The 3rd World today is a relatively backwards place because acculturation is a very slow process and cultures are very resistant to change, not because of a conspiracy of Neo-colonial oppression. Likewise, Blacks and Indians in the Americas are struggling because their races are 5000 years behind where Eurasians are at, not because they are genetically inferior, and not because they are the victims of a racist conspiracy. By way of a gauge of the rate of Black cultural development in the Americas, at the end of slavery in the Anglo-shere, and thousands of freed Black slaves returned to Africa, the newly arrived Americo-Liberians dominated the country for the next century-and-a-half with the psycho-cultural advantages over the indigenous Blacks which they had accrued during their captivity in the Americas.
Skip wrote:Egypt ... I imagine every conquering civilization left some mark on the country,
Yes, change is possible, but it's very slow and painful. We can infer from the extensive study of Indo-European language that languages are very stable over very long periods of time. But to the Middle East, the Umayyad period represented the throwing off of Arab influence and a resurgence of Egyptian, Greek, Persian, Mesopotamian, Syrian, and Levantine culture. Arab colonization and migration continued and again Arabs got the upper-hand. The non-Arab people rose up again in the Abbasid period and the so-called Golden Age of Islam, which was really the continuation of especially Greek and Persian culture, but eventually Arabization won, with the result that a nomadic barbarian culture based on piracy and raiding eventually degenerated the Middle-East from the center and apex of human civilization into a world of ignorance, poverty and violence.
Skip wrote:I don't know how much the American's changed, but the Spanish had a profound effect - right down to the gene-pool.
Limited. The Philippines continues on the cultural trajectory of other Austronesian states, not on a European trajectory, as would be predicted by Inglehart and Welzel.
Skip wrote:Afghanistan ... The most efficient would have been to kill them all.
That was the Russian nation building policy in Circassia. But what would be best would be to restore free and prosperous society. Afghanistan, like Iraq, were Greco-Roman societies for a thousand years. Now that they have finally been militarily recovered, it is of exceeding importance that they also be culturally reclaimed. Given the total debacles of the past decades in these countries, that is why the topic of this thread is so important for our generation who are involved in nation-building, to understand clearly as possible sans ideology and the value of language in the process.

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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Skip » Tue May 09, 2017 6:21 am

I happen to have first-hand immigrant experience and tried to share some of what i noticed, but that isn't what you're interested in.
I'm not quite sure what your interest is, and don't know any of the scholars to whom you refer; I mostly don't know what you're talking about,
but the more you do, the less i care.
this
African people do not assimilate because as you say, culture by in large forms in early childhood, (the Jesuits had an expression about this). Because African children tend to be raised by African parents, there is an appearance that the low IQs of Blacks is genetic, but it isn't. Sub-Saharan Africans, like the Indians of the Americas, were a stone age people, even into present times. They didn't have the benefit of 5000 years of civilizing influence the way Eurasian peoples do.
pretty much sealed it for me.

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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Seleucus » Tue May 09, 2017 2:06 pm

Skip wrote:I happen to have first-hand immigrant experience and tried to share some of what i noticed, but that isn't what you're interested in.
I'm not quite sure what your interest is, and don't know any of the scholars to whom you refer; I mostly don't know what you're talking about,
but the more you do, the less i care.
this
...
pretty much sealed it for me.
You don't know much about history or linguistics. You are not familiar with the scholars and researchers and so on I'm referring to. You're offended by consideration of the situation of Blacks through the lens of history and culture. You're out of the discussion.

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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Skip » Tue May 09, 2017 3:34 pm

Bigotry in any form is offensive. Ignorant bigotry advocating a hierarchy of cultures is odious.
Aryan bigotry posing as scholarship is abhorrent.
I'm way beyond offended - i'm gone...
But not because you say so. You don't have that authority.

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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Seleucus » Tue May 09, 2017 4:39 pm

Skip wrote:Bigotry in any form is offensive. Ignorant bigotry advocating a hierarchy of cultures is odious.
Aryan bigotry posing as scholarship is abhorrent.
I'm way beyond offended - i'm gone...
But not because you say so. You don't have that authority.
Got it. Your offended and you've left the discussion.

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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Skip » Tue May 09, 2017 4:58 pm

Discussion?
If I see one, I might join it.

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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Londoner » Tue May 09, 2017 6:55 pm

Seleucus wrote: Inglehart and Welzel demonstate that culturally Poles and Greeks are neighbors as far as values go, Turks and Germans or Pakistanis and English are in opposite corners of the grid.
If you distinguish groups, like Pakistanis and English, you will naturally look for the differences. But in real life, both Pakistanis and English are part of a spectrum; in some situations an English person will feel they have more in common with a Pakistani from the same regional and social background as themselves than with another English person. And we all live double lives; at home the young Pakistanis will become traditional so as not to upset their grandparents; you don't have to be either one culture or another.

So I do not think we can make this 'grid'. Nobody occupies a fixed place, our cultural identity is quite nuanced and nor do all our cultural views have an equal importance to us.
My view differs. African people do not assimilate because as you say, culture by in large forms in early childhood, (the Jesuits had an expression about this). Because African children tend to be raised by African parents, there is an appearance that the low IQs of Blacks is genetic, but it isn't. Sub-Saharan Africans, like the Indians of the Americas, were a stone age people, even into present times. They didn't have the benefit of 5000 years of civilizing influence the way Eurasian peoples do. The 3rd World today is a relatively backwards place because acculturation is a very slow process and cultures are very resistant to change, not because of a conspiracy of Neo-colonial oppression. Likewise, Blacks and Indians in the Americas are struggling because their races are 5000 years behind where Eurasians are at, not because they are genetically inferior, and not because they are the victims of a racist conspiracy....


This is a bit confusing; so do you think there are Black and Indian 'races'? Is this some sort of Lamarckist idea? That '5000 years of civilizing influence' can be somehow inherited in a biological sense?

Or did you just mean that people in poor societies often not only lack the opportunities for education but also the social traditions?

As the paragraph I've quoted stands, I can see why Skip took offence. But perhaps you could clarify it.

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Re: Language culture separable? Connection to critical theory?

Post by Seleucus » Wed May 10, 2017 3:38 am

Londoner wrote:So I do not think we can make this 'grid'. Nobody occupies a fixed place, our cultural identity is quite nuanced and nor do all our cultural views have an equal importance to us.
You can evaluate the Inglehart–Welzel cultural map for yourself. It is a psychometric similar to Geert Hofstede's. It differs in that Hofstede's is cross-sectional whereas the WVS is longitudinal and predicts long term stable cultural trajectories. The rather long survey is available online in its current version so you are welcome to test yourself and see whether you are an outlier from the range of your culture group. I'd love to hear your results.
This is a bit confusing; so do you think there are Black and Indian 'races'? Is this some sort of Lamarckist idea? That '5000 years of civilizing influence' can be somehow inherited in a biological sense?
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".
Londoner wrote:Or did you just mean that people in poor societies often not only lack the opportunities for education but also the social traditions?

As the paragraph I've quoted stands, I can see why Skip took offence. But perhaps you could clarify it. ...
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 agree with Oscar Lewis in his "Culture of Poverty" that cultural, and not genetics, is behind the failure to thrive of many American Indians and Blacks, his words are "Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, American Indians". Lewis is analyzing a timeless situation where a community develops a fatalistic and apathetic psychology which perpetuates itself eternally. My view is that the initial conditions are set by much older historical factors. The relative backwardness of Indonesia, Nigeria, or Bolivia is a combination of lack of long exposure to civilization, and that compounded by "culture of poverty". The importance of racism (nationally) and neo-colonial oppression (internationally) as factors are I think often exaggerated and obscure more significant dynamics. Chinese in South-East Asia, Jews in Europe and the Middle-East, and Whites and Indians in Africa are the targets of considerable racism, their success in those environments in spite of the racism they face is due to their relatively successful forms of culture.

Since it seems to me that culture and language are separable, it follows that correcting the English of African Americans who are speaking AAVE would be pointless. Instead, overt teaching of culture is required. This is exactly the argument of David Elmes, that teaching English to Japanese, or more importantly today, Afghans or Iraqis is not enough. But culture, like language, is not easily taught, it is instead acquired.

With very limited numbers of Westerners living in the Middle-East, and with those who do residing in compounds, or on military tours, the most practical way to enculturate is through repatriation of refugees. Almost all refugees desire to return to their home country. "By the rivers of Babylon, we sat down and wept". Returning refugees who have lived in developed countries more so acquire culture and values than do their kinsfolk who stayed behind and watched movies and studied books. Repatriation of refugees who were able to built cultural and also financial assets while abroad stand to be the most important force in bringing values like freedom of speech, religion, press, sexual orientation, elections and so on back and transforming the homelands they fled.

The implication in the area of national language policy is that the influence of critical theory (political correctness) that has argued for a co-joining of language and culture needs to be purged. The evidence for radical forms of Whorfianism is scant or silly, or at best poorly understood. Instead Ronald Wardhaugh's neutral hypothesis and his hypothesis that language merely expresses the underlying culture are the positions which are most correct. No doubt the interest the politically correct have in attempting to modify language is one of the factors that leads to the PC belief in a power of language to modify culture. The efforts of the politically correct to create a "New Speak" that will change the underlying culture can probably be predicted to be unsuccessful. Culture needs to be taught explicitly together with language if language policies are going to be effective parts of nation building strategies.

The implication in the area of immigration policy is that raising the bar of language standards, as was recently done in Australia, is likely not going to have any effect since a person's skill with English is fundamentally irrelevant to what values they hold. Instead, policies like "screening for values" is going to be much more effective in ensuring that new comers bear cultures that will be friendly with their host countries. After entry, teaching culture and compelling interaction in the national milieu it follows is likely to be successful more so than the policy of isolated language classes for immigrants and refugees. The family being by far the most important socializer, importation of whole family units should be carefully weighed, and family class immigration limited.

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