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Language and Tradition
Tradition has been defined as 'the total set of beliefs, attitudes, customs, behaviour, and social habits of the members of a particular society'. Our culture informs us what is appropriate, what's normal, what's acceptable when dealing with other members of our society. Our culture lets us know what to anticipate from others, what they will say in certain situations, and the way in which they will say it. It lets us know how they will act, and the way they will react. It's the knowledge of the ages handed down to the present. We are affected by it, and it is affected by us. Tradition is in a relentless state of flux, altering incrementally, changing the way we speak and the way we think, the way we act and the way we react.
That tradition is indelibly linked to language is undeniable, for language is a vehicle by which it is transmitted, probably its chief vehicle. One observable way in which language acts as a vehicle for, or a transmitter of, tradition is in the use of idiomatic language. Idiomaticity is arguably the most typical form of language, in terms of percentages of the whole. Idiomatic language, most frequently discovered within the form of phrases consisting of more than one word, typically doesn't conform to say the grammatical construction of non-idiomatic language. For example, within the phrase, 'at massive', as used within the expression, 'the public at giant', or in the sentence, 'The escaped convicts have been at massive for 2 weeks earlier than being recaptured.', the preposition 'at' appears earlier than what seems to be an adjective, 'giant'. This appears to be in direct contradiction to the 'normal' place such a part of speech occupies in a grammatically appropriate sentence, viz. earlier than a noun, such as within the following examples, 'at residence', 'at work', 'at the office' et al. The phrase, 'at large' appearing on the web page in isolation from any context that will make its meaning more clear, has an opaque quality where semantic which means is concerned, and perhaps still retains a few of its opacity of that means even within the context of a sentence.
To members of the community using such idiomatic language, there may be tacit agreement on what these phrases imply, despite their opaque quality. Idioms are cultural entities.
To learners of a overseas language, any overseas language, culture imbues language with this opacity. The word, table is easily understood and realized, but what in regards to the phrase, 'to table a motion'? That phrase carries a cultural value that isn't readily appreciated or obvious to a learner. The meaning does not reside in the individual words that make up the phrase. The verb, 'to table' must initially appear nonsensical to a learner. Likewise, 'a motion' should seem like an anachronism, having realized that motion is a synonym for the word 'movement'.
Each tradition has its own assortment of phrases that are peculiar to it, and whose meanings are usually not readily apparent. Were this not so, George Bernard Shaw's adage that America and Britain are nations separated by the same language would have no ironical appeal. Ostensibly, we speak the same language, the British and the People, however each varieties use many various words, and have many different phrases which might be usually mutually unintelligible, and generally uttered very differently. Generally only the context in which a phrase or word is used serves to disentangle. Generally even the context shouldn't be quite enough. Sometimes we think now we have understood when we've not.
This points out another feature of tradition certain language; that it exists within a larger entity, that localized varieties exist. What is understandable to a person from one area could also be unintelligible to at least one from another. If this is true within the community of a particular set of customers of one language, how much more should it hold true to learners of that language. Many a learner of English, feeling herself proficient, has gone to England only to search out the language at worst totally unintelligible, and at finest emblematic, but still not fully comprehensible.
The 'cultural weighting' of any language, in the form of idiomatic phrases, is understood by members of that cultural community, or maybe more appropriately, and more narrowly defined, by the members of that particular speech community, and conversely, shouldn't be readily understood by those who come from another tradition and even one other speech community, albeit ostensibly within the identical culture.
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