تعامل زبان فکر و هویت
The interaction of language, thought, and reality between male and female among Persian and English speakers: A qualitative study of sex dominance
No discussion about culture, language, reality, and thought is completed without the analysis of the interaction of language and thought. In this case, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is the most comprehensive approach toward discourse analysis which shows the connection between language on one hand and thought and ideology on the other. CDA reveals the hidden effect of features of a text by deconstructing manipulative linguistic elements. The present study is an attempt to make it clear how linguistic elements and discourse structures explicitly and implicitly function in classifying reality, in producing, reorganizing, and enforcing certain ideas, in persuading and influencing other's views and in controlling relation of power. This article also aims at discovering the way male and female interact ideologically with a number of discursive structures such as: nominals, passives, and address forms, in English and Persian. So, it focuses on the social as well as grammatical aspects of nominals, passive structures and address forms.
Key words: language, thought, sex
The role of language in forming concepts and representing the world has been one the most controversial subject for many years. Montgomery (1995:224) argues that according to the view of universalists "…all languages represents the world in the same way" but to the relativists ,"…different languages provide different ways of experiencing and understanding the world".
Montgomery (1995) continues to say that on universalists view, all human beings have some basic concepts or "conceptual primes" like "relative height (e.g. 'up' , 'down'), relative distance (e.g. 'near', 'far') and relative time (e.g. 'now' , 'then')" in their minds. This basic concepts construct more elaborate conceptual systems and patterns of thought. Regarding this view, people are able to think without having a particular language. Therefore, although human languages differ from each other, peoples' thinking is the same because thought does not depend upon language. In this case, it is said that language is just for reflecting the concepts, thought, event, fact and generally the world.
But according to the relativist's view, language and thought are not separate from each other. They are inseparably bound so that thought affects language and it is also affected by language. Different languages represent the world in different ways because structures of all languages are not the same.
The question of the relationship between language, culture, and thought often involves complex issues which are related to philosophy, psychology, sociology, ethnology and anthropology. Kenneth Chastain (1988:56) states: "… it is language that puts wings on our minds and enables us to fly beyond our horizons into the fascinating worlds beyond."
Wilhelm von Humbolt (1767-1835) as quoted by Brown (1994) believes that language shapes one's view of the world. Edward Tylor (1871) and his predecessor, Latham as said by Hyems (1964), link language and ethnology together. Also, in the view of other scholars like Malinowski, Firt and Franz Boas, language, facts, mental and social elements are regarded as interdependeble variables.
The question of linguistic determinism which is "how much does language determine thought?" should be discussed with respect to the Sapir-Whorf hypotheses which are controversial. Brown (1994:186) refers to a famous quotation of Whorf (1940) which implies the relationship between language and thought:
…the beckground linguistic system (in other words, the grammar )of each language is not merely a reproducing instrument for voicing ideas but rather is itself the shaper of ideas, the problem and guide for the individual's mental activity, for his analysis of impressions, for his synthesis of his mental stock in trade. Formulation of ideas is not an independent process, strictly rational in the old sense, but is part of a particular grammar and differs, from slightly to greatly, as between different grammars.
Whorf believes that the grammar of each language affects the way in which people understand their experiences. Based on the deterministic view of language which is strong form of Whorf hypothesis, language is the only thing that can shape thoughts and ideas of people. And the weaker version of the hypothesis as Hudson (1996) mentions, allows other kinds of experience to have some roles on shaping of ideas. It is clear that in both strong and weak version of this hypothesis, linguistic features and grammars of different language provide different situations for influencing ideas.
Some scholars criticize Whorfian hypothesis. Wardhaugh (1976) as quoted by Brown (1994) believes that all languages can reflect the world and they reflect the reality in the same way without changing it. Brown (1994) mentions that Whorf does not believe in any determinism or extravagant view of language and his hypothesis is misinterpreted by some scholars.
After posing the question whether language builds concepts and facts or it just reflects them, Hudson's (1996:92) answer is" A bit of each". He believes that there are some concepts which depend upon the language and they would not exist without any language. In this case language is more important in learning and understanding some concepts than others. It is more important in learning abstract concepts such as: fun and mind, or in learning those concepts which have alternative ways of interpreting for example instead of left and right children may use east or west and this affects the real experience.
Hudson (1996) summarizes that without similar linguistic background we are not able to have the same understanding of the facts or physical evidence. But it should be noted here that he also believes that some concepts do not depend on language. He (1996:101) concludes:
In short, language does affect thought in ways that go beyond the rather obvious effects of specific lexical items. On the other hand, language is not the only kind of experience which does affect thought, so we have moved a long way from the idea of linguistic determinism.
Steinberg (1982) proposes four notions in relation to language and thought. The first one is that "thought is a kind of behavior, mainly speech". This view belongs to those behaviorists, psychologists, linguists and, philosophers like Watson, Skinner, Staats, Bloomfield, and Ryle who just believe in observable behavior and cognition. Watson (1924) as quoted by Steinberg (1982:102) believes:
The behaviorists advance the view that what the psychologists have hitherto called thought is in short nothing but talking to ourselves … My theory does hold that the mascular habits learned in overt speech are responsible for implicit or internal speech (thought). Speaking overtly or to ourselves (thinking) is just as objective (physical) a type of behavior as baseball.
The second nation is that thought depends on language. In this regard, Vygotsky (1934) as stated by Steinberg (1982:105-6) says: " Thought is not merely expressed in words; it comes into existence through them …The relation between thought and word is living process: thought is born through words."
Regarding the third notion, Steinberg (1982:108) mentions:
Whorf, Sapir, Krozybski, and other are of the view that one's knowledge of vocabulary or syntax influences one's perception and understanding of nature. Concepts of 'time' and 'matter' are not given in substantially the same from by experience to all men but depend upon the nature of the language or language through the use of which they have been developed. Newtonian space, time, and matter are not intuitions. They are recepts from culture and language. That is where Newton got them.
Steinberg states that the fourth nation is that language shapes one's culture. Korzybski (1933) as quoted by Steinberg (1982:11) believes:
… a language, any language, has at its bottom certain metaphysics which ascribe, consciously or unconsciously, some sort of structure to his world. Our old mythologies ascribed anthropomorphic structure to the world, and of course, under such a delusion, the primitives built up a language to picture such a world and gave it a subject-predicate form.
Steinberg (1982) summerizes the influences of the language on thought in three aspects. 1) Language provides new idea, 2) language can change beliefs and values, and 3) language preserves ideas and assists memory.
Wierzbicka (1986) links linguistic structures such as expressive derivation, illocutionary devices and speech act verbs to the literature, history and culture. And Brown (1994:187) comes to this conclusion: ''Aspects of language do indeed seem to provide us with cognitive mind sets. In English the passive voice, our verb system, and numerous lexical items… all contribute to influencing our thinking.'' So, different words and structures have power of controlling people's behavior and beliefs and show different attitudes toward different groups such as male and female.
Sexism in language system
Crosby and Nyquist (1997) believe that women use more empty adjectives (e.g. 'divine', 'charming') and tag questions. Regarding empty adjectives, they (1997:313-4) maintain: ''Not only are these adjectives meaningless but in contrast to male adjectives (e.g. 'great', 'terrific'), they are noticeably devoid of any connotation of power. '' They continue that by using tag questions women making a statement and avoid make an assertion. Fasold (1984) asserts that tag question usage represents an example of uncertainty of women.
Some scholar believe that male/female speech difference reflect different roles as well as unequal position. As stated by Eckert (1989), also Deuchar (1988) conducts some research on the area of language difference and dominance. She makes an argument that using standard language with more conservative linguistic behavior and more politeness structures by women is a strategy for maintaining and protecting the face of powerless sex (female). So, this kind of speech is not due to the fact that women have a higher social class or they are more powerful but it may indicate that women use more standard speech to compensate their subordination. With respect to dominance and difference, Hudson (1996:102) raises the following questions: ''Do language discriminate against women? More precisely do the ways in which language allows us to refer to male and female discriminate against females?" . Regarding dominance of one variable in language, Lakoff (1973) and Schulz (1975) as noted by Throne and Henley (1975:15) claim:
The male is associated with the universal, the general, the subsuming; the female is more often excluded or is the special case. Words associated with male more often have positive connotation; they convey notion of power, prestige, and leadership. In contrast, female words are more often negative, conveying weakness, inferiority, immaturity, a sense of the trivial. Terms applied to women are narrower in reference than those applied to men, and they are more likely to assume derogatory sexual connotation which overshadow other meanings.
Thorne and Henley (1975: 15) explain: "This derogation and overgeneralization, Schulz observes, is related to the process of stereotyping and is also present in other situations of dominance, e.g., racial and ethnic situations." They believe: "Language helps enact and transmit every type of inequality, including that between the sexes." An example of unfavorable tendency toward female is the word "mistress" (versus master) which as a noncore word has unfair connotation meanings for women. Wood (1999) supposes that language is not neutral, for example there are more than 220 derogatory terms for women but only 22 for men. Also, Alma Graham (1975:61) says that women's titles of honor such as: queen, madam, mistress, and dame (as noncore words) have some deragetory and degraded meanings, whereas men's title such as prince, king, lord, and father "are exalted and applied to God for even God is thought of as a male and is called Him."
To summarize the discussion of sex differences in language use and to put it in a nutshell, it is concluded that there are two approaches in studying these differences. The first is different or cultural approach which explains just the sex differences in speech behavior but the second is dominance or power-based approach which suggests the differences between men and women's speech with respect to power. Uchida (1992:547,557) views:
... the "difference/cultural" approach, which treats women and men as having different but equally valid rules of conversation, ... stating that power has little to do with what happens in conversation between socially equal females and males... and the "dominance/power-based" approach, which focuses on male dominance and sexual division of labor in talk.
With respect to language, mind, and gender, Uchida expresses that language is not neutral. Ehrlich and King (1994:60) assume: " ... language serves as an ideological filter on the world: language shapes or constructs our notion of reality, rather than labeling that reality in any transparent and straightforward way". They continue that language organizes the world and functions differently toward dominated and dominant groups.
So, if a language presents two ways of referring to male and female, then it will make people have a different understanding of each of sexes and make them behave differently toward each of them. Also, Wood (1999) suggests that verbal communication expresses, reflects and shapes cultural view of gender in the following ways.
First, language defines gender and shapes our perception. When we use language to name objects and people or to describe feelings and emotions, we neglect several aspects and emphasize other aspects. This is because language cannot describe all aspects of things or concepts. That is, by using language we change the reality and describe some particular abilities. For example, language is used to refer to male's activity, experience, skill and power but female's appearance, beauty and their relationship with their husbands or children are emphasized and considered as norms. Key (1975: 18) writes "Man Does, Woman Is". Another example of language defining gender is male generic language, which includes males and females, but in especial situation it refers only to men. The words mankind, mailman, postman, milkman, clergyman, foreman, salesman, storeman, spokesman and businessman are examples of noun in male generic language (as Alma Graham refers to it as Manglish). According to Henley (1989) as stated by Wood (1999:108):
Male generic language reduces awareness of women and tends to result in perceiving women as excluded or exceptions to the rule. This affects comprehension of language, views of personal identity and perceptions of women's presence in various spheres of life.
Wood (1999) argues that when language refers to men more than women, it implies that men are considered as standard sex because when we name something we think that. It is important, and it should exist, but we do not name those things-we want to ignore.
The second implication of language with respect to gender, as Wood (1999) points out, is that language is used to organize, classify and generalize perceptions. Symbols allow us to translate concrete world into language and this abstracting, slanting and polarizing thought and reality cause stereotyping. Stereotyping is a kind of generalization in a wrong way. For example, we say all women are not interested in sports or they do not like sports at all. Or, women are emotional but men are rational. Key (1975: 11) attributes the following statement to the Pythagoras: “There is a good principle, which has created order, light, and man; and a bad principle, which has created chaos, darkness, and woman.”
In sum, we can say most of the scholars believe that language abstracts, slants, polarizes, generalizes, organizes, and classifies thought and reality and these show the influence of language on perception especially one's perception and understanding of different genders.
Wood , Julia T . (1999) Gendered Lives : Communication , Gender and Culture. Boston: Wardsworth Publishing Company.
نوشته شده توسط مهشید قانع در شنبه دوازدهم مرداد 1392 و ساعت