Saturday, February 7, 2009

Identity and language

Elfina wroteThis example is a good one [identifying idioms] to show in terms how much our cultural environment determines who we are, what culture we belong to and what cultural values we share. We all share our common cultural inheritage but of course we have our own cultural traits.

Elfina, your research on idioms interests me. When I read this statement, however, I wondered if by identifying the meaning of an idiom necessarily means that one uses it or identifies with it. Does your research include which idioms speakers use in everyday speech as well? I´m interested in your thoughts

I think the question of identity is clearly marked between cultures, but even within cultures as well. My identity differs depending on when I´m with my friends, family, workplace, etc. and my language reflects this identity - for better or for worse. When people interact, perceptions are formed based on the language they use; there is this attempt for the speaker to project a certain message and then there is the interlocutor´s perception of the message being transmitted. Even within native speakers, this attempt and perception can be at odds - for language learners it can be even more so.

I would argue that language is our best attempt to communicate or transmit our identity and not so much as a determinant of our thinking or identity. Perhaps this might be the case in brief instances, but with time and clarification, I feel our truer identities reveal themselves even if several language attempts are necessary. In other words, I think what other people have to say is more of a determinant of our thinking and identity than what we say ourselves.

This is an interesting discussion and I look forward to hearing from others. I also reserve the right to change my mind (smile).