Relationship between Language and Culture

The relationship between language and culture is profoundly entrenched. Language is the oral expression of culture. Culture is the particular custom, beliefs and ideas of a particular community. For example: Eskimos have many different terms for snow. There are nuances that make each one different. But we know one or two words concerning snow.

According to Sapir (1921), “language is a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desire by means of voluntarily produced symbols.” Language is a part of culture and a part of human behavior.

Language and Culture are two different entities. Culture is a specific set of practices, customs, ideas, and beliefs which make a particular society different from other societies.  On the other hand, language is means of communication. It is usually verbal.  Language can also be visual (symbols, signs) or semiotics (hand or body gestures).

The cultures possessed by urban peoples are different from rural people. Depending on their culture their language definitely is different. There are different social groups. These groups have some different cultures. The culture of lower class people and the culture of upper class or middle class are not the same and their languages are also not the same. 

The village people regularly deal with farming, cattle, crops, fishing, afternoon gossiping and so on. On the other hand, urban people deal with office, business, transport, client, party, restaurant and so on. These are the activities that create different atmospheres and culture.   Depending on these different cultures different languages also establish in city and village.

Different professional’s people also hold different languages. A university teachers’ culture is surely different from a businessman. A teacher’s activities move around his/her learning and teaching. Oppositely, a businessman’s activities move around his/her staff, profits, and clients and so on. These two professionals can be graduated from the same institution; their home district can be also same. But after spending two years in their own professions if we consider their language we can notice some particular differences. These differences can be semantically, lexically and both.  It happens because of different culture that rooted from their professions.

The words of a language are influenced by its culture. In western they use the word “Uncle” to mean any sort of uncle. But in our culture there are many types of uncles like fraternal, maternal and many more. We use different words to mean them like “Mama”, “Kaka” etc.

The acceptability of words and language is different from language to language. It is also for culture.  In our culture, if anyone calls someone “Tui” who is elder than the people who calls, it will not be acceptable.  But in western the pronoun “You” is for younger, elder, and same age. 

The word “Oviman” in Bengali language has no translation in English language because this term is not present in western culture. If they (British people) want to borrow this word into their language they have to borrow this culture also. Otherwise they cannot interpret this word in their language.

Language is heavily influenced by culture – as cultures come up with new ideas, they develop language components to express those ideas. The reverse is also true: the limits of a language can define what is expressible in a culture. Language and culture are linked up. Language is a major component and supporter of culture as well as a primary tool for transferring message, which is inextricably bound with culture. Learning a second language also involves learning a second culture. On the other hand, language is influenced and shaped by culture. It reflects culture.




Sapir, Edward (1921). Language: An introduction to the study of speech. New York: Harcourt, Brace and company. ISBN 4-87187-529-6. ASIN: B000NGWX8I.