Sunday, April 5

Does Language Determine Culture?

I'm just finishing up my first essay, which pertains to defining the word "natural" in the dairy industry. Such as organic milk being more natural compared to pasteurized milk with hormones, etc. and really being able to determine what natural is. I came across another philosophy blogging site (crazy huh?) that had a very interesting question: does language determine culture? It made me think about how often we are influenced by specific words or sentences and how our culture can begin to change due to those words. For example, more and more people are eating more "organic". This one word is influencing how we eat, or now what we buy, or even how the producers change their image. Organic, is usually considered to be more healthier/natural, but then how are we to define healthy, or also to define natural. The meaning of these words or how they relate to us have changed, and have been determined by our culture. A great example on this site was the phrase D-day. We all know where this word came from, however it is now used more and more in the business press, pertaining to or related to a launch of a new product. Communication is very huge in our culture and language I believe has definitely influenced us through the years. I just never thought about how much language really determines our culture/mind frame......very interesting question. If you would like to look at the site, here is the link


  1. I think that the question, “does language determine culture?,” is an interesting question. However I do not think that language determines culture, but more influences culture. As Kitcher states in Science, Truth, and Democracy we use the language (or words) that we do in order to help achieve our own purposes (pg 46). We choose to describe something in a certain way with specific words not only to help ourselves remember what is being perceived, but also to help others see and understand what we are perceiving. I think that this also means that we may use a word to describe something not just for our own benefit, but also because we know that if we use it others will pay attention to what we are describing. For example, with words such as “organic,” in recent years, especially with food products, the word is thrown around more often to bring attention to a product. Therefore instead of the language used determining a type of culture it is influencing our already existing culture, or as you start to mention, it is influencing our mind frame.

  2. You might be interested in reading Daniel Dennett. I haven't read his work, but I did attend the talk he gave at the WSU Potter lecture last semester. He's done some extensive work on cognitive and social evolution, and I'm pretty certain language is a big part of his work.


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