Dialect and Dialectics

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Dialect - n. the vocabulary that is characteristic of a specific group of people.
Dialectics - n. a system of thought where truth is arrived by balancing opposing views of thought.

Two words that sound so similar, yet mean so different.. but can they actually be as close and correlated in concept as they are in spelling?

Dialect, which in other words symbolizes Language, has been a crucial element in growth and maturity of our species. Just like the origin of the universe or the creation of life on earth, there are no clear and irrefutable theories of how language developed in Humans. Man, as Homo Loquens, owes a lot to language in his philosophical growth. Language, as a spoken medium, allows interchange of ideas and elevates individual creativity to a community level intelligence, and as a written medium, enables successive generations to consistently progress in human thought. Initially, language was considered just as a medium for expression of our thoughts, but as time passed it was realized that language is a mode of our thinking and human thinking and language have complementally evolved together.

In the words of philosopher Dr. Jose Nandhikkara, "Only human beings speak. To the extent that we speak, we become fully human." Dr. Nandhikkara also goes on to talk about a Linguistic Turn that philosophy as a whole has taken in recent decades. The focus of discussions and analysis in philosophy have turned from Metaphysical and Ontological to Semantical.

We live in a pluralistic world - diverse both in culture (thought) as well as language. People of a same linguistic group normally tend to have the same baser instincts. Language tends to be a clustering factor, uniting people together, as much as common culture binds them. In India, we even took it to the point of dividing the country along linguistic lines, which put a stamp of cultural identity on people speaking the same language.

Now, this close association of language and human thought, like two faces of the same coin, makes me wonder if they have been partners-in-crime as much as they are brothers-in-arms. At an empirical level, we know some cultures foster more radical thoughts than others, some favor rationalist approach while others favor the empirical path, some cultures are more ritual driven than the rest. Can we find 'any strands of DNA' in language that are, maybe, responsible for the thoughts in the culture? Did the rubrics of language influence the hermeneutics of cultural thought?

Just as an example, can we, in any way, say that an Indian is more outspoken than a European because common Indian words are comparatively shorter in length? Or that a Tamilian mind has more complicated thoughts than a Kannada mind because Tamil has more letters in their alphabet and hence takes more effort to construct a word? Is it possible an Arab is happier than a Russian because Arabic language has more nasal tones and hence more oxygen pumps closer to the brain? Maybe an American is more scientific than an African because his language is simpler and hence gives his brain more time to think?

I wonder if anybody has analyzed the notes and tones of language in a way to interpret the cultural attitude springing from them..


Razboynik | Разбойник said...

I lived in Russia for 15 years and learned the language. Russian is a very rich language, and includes many different variants of slang, including Student, Prisoner, Armed Forces and Street.
I think that a rich language lets people express themselves easier, and better. It molds them and their culture.
Do you think that the climate affects language?
It certainly affects culture.

Vicky Dada (Vikas) said...

Dear sir from Russia - I am very glad to have your audience on my blog. I am really relieved that you didn't take offense when I said Arabs are happier than Russians, it was a purely imaginary example with no semblance of reality in it, possibly!

Your point on climate is thought provoking. I haven't looked at it but just on preliminary basis I feel there may be a slight impact. Climate affects the physiology and metabolism of our bodies and the language we speak is controlled by the ease of speaking the words in it. Maybe people in hot climate use more expirated pronunciations so they can breathe out air and cool their lungs? You think that fits?

Razboynik | Разбойник said...

History has shown that colder countries have developed quicker than warm countries. It is a case of survival. Picture yourself thousands of years ago in Russia, when we were hunter-gatherers. To survive in winter it would have been necessary to wear fur, successfully hunt for food, and find a warm place to live. Imagine living in the Caribbean during this period. Virtually the same temperature (30 degrees) all year round. You can sleep where you want; no need to find a cave. Clothes weren't necessary. If you're hungry, grab a coconut, or go fishing. Maybe, the spoken language at that time differed in complexity, due to necessity?

I've been to Trinidad & Tobago and the people there speak slowly with many slang words. They're also very laid-back, and never in a hurry to be somewhere. In Russia, if you spoke Russian in the manner of a Trinidadian, they would think that you're retarded. Russians speak quickly, use more words in their speech, and generally live at a faster pace.

What about gestures? Do gestures enhance the meaning of the spoken word? Do some cultures gesture more than others? Maybe gesticulation is not so much cultural, just a particular person's way of communicating his/her message more effectively?

Vicky Dada (Vikas) said...

Dear sir - In your line of thought I see an opposite approach. With due respect, your approach is to see the effect of climate and lifestyle on language and I was pondering on the reverse impact.

Let me elaborate using your example - Maybe initially the colder countries developed faster due to their survivalistic struggle and this impacted the kind of language they used too. Once language came into the picture, man quickly switched on to an accelerated social mode. Interactions between people enhanced greatly. Thanks to language, there was an explosion of communication and human evolution took a new turn. I have a strong feeling from that point onwards language may have become a dominant factor that controlled the way we think.

I dont know if this is really worth pursuing at all, because sometimes it seems totally absurd.

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