Language and Culture

Language and Culture



Language and Culture

Language influences how people think as per Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. This hypothesis have been challenged by many scholars while others have agreed with this narrative. Culture and language are interrelated and depends on each other. This paper analyses how language influences culture in general and how Hindi cultural values has affected their language as far as idioms is concerned.

There is a high correlation between language and culture. Language influences the way we think and act. The choice of words we speak is a reflective of our culture. In the same manner, culture also influences the words we speak. Primarily, culture affects language (Language and Culture, 2016). Language develops from the common day-day activities experienced by a group of people. These actions and the way people active rise to words and how they are used. Shared experience of a particular culture affects language used. Culture is generally accepted worldviews. These worldviews are described using language. Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that language shapes our thinking and behavior (ROBINS, n.d). What people generally speak is a combination of general beliefs and is a reflection of their thoughts. Language is the only means in which culture is transmitted from one generation to the other.

Indian language is unique as compared to English. A person cannot literally translate Indian to English just the way they are and have same meaning. A person should first understand Hindu language in order to translate it to English effectively. The main reason behind it is that English follows subject-verb-object structure while Hindu follows subject-object-verb structure. An example is “She likes ice-cream”. In Hindu, it will be like, “she ice-cream like” (“Hindi Revisited: Language and Language Policies in India in Perspective,” n.d.). Apart from the sentence structure arrangement, the verb is also gender based. For English, verb is neutral, and only the pronoun is gender-based. There is also an aspect of respect in the Hindu language. This is the most peculiar aspect in the Hindu language as far as English language is concerned. Plural verbs can be used for singular objects as a form for respect to the seniors. This means within the Hindu culture, language is influenced by the culture and vice versa. On the other hand, the element of respect is not valued in English culture the way it is in Hindu culture.

Idioms are metaphorical and figurative. This means that they cannot be translated the way they are; it needs a deeper understanding of the meaning of the words used or the context in which they are used. Environment affects the choice of language used. It is a reflective of the culture and the language spoken. In Hindu culture, idioms used is no different. The most popular idioms is to ride an elephant. It means to rise in wealth stature or reputation. Riding on elephant is common in the Hindi culture. This idiom cannot be used in English culture since elephants are rare animals. It is also peculiar to the cultures associated to the Far East cultures where elephants are rode on. Another idiom is to have rats jumping in the stomach. This means to feel hungry. This idiom is funny when it is said in English culture. The last idiom that reflects the Hindi culture is to cook one’s own dish meaning to diverge from the group mentality and pursue individual’s path. It reflects the Hindi collectivistic culture. All the three idioms reflect Hindi culture, religious beliefs and societal values (Priyanka & Sinha, 2014).


Hindi Revisited: Language and Language Policies in India in Perspective. (n.d.). Defining the Indefinable: Delimiting Hindi. doi:10.3726/978-3-653-03566-7/12

(2016). The Language and Culture12(3). doi:10.18842/klaces.2016.12.3

Priyanka, & Sinha, R. (2014). A system for identification of idioms in Hindi. 2014 Seventh International Conference on Contemporary Computing (IC3). doi:10.1109/ic3.2014.6897218

ROBINS, R. Η. (n.d.). 5. The Current Relevance of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. Universalism versus Relativism in Language and Thought. doi:10.1515/9783110805826.99

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