Language and Culture

The book, Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture, explores the relationship between language and culture. Aiden and Michel asserts that there is a significant change in form of language and the use of language as the culture changes. And in order to improve the study of culture, study of language is crucial. This idea is deeply related with the program they created, the Ngram. They’ve studied how does the use of certain language changes over time. For example, the word ‘tea’ was way more used than the word ‘coffee’ in English history. Yet, since 1970s, coffee has become dominant as the main beverage among common people, and thus has become much more used word than ‘tea’. Such example shows that tracing the use of language can lead to better understanding of culture in general. The book compares the culture to dinosaurs. Both have a common characteristic that through traces from the past it can be found and studied. Just as the study of dinosaur is made through fossils, the study of culture can be improved by its trace from the past, which is introduced as use of language.

The assumption might not be always right. Sometimes language reacts later than the change of trend in culture. Language cannot directly mirror the cultural trend or changes. Yet, it is true that language is the best way to observe cultural changes. LanguageĀ is easily observable through books or different works of literature. It is the most commonly used method of communication and exchange of ideas. Tracing the culture through language, which is a cultural fossil, may not be the exact way of examination, yet it is definitely a revolutionary method.

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