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How can language be both a uniting and dividing factor? Can you think of any examples in your own life?

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Language can be both a uniting and dividing factor because of the way it relates to the speaker's identity.

Consider, for example, the experience of someone moving to the United States from a country that speaks another language. If that person doesn't speak any English, they might feel alienated from...

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Language can be both a uniting and dividing factor because of the way it relates to the speaker's identity.

Consider, for example, the experience of someone moving to the United States from a country that speaks another language. If that person doesn't speak any English, they might feel alienated from some of the people in their new environment. If they find a community of people here that speak their home language, though, they might feel a great deal of unity with that community.

Even if that person moves here and finds that they're simply struggling to understand American English as well as they thought they would, that experience might be alienating, too—it's disorienting for a person to find that they can't communicate effectively. On the other hand, it might also feel very unifying to be able to communicate in a second language at all, even if it's a challenge.

There can also be a great deal of linguistic variation in one's own language. Often, people speak differently with one group than they do with another, and even subtle dialect, accent, or slang can be used to identify someone as an insider or outsider. This can be adversarial, dividing people by highlighting their differences, but it can just as easily be a unifying reminder of commonality.

To come up with an example from your own life, think about how you speak with your friends and how you speak with your family. Are there any words or expressions you use with your friends that you wouldn't use at home? What about at school? In a religious or community setting? What, if anything, do you think might happen if you used the words from one of these places in one of the other places?

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