How does culture influence language? What would be an example of this?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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There are many ways in which culture influences language. The first example would be what words are considered taboo, and avoided or euphemized. For example, in Victorian England, sexuality was taboo in polite speech, and therefore terms potentially linked to sexuality or nakedness were not used in polite conversation. Undergarments, for example, are called "unmentionables" in many Victorian novels.

Another area in which language and culture are linked is in insult terms and swearing. The terms people use as insults reveal many deep-seated cultural beliefs. For example, the term "bastard" is an insult in cultures that prize monogamy and condemn having children out of wedlock; in cultures with more flexible family structures, such terms would not be effective insults. Similarly, religious insults are used in deeply religious societies (e.g. in Greece one curses someone's Christ or Virgin Mary) but not in more secular ones.

In cultures with strong gender differentiation, there are words used only by people of a certain gender. 

An interesting part of the history of the English language reflects the Norman conquest. While English retained Anglo-Saxon animal names such as "cow" and "pig", names that would have been used by the conquered people who tended the animals, the names of the foods derived from these animals are based on French roots (beef from boeuf, pork from porc) reflecting the language of the conquerors who ate the prepared foods. 

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