Language and Identity Essay: Relationship between Them (2022)

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Language and Gender
  3. Language and Racial Identity
  4. Language and Social Status
  5. Barriers
  6. Conclusion
  7. Works Cited
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Introduction

Language refers to the means of expression that people use for communication. Hence, it is an essential tool for interaction, and it may also be associated with a person’s individuality. Yet, how is language related to identity exactly?

In essence, people are distinctively different from each other and use speech to portray their differences or similarities. A specific language may help in uniting people who belong to a particular social group. So, there is a close relationship between language and identity from the get-go.

(Video) Relationship Between Language and Identity | Free Essay Sample

Every individual has a certain identity, but it is not static. It is dependent on the occasion, purpose, and context. People in new geographical locations may redefine their identities to conform to their surroundings. Thus, to explain the relationship of language and identity, we should start by examining how a person can change due to the environment.

Language may identify an individual with a certain social status, race, nationality, or gender. Generally, people who identify themselves with a specific group use a shared language. Therefore, it can be regarded as a unifying factor that helps determine a given group’s personality. It gives them a sense of belonging due to a shared experience and accessible communication.

In this language and identity essay, we have explored how the concepts influence each other in detail.

Language and Identity: Gender

There is a close relationship between language and gender identity. Gender variation in speech is common in various societies. In the contemporary world, women and men communicate using different forms of language. Differences in the social status of men and women are the main factors that contribute to the difference in speech. Social issues of power and subordination between men and women usually lead to difference in speech between the two genders.

Most societies require women to more polite speech than men. The society usually sanctions the use of profanity or obscenity by women. In such societies, women have a subordinate role and their social freedom is less than that of men. In addition, women may have greater insecurity, uncertainty, and lack of confidence (Edwards 135). Therefore, one may use language to determine the social freedom of a society.

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Language and Identity: Race

There is a very strong relationship between language and racial or ethnic identity. The history of individuals determines their language. Therefore, people who have a similar racial background may use similar language for communication. The mother tongue is one of the aspects of racial identity that one acquires by virtue of birth. Racial identity may be critical in the early life of an individual as it gives an individual a sense of belonging.

(Video) English 201: Project 4: Language and identity essay

In most homes, people use a certain language to communicate with their family members. This makes people who use the language to consciously or unconsciously associate use of the language with a sense of endearment. The language is distinctively different from the public language. Hispanics who live in America may associate Spanish with racial identity.

Therefore, they may use English to communicate in public, but address their close friends and family members using Spanish. Spanish enables them to express their feelings in ways that are extremely difficult in English (Kirszner and Mandell 135). Speaking in a certain language creates a sense of belonging to people who communicate using the language. Using the language creates an ‘us and them’ situation between people who use the language and those who do not.

In some instances, the use of a certain language among the social minority may create social isolation. People may not be able to have good relations with people who do not speak their native language. In addition, they may be unable to express their feelings clearly using the language commonly used by the public. Even in societies that speak one language, people use a certain language when communicating with their friends or close family members. The language enables them to express their feelings clearly.

Aria by Richard Rodriguez highlights how language may be a source of racial identity. The author narrates how Spanish affected his early life. When Rodriguez was young, Spanish was the only language that members of his family used to communicate when at home. This is despite the fact that they lived in California where English was the public language. Using Spanish created a sense of endearment among the family members.

It made them feel relaxed and welcomed at home. Rodriguez’s family used to refer to the white people who spoke English as los gringos – the others (Rodriguez 134). Communicating using Spanish was both advantageous and disadvantageous to the family. It strengthened the family ties and gave the members of the family a sense of belonging. However, it led to social isolation of the family. Rodriguez family members could only socialize with their relatives who also communicated using Spanish.

Communicating using Spanish had a negative effect on the learning abilities of Rodriguez and his siblings. However, after the intervention of nuns from school, Rodriguez’s family started communicating at home using English. This led to significant improvement in the social life of members of the family. However, after speaking in English for long time, Rodriguez forgot how to speak Spanish properly. This elicited taunts from various relatives who referred to him as pocho – someone who had lost his identity (Rodriguez 137).

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(Video) How are language and identity connected? | Big Think

Therefore, according to the relatives, the ability to communicate in Spanish was an integral part of their identity. Aria highlights the importance of language in racial identity. In fact, even after the integration of Rodriguez into the American society, he still had feelings of nostalgia when he heard someone speaking Spanish in the streets. This shows that Rodriguez still associated Spanish with his racial identity.

Language and Identity: Social Status

It is easy to detect the social status of people from their speech. The education level is one of the major factors that affect the language of individuals. People who belong to high social classes are more likely to receive quality education, therefore, enabling people from high social classes to use proper language while communicating.

People from different social backgrounds usually have different dialects. Therefore, grammatical differences can help in determining their social backgrounds. In addition, people from different social classes usually have phonological and phonetic differences. Therefore, people from different social status may have different accents.

In the nineteenth century, slavery was a common activity in America. Slaves belonged to the lowest social class in the society. Their masters strived to ensure that they maintain the status quo. Therefore, it was wrong for slaves to learn how to read and write. The ability to read and write would have increased the intellectual capabilities of the slaves. Therefore, inability to read and write condemned the slaves to eternal slavery. Language created a social barrier between the slaves and their masters (Douglass 147).

All contemporary societies have social stratifications. Social stratification refers to the order of hierarchy of social classes in a society. The social distance between two groups determines how the language in the social groups affects each other. A change in language in the higher social class would have minimal effect on the language in the lower social groups. In fact, it may not even affect the language in the lower social groups. Social groups that have a small social distance may use almost identical languages.

Barriers

Language helps in improving communication between two parties. However, the effectiveness of communication depends on the ability of both parties to understand the language. Therefore, language may either facilitate or impair communication between two parties. People should be able to decipher the meaning of various words in a certain language.

Failure to understand the language effectively may make an individual have the wrong understanding of the message. This is because certain words may have different meanings in different contexts. Therefore, it is vital for the individual speaking to take into consideration ability of the listeners to understand the information (Tan 142).

(Video) The Cultural Identity Essay Pt. 1

Conclusion

Language has two main functions. It helps in communication and gives a group of people a sense of identity and pride. People usually identify themselves with a certain language. Various groups of people use a certain jargon that is only comprehensible to people within the group.

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Language may show the social status, gender, and race of an individual. People who belong to different social status usually use different languages. In addition, different genders use different language vocabularies. A study on the language vocabulary of different genders may help in determining the social freedom of a society. Language is a source of racial identity. People usually use a certain language when communicating with people from their race. Use of this language creates racial identity.

Works Cited

Douglass, Frederick. “Learning to read and write.” The Blair reader: Exploring issues and ideas. Ed. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell. Ontario: Pearson Education Canada, 2007. 145-149. Print.

Edwards, John. Language and identity: An introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Print.

Rodriguez, Richard. “Aria.” The Blair reader: Exploring issues and ideas. Ed. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell. Ontario: Pearson Education Canada, 2007. 133-139. Print.

Tan, Amy “Mother tongue.” The Blair reader: Exploring issues and ideas. Ed. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell. Ontario: Pearson Education Canada, 2007. 140-144. Print.

(Video) How to Write a Cultural Identity Essay [7 Steps] | Total Assignment Help

FAQs

What is the relationship between your language and your identity? ›

Language is a fundamental aspect of cultural identity. It is the means by which we convey our innermost self from generation to generation. It is through language that we transmit and express our culture and its values.

What is the connection between language and identity Why is language is important to identity? ›

Languages symbolise identities and are used to signal identities by those who speak them. People are also categorised by other people according to the language they speak. People belong to many social groups and have many social identities.

What is the similarities and difference of language and identity? ›

'Language is the principle means whereby we conduct our social lives' (Kramsch, 1998, p. 3). Language is the carrier that reflects our identity to others and delivers our culture. Identity is “people's concepts of who they are, of what sort of people they are, and how they relate to others” (Hogg and Abrams 1988, p.

Does language define your identity essay? ›

Language does not necessarily define one's identity and identity does not define language, however it does affect it. Depending on how many languages people know, they are able to decide on what language they want to use in order to communicate with other communities according to their identities.

How does language construct identity? ›

Identity constructs and is constructed by language. Identity is foundation based on the acknowledgment of shared source including ethnic, linguistic, religious, historical, territorial, cultural and political attributes with other people, groups or ideal. (Hall, 1994, 1996).

Is language a key to identity and social acceptance? ›

According to African American writer, James Baldwin, language is a “vivid and crucial key to identity” and social acceptance.

What is meant by language identity? ›

Linguistic identity refers to a person's identification as a speaker of one or more languages. The linguistic identity is part and often an important part of our identity. And this is especially true for multilingual individuals.

What is the relationship between culture and identity? ›

Culture is a defining feature of a person's identity, contributing to how they see themselves and the groups with which they identify. A person's understanding of their own and other's identities develops from birth and is shaped by the values and attitudes prevalent at home and in the surrounding community.

How does the language you speak reflect who you are as a person? ›

Language is what binds us to our culture and ancestors. It's what shaped our attitudes, beliefs, values, and understanding of what is truth. Our language is the 'heart' of who we are as a person. But language also depends on how your family interferes with it.

What is the relationship between language and communication? ›

Language is a system of communication that relies on verbal or non-verbal codes to transfer information. Communication is a way of interchanging messages or information between two or more people, focusing on the message. Language is a tool of communication.

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