The relationship between language and culture. Moroccan cultural identity in a socio-cultural framework

A case study

Bachelorarbeit, 2017
28 Seiten


Table of Contents:




Theoretical Part
I - Introduction to Language and culture
I-2 Culture
II –The Relationship between Language and Culture
III –The Impact of Language on Culture

Practical Part
I-The Influence of Language on Culture on Moroccan Society
I- 1 Religious Discourse
I- 2 The Impact of Witchcraft
II – The Influence of Hip Hop
III –Taboo or not Taboo





This research is fruit of a collective work. It could have been accomplished through the help and support from many people, including parents, family, teachers, classmates and friends. The idea of this research could have been evolved through the fruitful teaching that I received from those people and the constructive interactions I have had with them.

My first acknowledgement goes to my teacher and my research supervisor Mr. Abdlhak Jebbar for the significant role that she has played not only for having teaching during my BA period at university, but also for his adherence to kindly read my paper and give me invaluable advices and remarks on my ideas, organization and the theme of the research.

Second, I dedicate my acknowledgement of gratitude toward my mother, who did her best to educate and send me to school and kept advising and encouraging me for more learning. I am indebted with gratitude for the inestimable time they have devoted for me.

Finally, I profoundly thank friends and colleagues, who always offer their help and share information. Also, I thank all teachers who once had a hand in enriching my knowledge, constructing my personality and inciting my ambition to go further.


I dedicate my dissertation work to my family and many friends. A special feeling of gratitude to my loving mother, Khadija and whose words of encouragement and push for tenacity ring in my ears. My sisters Soukaina, Latifa and Samah have never left my side and are very special.

I also dedicate this dissertation to my many friends and group family who have supported me throughout the process. I will always appreciate all they have done, especially Hamza for helping me develop my technology skills, Antonia Cornelia Sanders for the many hours of proofreading, and Mostafa for helping me to master the idea of B.A.

I am very keen to dedicate this work and give special thanks to my best friend Antonia and my wonderful mother for being there for me throughout the entire B.A program. Both of you have been my best cheerleaders.


This research paper is meant to deal with the inseparability of language and culture. It will explore cultural controls in a specific language and epoch. It will be divided into two parts. The first one is chiefly theoretical, tackling an introduction to language and culture and the relationship between them. Eventually, the focus will be on the impact of language on culture.

The second part, which is mainly practical, examines Moroccan society as a case study. It will portray how language and culture interact, and it will also discuss deeply the religious discourse and the influence of superstition. The last sections will not be only concentrating on Hip Hop culture among Moroccan youngsters but also discussing a sensitive issue in Moroccan society which is the topic of taboos.


What We Say Influences What We Think, What We Feel and How We Believe.

Investigating the relationship between language and culture replies to a number of questions raised earlier, such as, "what is language" and "what is culture". Whereas a long definition of language is hardly needed, such a definition is certainly useful in the case of culture, especially its relation with language. Is it a kind of education, which can be expressed by language? Is it a set of socially determined habits or traditions? Or is it a certain way of life? Or perhaps an identity related to behavior? Is there any relationship between language and culture? Is it possible to claim that culture is determined by language?

There is a debate among thinkers and intellectuals on the relationship between language and culture that provokes linguists since language is said to serve two purposes.

Language is the way culture is determined by. It is a shared system of meanings through which experience is interpreted and carried out.

The relationship between language and culture has been the focus of linguists' studies. Many linguists have come to realize that language and culture are related, it cannot be understood without investigating language in accordance with culture; every language is embedded within culture. It is the vehicle through which culture is expressed and a neutral tool allowing those of different backgrounds to communicate with each other, so as to permit the effective communicativeness process to describe the different speech events.

Theoretical Part

"Just as birds have wings, man has language;

The wings have the birds their peculiar for aerial locomotion. Language enables man's intelligence and passions to acquire Their Peculiar characters of intellect and sentiment".

(G.H Lewen The study of Psychology)

I – Introduction to Language and Culture

I – 1 –Language

In language study filed, language has many different definitions and approaches taking into consideration the difference of cultural and educational backgrounds according to the researches of this field. Sociologist, humanist, and psycholinguist each of this branches has focused on its own understanding of how language functions. Each branch approaches language with its special sets of methodologies and assumptions. Their focus on the aspect almost becomes mainly its main concerns. On one hand, sociolinguists sympathize with other fields that language is after all the most characteristic medium of social exchange; it has to, therefore, to affect and reflect human being. On the other hand, humanists examine the storyline process vis-à vis the discourses expressed by characters to sort out the connotative ideologies. So, we should grasp what language is? Since we are shedding lights on language, we ought to explore it from its historical context.

This field of data analysis lies on the situation in which people intermediate language in their minds depending on the subconscious interventions. In this respect, language is the link between the past and the present and also a part and parcel of culture. Most of linguists differ and vary to tackle language study. Each one defines culture according to his particular approach from different angles, among the various definitions of language is Corder who is of much relevance.

"Language as a phenomenon of the individual person is concerned with describing and explaining language as a matter of human behaviour.” (Corder, 1973 P: 22)

Here, language is defined by Corder from a psychological point of view since it is taken into consideration to be a sort of behaviour. Another definition is given by Corder in his essay on Language:

"Language is the institution whereby humans communicate and interact with each other by means of habitually used oral auditory arbitrary symbols”. (Hall, 1968 P: 158).

Hall treats language as a purely institution which makes it clear that language is used by a particular society as a culture of a society. He also points out how language is habitually used with reference to bits of behaviour. Moreover, Sapir states his own definition of language as follows:

“Language is purely human being and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means voluntary produced symbols.”(Sapir Lyons, 1921 P: 8).

Sapir defines language as a ready-made way of communicating ideas, emotions and desires through symbols.

However, we can notice here that language does not have a stable and definition. In this view, language is similar to philosophy, as there is a difficulty in a finding a satisfactory explanation to this phenomenon. Linguists, as philosophers, try to give only some statements about language examined by well-known by linguists such as Corder, Hall and Sapir.

Furthermore, the three given above quotations represent some linguists’ opinion about language because language for a sociologist is not like the same for a psycholinguist or even for a linguist.

In conclusion, language could be defined as a way of transmitting people’s beliefs and customs from one generation to another. It helps in the reinforcement of the cultural identity of a person and in representing the principles of their society. When a child acquires a language, it does not suggest that he acquires it only as a channel of communication but also as a system that makes him or her able to act like other people of his or her society.

Language is a symbol of existence for people with no written history. Language can be a casual means to raise an individual’s intellectual competence.

I – 2 - Culture

Culture is like an iceberg only a part of it is observable on the surface, but most of it is not. Culture as a concept has several definitions. For some it is an evaluation of good literature, food, are, customs and music; while for others such as anthropologists, it is the full range of learned behaviour sources.

Edward Burnett Tylor, the British anthropologist and the founder of cultural anthropology, offers a definition of culture which is widely quoted today.

“Culture of Civilization taken in its wide ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, costume and any other capabilities and habits acquired by men as a member of society, the condition of culture among the various societies of men kind, in so far as it capable of being investigated on general principles, is a subject apt for the study of laws of human thought and action.” (Burnett, 1871, P: 1).

According to the cultural contemporary anthropologists, culture is characterized to be fixed and shared by the whole society not belonging to any individual. It is first a social inheritance it is a symbolic system in which language plays a vital rule. It is a unified system whose integral parts are related to each other.

On one hand, some view culture as an abstract way as the shared knowledge of individuals of social communities such as value orientations, costumes, traditions, norms and manners, On the other hand some view culture mainly as a set of specific artifacts, human made environment and overt forms of behaviours.

“The whole scoop of the essay is to recommend culture as the great help out of our present difficulties; culture being a pursuit of our total perfection by means of getting to know, on all the matters which must concern us, the best which has be thought and said in the world,

And, through this knowledge, turning a stream of fresh and free thought up on our stoke notions and habits, which we now follow staunchly but mechanically,” (Arnold, 1869, Part: 8).

In the quotation above, culture is seen both as a body of knowledge and mode of behaviour. According to Martin Montgomery, so many authors could collect over 150 different definitions of culture. He, himself, gives one:

"The shaping, constraining and reproduction of human behaviour through the interaction of the symbolic and material orders". (Montgomery, Issues 6-10. 9:10)

Montgomery's contribution in defining culture gives us another view in tackling culture with new materials; for instance, the shaping. The latter is meant to form concepts within belief, law, and morals acquired by individuals. He also sorts out culture as a reproduction of human behaviour in which culture is learnt either explicit or implicit. On one hand, the explicit way is done in works of literature; that is to say, reproduction of human thoughts. On the other hand, the implicit way is to teach culture is through teaching civilization.

Culture is like the air we breathe. We might not be able to observe it, but the way we behave or is all the time influenced by our own culture. Culture is the way of life including, beliefs, customs, behaviours, ideas, knowledge, religion and values.

II - The Relationship between Language and Culture

Language is the main means by which we conduct our social life. When language is used in a communicational context, it is connected with culture in many complex ways. People in any community utter subliminally many words which are predicated on common experience. These words express ideas, events, and thoughts that are communicable since they refer to the knowledge repertoires about the world that other people share. Moreover, words hold in their folds author’s attitudes, point of views, ideas and beliefs. In both cases, language most of the time points out to express social cultural reality of a society. Society members or social groups do not only tend to express their experience but to express their experiences via language. Both language and culture are considered to be a part and parcel. They cannot be repeated. The Relationship between Language and culture is deeply-rooted, the go together hand in hand, and to some extent none could imagine how could culture be like without language.

Language and culture relationship has always been the matter of linguistics study. Most linguists have come to conclusion that language and culture are two inseparable, integral and inextricable concepts that none can understand or evaluate the one without the other. Language and culture serve each other in a way or another, and they are both in a controversial interaction. They reflect the cultural needs of a society.

"Language may be defined as what a society does and thinks. Language is a particular way of thought. It is difficult to see what particular causal relations may be expected to subsist between a selected inventory of experience (culture, a significant selection made by society) and the particular manner in which the society expresses all the experience.”(Sapir 1921 P: 180).

From what has been discussed in the quotation above, what is noticeable is both that language and culture are essentially prominent phenomena. It goes without saying that mere aspect of language is mainly bound up with culture. Sapir sorts out the deeply-rooted relationship between language and culture from a linguistics determinism adding that language reflects the way we behave and think, so this hypothesis examines that:

"If can be shown that culture has an innate form, a series of contours, quite apart from subject-matter of any description whatsoever, we have a something in culture that may serve as a term of comparison with any possibly a means of relating it to language. But until such purely formal patterns of culture are discovered and laid bare, we shall do well to hold the drifts of language and of culture to be non-comparable and unrelated process.”(Sapir 1921 P: 181).

In brief, you can think that language and culture are two interrelated concepts. The latter has many forms by which it serves language. Language and culture hold in their folds non- comparable and unrelated process. They are so closely interrelated that the main understanding of their relationship is vital in cross-cultural communication.

In the work of Sapir, the relationship between language and culture is typical. He believes that both of language and our thought-grooves are too much involved as to be so hard To unit each other although he claims that language and culture are closely related concepts. The interaction of a specific culture with a specific language is not given rise by nature, but it is a historical coincidence. He thinks that each language tends to serve a particular society. Besides, some relationships between language and culture might be expected to develop. They have so many broad ways in which they are intimately related. The have been the subject of great deal of anthropological and sociological study.

All in all, language is a system of signs that has a cultural value in itself. Language speakers identity themselves through the use of language as a symbol of their social identity.

III - The Impact of Language on Culture

Anthropologists who believe in the theory that words determine thought also believe that language structure mainly depends on the cultural context. Language and culture have always been interrelated in different ways concentrating on establishing the impact of one on another. In truth, these features most of the time overlook the fact on which Sapir focuses.

Sapir focuses on the superiority of language over culture, as he insists on the influential relationship of the language to culture. To explain, language is more than just an innocent tool used for communication with an oriented-form by means of rules made to fit culture flow.

"…It goes without saying that the mere content of language is intimately related to culture. A society that has no knowledge of theosophy need have no name for it; aborigines that had never seen or heard of a horse were compelled to invent or borrow a word for the animal when they made his acquaintance. In the sense that the vocabulary of a language more or less faithfully reflected the culture whose purposes it serves it is perfectly true that the history of language and the history of culture move along parallel lines”.(Sapir 1921 P: -181).

According to the above quotation, we get the impression that language is of supreme importance to culture. Consequently, we discover culture through language. Language like every other kind of production of human culture falling under the cognizance of history.

In conclusion, language is a powerful instrument that is used to make exchange of thoughts and feelings. However, it can also be used as a weapon. It is the only medium by which a community is formed its own customs and norms to be distinguished from other societies. Language feeds one's mind to bear every norms. It is always a part and parcel of one’s identity. The process of learning a new language is an enriching process by which one learns about a new culture providing that this experience does not make an individual underestimate his or her own mother tongue language or even identity. Language and culture go hand in hand as integral concepts.


Ende der Leseprobe aus 28 Seiten


The relationship between language and culture. Moroccan cultural identity in a socio-cultural framework
A case study
ISBN (eBook)
language, Socio-Cultural Framework, Cultural Identity
Arbeit zitieren
Mohcin Sakouri (Autor), 2017, The relationship between language and culture. Moroccan cultural identity in a socio-cultural framework, München, GRIN Verlag,


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