Language and Culture: Linguistic Evidence of a Natural Reciprocity and Some Lessons for the Future

Patrizia Torricelli


The link between language and culture is a natural bond, depending on the same reasons the language exists for. Language is a semiotic device. It is a system of signs and the true nature of every sign is to be a value originated by a culture. Only the value that a culture acknowledges to a signifier and a signified makes their relationship – otherwise arbitrary toward reality – necessary in the language and makes the sign the seemingly faithful mirror of the known world. The process occurs in the mind and it is of metaphorical kind: something becomes something else in accord to an imaginative scheme, which warrants the likeness under the power of a cultural model of world knowledge shaped by a society. Therefore, multilingualism is multiculturalism and vice versa, always and everywhere. Some linguistic examples, in the Indo-European languages history, will confirm this indissoluble relation and its historical value.
The comparative diachronic methodology is applied to the cultural reconstruction of the meaning of some Indo-European root words. The exemplification concerns few words in modern languages and points out their etymological-semantic transformation in relation to a cultural change in question. Different Indo-European languages interpret the same meaning in different ways, without replacing the linguistic form. New accepted meanings signal new ideas, appearing from a cultural model of the known world, and they become therefore the most reliable witness of the history of human thought.
The theoretical conclusion is that multilingualism is a resource, in Europe and elsewhere, which must not be neglected. It is, indeed, the synchronic mirror of a plurality of ideas about the same things, which today, in a globalized world, is a very precious intellectual wealth. Besides, it is the guarantee of the historical memory of a cultural past whose knowledge is the true, inalienable patrimony for the future of our society. 



Language; Culture; Multilingualism; Memory

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