LANGUAGE: AN IDENTITY
A simple definition considers language to be a means of communication, but a language is more than that. Language is not a product of its own and cannot exist on its own. So, to understand “language” properly, a brief introduction to culture and society becomes inevitably important.
The trio, i.e., language, culture, and society, work hand in hand to express each other, just like the triumvirate of the Roman Empire, i.e., Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus. Language is a product of society; language is that very expression that connotes who we are as a person, society, and nation.
Identity means that individual attribute by which a person is known. It won’t be easy to know someone outside your circle, even when there is a resemblance. For instance, there are many Africans in India. Some people whose knowledge of history is limited generalize most Africans in India, if not all, as people from South Africa or Kenya.
Research shows more than six representatives of African countries staying in India, namely, Nigeria, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia, etc. To distinguish these countries from each other, language plays a crucial role.
Knowing a language should be limited only to the language you speak in your country because the 21st century promotes everyone to become bi-lingual. Our dispensation requires people that can speak more than one language, unlike older times when one was considered a suspect when he knew more than one language.
Mono lingual countries like America, Britain, and many more, have just one identity, unlike India, where there are diverse identities. Language like Hindi is spoken in its acceptable society and cannot take its root in Tamil Nadu, where people speak Tamil.
Your language reveals you even when the language is not known to others. When a language is unknown to someone, it becomes a sound. Sounds help us to place an individual where they belong.
For example, they are basically two English accents, the British and the American accent. Though both accents sound similar to each other, differences still pertain. Like the word ‘Schedule’ is pronounced by the Americans as /ˈskedʒuːl/ while the British accent pronounces/’ʃedjuːl/.
It is believed that the French influence on Britain gave birth to the pronunciation “shed-ule” while the Greek influence on the Americans gave birth to the pronunciation “sked-ule.” With both accents, it is very easy to place one right where they belong.
Language exposes one even when you are not ready to reveal your identity. To this effect, cultural contemporary anthropologists categorized language in the following;
(1) Language is a social heirloom and not an individual heritage
(2) Language is a unified system
(3) Language is a symbolic meaning.
Language has had an underground effect to the point that imitating another accent becomes a little difficult; thus, if one is rooted in a language, it becomes part and parcel of that person. Language is our pride; individual, society, nation cannot really define who they are in one word, but ‘language’ does that efficaciously.