Language as Tradition and Experience

Examines the concept of language as tradition and experience in discourses by Chang-Rae Lee, Dennis Baron, and Amy Tan.

Language as a tradition and experience illustrates the holistic effect of language to individuals. In the field of social psychology, it is posited that language determines thought, and this hypothesis, called the theory of linguistic relativity, is proposed by Benjamin Whorf and Edward Sapir. The theory shows how language determines people’s perceptions of their social realities as experienced and related to within their society. Chang-Rae Lee (Mute in an English-Only World), Dennis Baron (Don’t Make English Official-Ban it Instead), and Amy Tan (Mother Tongue) confront this issue in discourses on language as tradition and experience. This paper provides a comparative analysis of the authors’ works and arguments about language and its function and meaning for the individual and society.
“Baron uses the academic approach in portraying English as a tradition, a functional system of codes that enables people to interact with each other in the society. Using this as his primary thesis, Baron argues that English should not be implemented as the country’s national language, since it’s hardly even English anymore. The hybridization of English in America is the result of the assimilation of other languages of people with various nationalities who immigrate and live in America. Because of the emergence of hybrid, pseudo-American languages, it cannot be possible to determine the purity of English as a language anymore. Thus, implementing English per se defeats the purpose of language for society that is, to let people interact and understand each other. However, Baron’s argument does not conclude definitively, since as he confesses, there is no obvious candidate that would be fitting to become an alternative to English. Thus, Baron’s arguments is halted and brought to a standstill, since his arguments against the language pertains only to its function as tradition, and not as an argument against English as a language experienced by its users.

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