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Language – Generations and Cultures

Language is not only a method of expressing culture and tradition; it is also a part of culture itself. In the essay entitled “Language and Literature from a Pueblo Indian Perspective”, Pueblo-Indian author Leslie Marmon Silko, who grew up in a Pueblo community in the southwestern region of the United States, talks about the role that the language plays in storytelling and the importance of storytelling within the Pueblo culture. To Silko, storytelling represents a significant part of both Pueblo cultural identity and a key formative influence without which, she further states, she would not be whole. Persian author Jasmin Darznik, on the other hand, wrote in her article “Persian, English” that she felt a separation between her Persian background and her English upbringing, and that she preferred to speak English because it is the language she uses to survive whereas she only uses Persian to show off and impress people. However, she soon became satisfied with her Persian identity, and started to embrace its culture and beautiful language, especially in poetry. Language serves as a powerful tool that helps carry on cultural traditions and connects past and future generations by embodying certain behaviors, passing down important information and shaping identities for many cultures and identities.
The way one speaks a language reflects him or her social statues and behavior. Even among the speakers of the same language, it varies from classes, districts and genders. Who have different social status and live in different areas, have their own specific usage of their language, vocabulary or accents. In Persian, language categorizes its citizens by gender; the topics that Persians talk about are different, based on whether someone is male or female. In Persian society, men always talk about “ Iranian politics and Persian literature”(Darznik 141) and women can only discuss some “fancy attire, animated gestures and gossipy conversations”(Darznik 141). This unfair “invisible boundary” between genders made Darznik realize that her Persian language was “oddly and unmistakably stunted”(Darznik 141) compared to English. She felt her Persian was not normal and mature, noting “my Persian grew up around these woman’s lives and the particular language they spoke to each other”(Darznik 141) while English did not limit her to gendered discussion. Darznik experienced freedom and equality by speaking English in that the “invisible boundary” between men and women disappeared once she came to the United States. She started to “polished off essays and begin to walk away with all the school literary prizes”(Darznik 140). Since she becoming better and better in English, “it was here that my problems with Persian really began”(Darznik 140). She said, and “mine is a diminished and misshapen native tongue, a remnant of all the imposed boundaries of my childhood”(Darznik 141). She speaks Persian with families and English with others leaded her start to feel separate between Persian and English. She is categorized by Iranian world as a female who has a lower social statue compared with males and will never be able to join men’s conversation. However, American society classifies her as a free woman that has a comparative same social standing with men. The difference is embodied by how she uses the languages to communicate with Iranian community-she speaks Persian in a much soft way. These two totally different languages make her split into two cultures. Language distinguishes Indian people by their requirement to use the language in Pueblo culture. Silko has a different opinion with Darznik that she believes that language is not so that significant compared with the meaning that the speaker trying to express. “But the language being spoken isn’t as important as what the speaker is trying to say, and this emphasis on the story itself, I believe, from a view of narrative particular to the pueblo and other Native American peoples-that is, that language is story”(Silko 58). Pueblo people use stories to express their meanings and achieve their target. “Storytelling is an ongoing process, working on different levels”(Silko 60), Silko said. Stories of Pueblos have very strong volatility,“many individual words have their own stories”, it’s like a big net. Although language plays a different role in Silko’s life that she judges language as a carrier to transmit stories and information, still, she felt the gap between Pueblo Indian and western culture. “But our experience with English has been somewhat different in that Bureau of Indian Affairs schools were not interested in teaching us the canon of western classes”(Silko 61). Language reflects Iranian culture on how Iranian use Persian to communicate with others and embodies Pueblo civilization by been a transportation to deliver stories and knowledge.
Language transmits information from generation to generation. Each generation has their unique angle to view the language and specific usage of tongue. Darznik prefer to speak English since it’s a language matters to survival and Persian is a language to show off. “I speak a colloquial Persian that gets me by remarkably well in most circumstance, but it’s far from a high or literary Persian”(Darznik 141). Darznik felt uncomfortable speaking Persian on account of she thinks she felt her Persian is at the level of infancy and she is ashamed to speak. She plays the role of “the forever deferential and soft-spoken daughter” in her family. At the mean while, her parents have the extremely reverse perspective of the relationship between Persian and English. Her mother has a strong accent with is definitely unfavorable and rough which makes the author embarrassed. But she “seemed not to notice or care”. Her parents are willing to see how excellent their daughter can speak English but not in front of them, and even though they are able to speak English well enough, they reject to say. The way that Darznik views the two languages is totally inverse from how her parents judge them. In Pueblo Indian culture, language is more like a inheritance of language, older Pueblos who has longer life experience have a much extraordinary skill to construct the vocabulary and tell the stories. For instance, Silko’s aunt, a great storyteller, used “going over to Cliff House”?Silko 61?to describe her death, that the author is unable to understand at the beginning. Different generations have different understanding of some characters and sentences, and usually older people have a deeper comprehension and profound usage of languages.
Language shapes reality, builds identity and links generations together. Language makes Darznik connects her different egos, structures themselves as a whole and let her realize who she is. After Darznik felt that she is cleaved into to different cultures, she want to stop this situation since she said, “I have also been eager to unburden myself of my native tongue and the world to which it bound me” (Darznik 142). She read some poetry in Persian and found out that every language is irreplaceable that there are some specific lyric that translation could never tell. She realizes that she is not split into two languages but has them as a whole. She tries to learn Persian and blend in Iranian society in that she realized that she could link two cultures together by speaking both tongues well. Also, in Pueblo Indian society, “the origin story constructs our identity-within this story, we know who we are”(Silko 59). Pueblos are proud of their stories and appreciate them.
Language constructs the relation between generations as well. “The stories are always bringing us together, keeping this whole together, keeping this stories together”(Silko 60). Older generations tell younger generations who are they, where are they from, what they should or should not do by telling stories. Language is a mirror that reflects the culture, a train that transmits information and a knife that shapes the reality. In micro, language cuts an individual into several egos and then builds bridges to connect them and form a new integrated individual. In macro, Language categorizes people based on their gender, social statues, culture and generations and finds their wispy conjunctions and constructs a general society. Together, language becomes a bridge, connecting the gap between generations and cultures.

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Language – Generations and Cultures. (2018, Oct 11). Retrieved from https://thepoetrytrust.org/language-generations-and-cultures-essay

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