Hello,

I'm a first time poster here with a dilemma. I encountered the following three phrases during my work on an English class assignment and I'm afraid I don't quite understand what they mean:
  • Language expresses cultural reality.
  • Language embodies cultural reality.
  • Language symbolizes cultural reality.
I am most confused by the use of the phrase "cultural reality." My current hypothesis is that "cultural reality" can be losslessly replaced by "culture" since both language and culture are abstract concepts in the context of the text.

Additionally, the first and last phrase seem to be expressing virtually the same sentiment.

I am grateful for any light that can be shed on this.
New Member02
Hello, Cattus - and welcome to English Forums.

My current hypothesis is that "cultural reality" can be losslessly replaced by "culture" since both language and culture are abstract concepts in the context of the text.-- Essential meaning is not lost, but the author wishes to put language in contradistinction to the real culture that surrounds it, I think.

Additionally, the first and last phrase seem to be expressing virtually the same sentiment.-- The writer is obviously trying to make a point by presenting the 3 verbs (3 relationships between language and culture). In casual conversation the verbs may overlap in general meaning, but distinctions are there, which your dictionary should reveal to you.
Veteran Member92,085
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Thanks for the warm welcome Emotion: smile

"Essential meaning is not lost, but the author wishes to put language in contradistinction to the real culture that surrounds it, I think."

That is probably it. I still would have preferred another distinction (perhaps "surrounding culture"); "Reality" or "real" is way too ambiguous and in many cases is not a property that distinguishes it from language.

To the second point, I still think the first and second phrases alone are ambiguous when left to their own merit. The first phrase, where the verb is "expresses," could potentially (in accordance with a few dictionary definitions) be a more general form of the last. This because the last phrase's verb "symbolizes" can mean "express with a symbol." The following is a, in my opinion perfectly reasonable, way of interpreting those phrases:
"Language expresses cultural reality."
"How does language express cultural reality?"
"With symbolism: Language symbolizes cultural reality."

In summary I think my comprehension issue stems from the ambiguity of the phrases and not only from my limited capabilities (limited as they are).
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