Why Language & Culture Studies?

On a practical level, language has to do with sounds, symbols and gestures that a community puts in order and associates so that they can communicate. On a deeper level, language is an expression of who we are as individuals, communities, nations.  Culture refers to dynamic social systems and shared patterns of behavior, beliefs, knowledge, attitudes and values. Culture provides the environment in which languages develop, even as it influences how they are used and interpreted. For example, in many European cultures a “good day” is a sunny day, while in many African cultures a “good day” is a rainy day. Different culturally shared values provide the context for interpreting the term for “good”.

Languages and cultures merit study and celebration in their own right. Those who wish to promote local languages have special reason to examine how those languages and cultures work in the first place. Then more effective plans can be made for developing resources and competencies to maintain and even expand their use. Language and culture studies thus provide a necessary foundation for successful language development work of all kinds. SIL International promotes and shares the results of language and culture studies through multiple resources, and especially through Ethnologue. SIL also offers consulting and training in various academic domains related to language development, including Anthropology, Arts and Ethnomusicology, Language and Culture Documentation,  Language and Culture Learning, Linguistics, Literacy & Education, Translation, Sign Languages and Sociolinguistics.

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