display | more...
This was an essay written for a linguistics 359 (society and culture) midterm, noded in the hope that it will prove useful for someone studying linguistics or anthopology

Culture and society are mutually dependent and interact in such a way that even separating one from the other is a difficult task. Society spawns culture and culture preserves, defines, and shapes society. Understanding particular aspects of culture is important to the study of its impact upon and definition of society. Particularly, culture's unconscious nature relates to its role in maintaining societal stability in several ways.

Cultural content and forms are acquired via precept and admonition. Rather than learning culture in an objective manner, as we do academic subjects, culture is assimilated. This process is the result of critical admonition, exemplified in a parent's negative directive to a child, "Don't do that." No explanation is necessary, that behavior is simply not to be engaged in. The child learns socially acceptable patterns of behavior and speech by receiving corrective feedback from adults and older children.

A similar process takes place for anyone attempting to learn a language by immersion, when one learns to "think" in another language; the learner acquires an unconscious grasp of appropriate usage by observing reactions to his speech patterns, whether he or she actually knows the language in an abstract sense. Getting feedback and copying from those around you are the most important parts of language acquisition. Together, the two processes allow one to grasp the workings of the language innately, without having to translate to and from your native language mentally.

"I don't know how, but I know it when I see it," and "It just sounds wrong" are typical self-assessments of one's own unconscious knowledge. This unconscious knowledge is shaped by correction, giving us an almost instinctive notion of good and bad. No reasons can really be given as to why- there is an absence of abstract perception of how these processes work, and even if one were to gain an abstract understanding, it seems to be mentally compartmentalized and does not affect the way we perceive things initially.

Deviation from the correct form is literally "unthinkable"; it does not occur to us as a viable option because of our internal filtering mechanisms. Incorrect forms are usually suppressed before they reach the level of conscious thought or expression. This is why the unconscious portions of culture change so rarely. Because we simply act upon and transmit much of culture passively, it remains essentially unchanged.

Much of culture is acquired through example. We primarily simply imitate behavioral models. These models are usually used without any knowledge of patterns or rules which govern them and the pattern-recognition is all done at a subconscious level, without our awareness of the processes involved.

In contrast, technical skills are acquired through the explicit communication of analyzed structure and form, and of applicable principles and rules. The thought processes are completely conscious, especially at first, until some of the cognitive processing can be done at a subconscious level. Because these types of skills are studied in an abstract manner, they tend to change rapidly as refinements and modifications are made.

Similarly, other portions of culture that exist primarily on a conscious level change rapidly as well. Examples of this include music and art which both go through rapid and steady evolution. Musical and artistic styles change even from year to year. One can often readily identify music’s temporal origin in five or ten year intervals even when you have no previous knowledge of the particular artist or song.

Just as widely used languages change rapidly and little-used languages remain relatively static, cultural content that occupies our conscious thought processes evolves and otherwise changes directly proportionate to how conscious we are of it. Thus, the unconscious nature of culture makes for social stability.

Because cultural norms are so inherently stable, the majority of the members of a given society are able to better relate to and communicate with each other. A community in which its members share commonalties is generally more inclined to stability than one in which cultural norms change so often that the unity of the society is compromised.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.