Football and Language as Cultural Practices

This is an attempt to explain some of the social properties of language use by comparing it to a cultural practice most people know better and think about more.

When you have read and understood, can you see that the same things are going on in the two photos above?  Just different contexts, different ways of doing things to people, and different outcomes.

Football does not exist without other people

 

Language only exists through other people, not because of what we talk about

 

Football does not work with other animals (dogs can chase balls but these are different behaviours)  

Talking to animals does nothing (dogs can respond to spoken commands but these are different behaviours to language use)

 

Playing football requires other people to be trained in doing the same thing  

Language only works with other people who have been trained for many years

 

 

If a soccer player and an American footballer try to play football together it does not work except by a lot of pointing and grunting

 

If a speaker of Hindi and a speaker of English try to talk together it does not work except by a lot of pointing and grunting
The behaviours in football are not shaped by a single person or on a single occasion but are the product of many shapers over time  

The behaviours in language use are not shaped by a single person or on a single occasion but are the product of many shapers over time

 

The basic units of playing football are not single small kicks but groups of different skills put together in “strategic plays”  

The basic units of language use are not a bunch of words but are made up of snippets of discourse or conversation—whole phrases or sentences

 

To understand playing football you need to analyse the social contexts of the game very carefully first, rather than just study the individual foot movements  

To understand language use you need to analyse the social contexts of the game very carefully first, rather than just study the words used 

 

What people are trying to do in football is about social strategies and outcomes, not just kicking the ball; they are trying to achieve something  

What people are trying to do with language use is about social strategies and outcomes, not just emitting words; they are trying to achieve something

 

You can get obsessive in certain conditions and play football all the time  

You can get obsessive with language use and thinking (ranting or incessant rumination)

 

You can do all the moves of football on your own but it is not controlled in the same as when playing with a team  

You can do all the moves of language use on your own (and is called thinking) but it is not the same as when done with others in conversation

 

There are some advantages to practicing football alone  

There are some advantages to practicing language use alone (thinking has some added advantages)

 

If you want to learn what is going in football, when someone kicks the ball do not look at the kicker but look at the effects on the other players where the ball was kicked  

If you want to learn what is going in language use, when someone speaks do not look at the speaker but look at the effects on the listeners

 

 

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