Most representations of culture are done through literature which tells the readers about the lives of the people of a given culture. This article explores how the English novel Salt and Saffron, written by Kamla Shamsie, a writer of Pakistani origin, constructs the cultural identity of Pakistani characters in the novel. As the novel revolves around a Pakistani family, the culture-related words, as well as themes, are inevitably present, and the article, through content analysis, highlights how these cultural themes have been discussed by the writer with the effective use of code-switching and how this discussion has led to the presentation of a unique Pakistani cultural identity.
Language, Culture, Representation
The literature identifies culture, ethnicity and social mileue. Works of literature not only reveal a culture but also exhibit an essential link between language and culture. This article explores how Salt and Saffron, a novel by Kamila Shamsie, who is an English writer of Pakistani origin, represents Pakistani culture and constructs Pakistani cultural identity by mirroring the life of its characters as it unveils their beliefs, customs and ways of living.
Language operates in a society with all its colours and shades depicting a particular ethnicity. Lion (1981) cites Bloch & Trager (1942), who term language as “a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which a social group co-operates” (p. 04). In the words of Hall (1974), language is “the institution whereby humans communicate and interact with each other by means of habitually used oral or auditory symbols” (p. 158). Both these definitions lay a particular emphasis on language being a way for interaction in a society. Language provides humans a chance to communicate, interact, co-operate, and mix up with the members of the society and they use it as a tool to perform all these social functions effectively and form a strong relationship. In the social context, man uses language as discourse and establishes a set of values, lifestyle, beliefs and so on, which form a particular culture of that society.
Humans are social entities due to their nature of forming close social ties with other members, and this nature of theirs is unlike other beings around. Different cultures emerge due to that fact that social realities vary from one society to the other. Although some realities are same for all societies, such as progression of life and inevitability of death, yet there are so many other realities that vary, depending on the resources available to people, their habits, the area they live in, whether they have around them, race, religion, the colour of skin and so on. Expression of these different realities causes the emergence of unique varieties of language that have the ability to stand alone as varieties due to their peculiarities in terms of lexemes or vocabulary, syntax and so on, and the different sets of moral values, social and religious beliefs, superstitions etc. are some of the major factors causing this variation in languages. Man is able to form a set of social, racial and religious values which become the ‘culture’ of the society, and on the basis of these values, one can distinguish culture from other cultures. Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines culture as “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious or social group”. This discussion shows how language plays a vital role in the formation of a culture of a particular society and how that culture is reflected through language, and this is evidence of one affecting the other.
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