Skip to ContentGo to accessibility pageKeyboard shortcuts menu
OpenStax Logo

Language and culture are closely entwined in the evolutionary development and contemporary diversity of human societies. Human language differs from animal communication in its complexity and flexibility, aspects of human communication made possible by unique human biological and genetic features. The complexity of language makes it a powerful tool in shaping human thought, providing categories and metaphors for organizing our information about the world. Though language shapes thought and action in universal ways, many aspects of language vary widely relative to local cultures. The social aspects of language are particularly relative, influencing how children learn languages in various sociocultural contexts as well as how people use language to create speech communities. In ritual contexts, language is used performatively to accomplish social action as well as challenging those actions. As a tool of power, language structures gender, race, and ethnic dynamics. Recognizing the fundamental importance of language to the preservation of culture, many Indigenous communities have developed strategies to revive their heritage languages using immersion schools and master-apprentice programs.

Order a print copy

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.


This book may not be used in the training of large language models or otherwise be ingested into large language models or generative AI offerings without OpenStax's permission.

Want to cite, share, or modify this book? This book uses the Creative Commons Attribution License and you must attribute OpenStax.

Attribution information
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a print format, then you must include on every physical page the following attribution:
    Access for free at
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a digital format, then you must include on every digital page view the following attribution:
    Access for free at
Citation information

© Dec 20, 2023 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.