Which came first Language or Culture – Culture

Culture is clearly the predecessor to language as illustrated by the following definition. “The system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviors, and artifacts that the members of society use to cope with their world and with one another, and that are transmitted from generation to generation through learning.”(www.umanitoba.ca) In other words, since a group of people or nation does not have to have language in order to exhibit customs, belief and values a culture can exist without language. Since, pre-linguistic man displayed characteristics of culture without language it follows that culture came first.

To illustrate, there were several customs practiced regularly by illiterate stone age men and women. These customs included the following which all contribute to the definition of culture:

-Burials were utilized regularly
-Paternal and Maternal socialization
-Hierarchy and other social networks
-Artistic expression and visualization
-Ritual and pre-historic religion
-Tool manufacturing

The reason pre-linguistic people were able to do all these things was because of other forms of communication such as body language, intonation, and established behavior patterns. For example, through body language stone age people could communicate hunting tactics, through intonations and grunts various moods such as anger, sorrow, and frustration could be expressed. What’s more, through socialization, stone-age young-lings learned behavior from parents by watching them. These learned behaviors became shared behavior and therefore customs.

What this illustrates is that language is not necessary for culture. Even some modern day primates have a rudimentary form of culture in which tools are used and social networks and hierarchy is established using non-linguistic communication. For example, Male chimpanzees establish their dominance through displays of strength and relationships among other chimpanzees are established through various other forms of communication.

Culture is a word of varying degrees, while to some it may include the highest form of civilization and socialization; to others it may simply mean standard customs and practices such as family, communication and shared belief. For prehistoric people, culture was included in the practice of living without language. Numerous cave paintings, burial sites, housing relics and anthropological findings have verified the point a culture existed around these beings without a language per se.