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Race, Ethnicity and Culture

Hence whilst the use of language and culture is and long has been both a unique and a
universal human trait, the specific language (or languages) any given individual speaks, and
the cultural tradition (or traditions) within which he or she routinely operates is contingent on
their social experience, and not on their biological decent. People of Chinese ancestry are not
genetically programmed to speak Chinese, any more than English people are genetically
programmed to speak English. Our mother tongues are acquired in the process of childhood
socialisation, not as a consequence of our personal genotype. Hence if an individual of
Chinese ancestry was by happenstance brought up in an English context, or if someone of
English ancestry was brought up in a Chinese context, each would speak the language to
which they had been exposed with equal fluency. Whilst our capacity to be cultured in this
sense may be as genetically hard-wired as the interior of any computer chip, it nevertheless
imposes relatively few limitations on the linguistic and cultural software which can be run on
it. Hence our specific linguistic and cultural competences – our stock of software, as it were –
is a product of our upbringing and social experience, as well as of our own personal
creativity, rather than being determined by our biological ancestry.

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MYR 7.25

MYR 7.25

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