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NYS Board of Regents (PDF)

Foreword (PDF)

Acknowledgments (PDF)

About This Guide (PDF)

What Is a Culture?  (PDF)
by Nancy Jervis, Ph.D.

Culture: A Geographical Perspective (PDF)
by  Charles Heatwole, Ph.D.

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Color Coded KEY:
Terms that appear in Dr. Heatwole's article are written in plain text.
Terms that appear in Dr. Jervis's article are bolded red.
Terms that appear in both articles are in italics green.

anthropology - The study of the similarities and differences of the world's people.

barrier effects - Physical, economic, cultural, and political obstacles that inhibit the spread of culture (e.g., language, religion, race/ethnicity, or even historic events). See also physical barrier effects and social barrier effects.

civilization - Generally understood as a more advanced form of organized life; civilizations usually have more complex forms of social, political, military, and religious life. Writing and the use of metals are also features of many civilizations.

cross-cultural contacts - Outside influences that stimulate cultural change. The Silk Road brought silk to the West and Buddhism to China in the East.

cultural change - A shift that may occur within a culture, usually as a result of outside influences.

cultural communities - Groups that have a number of cultural traits in common. Most countries include a mosaic of many cultural communities.

cultural components - Attributes that vary from culture to culture, including religion, language, architecture, cuisine, technology, music, dance, sports, medicine, dress, gender roles, laws, education, government, agriculture, economy, grooming, values, work ethic, etiquette, courtship, recreation, and gestures.

cultural diffusion - The spread of a culture and/or an individual trait, and the factors that account for such a spread.

cultural dissonance - Elements of discord or lack of agreement within a culture.

cultural ecology - The interactions between a culture and its physical environment.

cultural geography - A branch of geography that focuses on cultural traits, the impact of material and nonmaterial human culture on the environment, and the human organization of space.

cultural interaction - The interconnectedness of various cultural components.

cultural landscape - The natural landscape as modified by human activities and bearing the imprint of a culture group or society including buildings, shrines, signage, sports and recreational facilities, economic and agricultural structures, transportation systems, etc.

cultural practices - Ways of life that are unique to the inhabitants of a particular area.

cultural stereotype - The misrepresentation of a culture that often involves a particular people's clothing, food, and/or shelter, and most often rests on the notion that certain people live pretty much as did their distant ancestors (e.g., the Inuits are portrayed dressed in animal skins, carrying spears, and living in igloos with dog sleds parked outside; in reality, modern Inuits live much like other North Americans).

cultural traits - Distinguishing features of a culture such as language, dress, religion, values, and an emphasis on family; these traits are shared throughout that culture.

culture - The total way of life held in common by a group of people, including technology, traditions, language, and social roles. It is learned and handed-down from one generation to the next by non biological means. It includes the patterns of human behavior (i.e. ideas, beliefs, values, artifacts, and ways of making a living) which any society transmits to succeeding generations to meet its fundamental needs.

culture areas - Regions with shared cultural traits (e.g., sub-Saharan Africa).

culture hearth - An area where a distinctive set of cultural traits develops, such as the Fertile Crescent and the Nile River Valley.

culture region - A portion of the Earth's surface that has one or more common cultural elements.

diversity - Understanding and respecting others and oneself including the similarities and differences in language, gender, socioeconomic class, religion, and other human characteristics and traits.

environment - The overall setting, including natural elements and elements created by humans, in which a world community exists.

ethnic change - A situation in which one cultural community is expanding or contracting in opposition to another, often leading to an atmosphere of tension and conflict between communities.

ethnic groups - A collection of people distinguished, by others or themselves, primarily on the basis of cultural or nationality characteristics.

geography - The academic subject that describes and explains the distribution of phenomena that characterize our planet's surface in terms of both physical and human features or dimensions.

global diversity - The existence of thousands of cultures having similarities and differences in language, socioeconomic class, religion, and other human traits.

human geography - The study of the distribution of human populations, their cultures, their activities and behaviors, and their relationship with and impact on the physical landscapes they occupy.

language - A symbolic form of communication-perhaps the most important feature of a culture.

migration - The permanent (or relatively permanent) relocation of an individual or group to a new, usually distant, place of residence and employment.

multicultural - Many cultures coexisting in a similar time and place.

"nature or nurture" - Whether it is our inherited genetic predisposition ("nature") or what we learn as we grow up ("nurture") that predominantly shapes us and our differences as individuals.

physical barrier effects - Characteristics of the natural (physical) environment that inhibit the spread of culture.

physical geography - The study of the structures, processes, distributions, and changes through time of the natural phenomena of the Earth's surface that are significant to human life (e.g., oceans, deserts, mountain ranges, dense forests, and climates).

race - Features (e.g., skin, hair, and eye color) that are genetic (inherited) and shared by a large group of people. Social scientists now doubt whether race is a useful concept.

rural - Having to do with the countryside; rustic; away from cities and suburbs.

shrinking global communities - As communication and transportation technology has improved, the ability of groups of people to interact quickly across time and space has made distance across the globe and between communities seem shorter.

social barrier effects - Characteristics that differentiate human groups and potentially limit interaction between them, thus inhibiting the spread of culture (e.g., language, religion, race and ethnicity, and a history of conflict between specific cultural communities).

social institutions - A set of organized beliefs, rules, and practices that establishes how a society will attempt to meet basic needs.

suburban - Having to do with a district, town, village, etc. on the outskirts of a city.

symbolic meanings - Words or other communicative things such as gestures or pictures that stand for something else.

urban - Having to do with cities, or characteristic of cities.

westernization - The process in which non-Western societies acquire Western culture traits, which are adopted in varying degrees of thoroughness.

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The University of the State of New York | The State Education Department
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