Is a Language a Strong Factor of Thinking?

Is a Language a Strong Factor of Thinking?

Is a Language a Strong Factor of Thinking?

People have been asking this question for hundreds of years. Thousands of studies in linguistics didn’t present one clear answer to this seemingly simple question: Is it true that the language I speak shapes my thoughts?

Correlation between language and thinking

When we speak one language, we agree that words are representations of ideas, people, places, and events. The language that children learn connects to their culture and surroundings. Does the meaning of the word reflect our thinking? Psychologists have long investigated whether language shapes thoughts and actions, or whether our thoughts and beliefs shape our language. They wanted to understand how the language habits of a community encourage members of that community to interpret language particularly. After multiple studies, they proposed that language determines thought, suggesting. For example, if there is no past-tense verbs in the language persons speaks, he will not have troubles to think about the past.

The true meaning of language

Let’s analyze what you know of other languages; perhaps you even speak multiple languages. Imagine for a moment that your closest friend fluently speaks more than one language. Do you think friend thinks differently, depending on which language is being spoken? You may know a few words that are not translatable from their original language into English. For example, the Portuguese word “Saudade” originated during the 15th century, when Portuguese sailors left home to explore the seas and travel to Africa or Asia. Those left behind described the emptiness and fondness they felt as “Saudade”. The word came to express many meanings, including loss, nostalgia, yearning, warm memories, and hope. There is no single word in English that includes all of those emotions in a single description. Do words such as “Saudade” show that different languages produce different patterns of thought in people?

Language may influence how we think, an idea known as linguistic determinism. One recent demonstration of this phenomenon involved differences in how English and Mandarin Chinese speakers talk and think about time. English speakers talk about time using terms that describe changes along a horizontal dimension, for example, saying something like “I’m running behind schedule” or “Don’t get ahead of yourself.” While Mandarin Chinese speakers also describe the time in horizontal terms, it is also not uncommon to use terms associated with a vertical arrangement. People understand the past as being “up” and the future as being “down.” It turns out that these differences in language translate into differences in performance on cognitive tests designed to measure how quickly an individual can recognize temporal relationships. Specifically, when given a series of tasks with vertical priming, Mandarin Chinese speakers were faster at recognizing temporal relationships between months.

Language does not fully determine our thoughts — our thoughts are far too flexible for that — but habitual uses of language can influence our habit of thought and action. For instance, some linguistic practice associates even with cultural values and social institution.

One group of researchers who wanted to investigate how language influences thought compared to how English speakers and the Dani people of Papua New Guinea think and speak about color. The Dani have two words for color: one word for light and one word for dark. In contrast, the English language has 11 color words. Researchers hypothesized that the number of color terms could limit how the Dani people conceptualized color. However, the Dani people could distinguish colors with the same ability as English speakers, despite having fewer words at their disposal.

In Russian, there are two different words for light blue and dark blue. Does this mean that Russian speakers think of these as ‘different’ colors, while having one word (blue) causes English speakers to think of them as the same? Maybe. Do you think of red and pink as different colors? If so, you may be under the influence of your language; Pink is just light red.

So our language doesn’t force us to see only what it gives us words for, but it can affect how we put things into groups. One job of a child learning a language is to figure out which things use the same word. Children, when studying the world, need to learn the difference between classes and categories of concept. Or the child may not realize that the neighbor’s chihuahua also counts as a dog. The child has to learn what the word “dog” really means and what objects it presents.

We learn to group things that are similar and give them the same label, but what counts as being similar enough to fall under a single label may vary from language to language.

So it’s possible to think about something even if I don’t have a word for it?

The influence of language isn’t so much about what we can think about, but rather on how we break up reality into categories and label them. And in this, our language and our thoughts are both influenced by our culture.

Obviously, we do not have words for everything. We only have words for concepts that are important or salient in our culture. This explains why lexicons (or set of words) in languages are all different. The lexicon is like a big, open bag: we borrow words because we need them for referring to new objects, and we store them in the bag. Conversely, some objects are out of usage, and then we get rid of the words we don’t use, meaning we remove them from the bag.

Understanding language as a system of codes helps to understand the language and that fact it codes aspects of the world.

In summary, language functions as a filter of perception, memory, and attention. Whenever we construct or interpret a linguistic statement, we need to focus on specific aspects of the situation that the statement describes.

Read about Is Language a Tool to Reach Out the World?

References:

courses.lumenlearning.com

www.psychologytoday.com

www.linguisticsociety.org


Recent Articles about Language  

Translating in the Sport Field
Translating in the Sport Field
Last Updated on November 25, 2020

Along with the increasing popularity of global tournaments, such as the Olympics and the World Cup events, demand for translating in the sport field is increasing along with time. This is one of the best methods available for the players to engage with a global audience. On the other hand, sporting event organizers can get in touch with customers all around the world with sports translations. The applications of translations in sport field are even expanding to the retail stores. That’s because the best method available to connect with other people is to use their own language. (more…)

Translating in the Medical Field
Translating in the Medical Field
Last Updated on November 18, 2020

Medical field is one of the most important fields that exist out there in the world as of now. Researchers who work for the industry are continuously working to invent new drugs, which can help them to cure life-threatening diseases. On the other hand, they also work hard to implement new medical devices, which can make the life easy for all people who are working for the industry and who struggle hard with illnesses to ensure a faster recovery. (more…)

Translating in the Financial Field
Translating in the Financial Field
Last Updated on November 11, 2020

Due to globalization, financial institutions have come across the need to work along with worldwide clients and partners. This is where they come across the need to communicate in many different languages. Translating in the financial field is playing a major role due to this reason. (more…)

Translating in the Commercial Field
Translating in the Commercial Field
Last Updated on November 4, 2020

Globalization is one of the key factors that drives businesses forward. However, businesses that open up their boundaries to get in touch with customers from all over the world are facing numerous challenges due to different languages being used out there in the world. If you are a business owner, you should learn how to overcome this barrier. That’s where services that offer translating in the commercial field can help you with. (more…)

Translating in the Art Field
Translating in the Art Field
Last Updated on October 28, 2020

The process of translating something is itself an art. This becomes prominent with related to the jobs that exist in translating in the art field.  The process of translating in the art field is unique and it is associated with a series of challenges. However, an expert translator is in a position to go through the overall translation process and provide people with amazing results. (more…)

Translating from an image File
Translating from an image File
Last Updated on October 21, 2020

Are you looking forward to translating an image? Then you must be looking for the most effective method to get the job done. Translating from an image is not the easiest thing that you can do. That’s because you will come across numerous challenges while you are trying to get the job done. However, you don’t need to worry too much because there is lots of help and support available. In the meantime, you can discover numerous methods that are available to end up with getting the translation job done as well.

We will share details about some of the best translation methods available to proceed with translating from an image file. It is up to you to go through these options and pick the best method based on your preferences. (more…)

Translating from a PDF File
Translating from a PDF File
Last Updated on October 14, 2020

Do you have a PDF document to be translated from one language to another? Then you might come across some challenges. That’s because PDF files are not designed to be edited. However, you don’t have to give up your hopes because there are some effective methods available to translate the PDF documents. From this article, we will share more details about the options available for you to proceed with translating form a PDF file. You can go through these options and make a decision to move forward. (more…)

Get The Best Translation Price