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How language can affect the way we think

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rodrigoau
Triglot
Newbie
Australia
Joined 1656 days ago

19 posts - 52 votes 
Speaks: Macedonian*, English, Spanish
Studies: Italian, Turkish

 
 Message 1 of 6
14 May 2016 at 10:49am | IP Logged 
The idea that language affects the way we think has always felt intuitively right to me.
I've lived in different countries and speak different languages. I find the interesting
article below just scratches the surface of this topic.

I have thought about the subject of blame and English speakers much before I ever read
this.

http://ideas.ted.com/5-examples-of-how-the-languages-we-spea k-can-affect-the-way-we-
think/

Edited by rodrigoau on 14 May 2016 at 10:51am

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shk00design
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 2466 days ago

747 posts - 1121 votes 
Speaks: Cantonese*, English, Mandarin
Studies: French

 
 Message 2 of 6
15 May 2016 at 8:10am | IP Logged 
Different languages have different ways of expressing the same or similar ideas. A lot of European languages don't distinguish family relationships as clearly as Chinese. You have aunts and uncles from the father or the mother side of the family having different terms. And in the past when people used to have large families, it is common to label your aunts & uncles by # than by name.

Chinese is a compact language written in characters instead of spelling out each syllables phonetically. In many cases, proper terms can be shortened to fewer characters such as 奥林匹克运动会 (Olympic Games in full) where the term for Olympic 奥林匹克 is shortened to just the first character 奥 and the term becomes 奥运会 (just 3 characters). There are words & phrases with 2 characters that are interchangeable in a sentence such as 尝试 (to try). In some cases, we can use 尝试 (2 characters together), just the character 尝 or 试 by itself in a sentence.

Chinese has many characters that have the same / similar pronunciations. We can determine the meaning of words & phrases by the words before & after in a sentence.

Edited by shk00design on 15 May 2016 at 8:56am

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koba
Heptaglot
Senior Member
AustriaRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3890 days ago

118 posts - 201 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, French

 
 Message 3 of 6
10 October 2016 at 6:21pm | IP Logged 
The idea that language can shape thought is definitely an enticing idea and might
feel intuitive for us language learners as we discover new concepts in different
languages, but it's a theory that has been refuted by many respected linguists in the
field.

Certainly, we need to understand the degrees of politeness in German to form
sentences, or understand to differentiate "connaître/savoir" in French, but to say
that people acquire a different perception of the world by learning these languages is
a strong exaggeration.

One good example is on the Eskimo language, that apparently had a much richer
vocabulary to describe snow in all its aspects. Well, It turns out that in English we
also have a dozen of words (blizzard, avalanche, slush, etc) for that but don't
realize it. It's not to deny the point that specialists will need more terms for
things that are important in their environment. We might not have a special word for a
given phenomenon that occurs daily but a physicist may help you finding the term that
describes it precisely.

Assuming that speakers of different languages have different world views can have
strong implications in the real world. It could mean that a speaker of a language with
less verb tenses have a different perception of time, which is definitely not true.
What we have, are ways of organizing thought in the language that we speak. We can
still perfectly imagine concepts abstractly or visually without having a specific word
for it...or we might just invent one if it becomes necessary to describe it.
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Rhian
Moderator
France
Joined 4519 days ago

417 posts - 452 votes 
Speaks: English*
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 4 of 6
10 October 2016 at 8:05pm | IP Logged 
Just a reminder that the majority of
members have moved to www.forum.language-
learners.org after software problems here. You are
welcome to post here or there or on both but note
that you need to register on the new site (ie your
HTLAL name and password won't work there). Don't
worry - sign up is much simpler over on LLOrg
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koba
Heptaglot
Senior Member
AustriaRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3890 days ago

118 posts - 201 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, French

 
 Message 5 of 6
10 October 2016 at 10:52pm | IP Logged 
I hadn't logged in here for a while. Thanks for letting me know, Rhian :)
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Doitsujin
Diglot
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 3342 days ago

1252 posts - 2361 votes 
Speaks: German*, English

 
 Message 6 of 6
11 October 2016 at 10:36am | IP Logged 
koba wrote:
One good example is on the Eskimo language, that apparently had a much richer vocabulary to describe snow in all its aspects.

Like the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis this myth has been debunked.

For more information see:

Eskimo words for snow (Wikipedia)
The great Eskimo vocabulary hoax - Linguistics and English Language (PDF link)




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