Do you believe the Whorfian Hypothesis; that different languages make people think differently?
He who does not know foreign languages does not know anything about his own. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Kunst and Alterthum
I agree with this statement completely. It does take a foreign language to understand and appreciate one own.
We are influenced with the way we think, therefore the structure of the language is important, words are important, idiomatic expressions are important - language is very much a part of culture.
Our language is part of our make up, we need words to be connected with our own minds and relate to others.
It does not matter how much I will say on the subject, only people who have fluency in another language will understand what I mean.
I don't mean to offend, but there are a lot of cases when people say "I speak such and such language", when in reality the knowledge is so limited...
To say "My name is such and such" and "The weather is nice" is not knowing the language.
Of course languages make people think differently. words are power, words are rhetoric, words are literature, words are potent and vibrant and melodic and dangerous. Language depends on symbol to make meaning. What doesn't operate on the symbolic level? I think the deeper question is, how do bodies, or rather, what does embodied discursivity do to meaning making? How do bodies make meaning in language?
Yes, languages and culture make people think different.
Language is a part of culture so it does make an impact on the person's thinking.
I am sure the idea has a certain amount of validity since any given language may not have words (or even phrases) to express specific concepts. Music's supposed to be a universal language, but concepts are very different regarding the huge diversity of instruments it can be played or 'spoken' on. No keyboardist, guitarist, etc. would even think to use some of the notes a sax player can get away with. Best example I know of this is the 2 sax lines in Billy Joel's "Just The Way You Are". If those are played on any other instrument they sound horrible, but on sax they just sound odd, but not bad. In a similar way, I have found that people who speak several languages say that the same utterance (sound combinations) can imply an idea in one language that is pleasant & acceptable, while in another language could be very filthy & foul. If those who grow up in a bi-lingual culture think differently according to which language they speak in, then this must create a third way of thinking. I can only imagine how messed up concepts must be in the minds of those who know 3 or more tongues. I have all I can do to keep things straight with homonyms in English and all else it has borrowed from other languages, let alone change the way my brain and I relate to language, just to learn some other crazy one. I am already aware how screwy English is, how it can drive foreigners nuts when they try to understand & use it, so why would putting another hole in my head help me see things any better? Does it put a new eye in there, or more practically, another ear? Translators know that much meaning can be severely twisted & even totally lost when a concept is exported from one language to another. The very idea of being able &/or allowed to express yourself in different cultures, regardless of the language used, will greatly impact and affect all concepts. Since culture influences language, it stands to reason that language will influence the culture in which it's used. One hand washes the other & it's tough to avoid that; Just ask the person with only one arm. If the way people think changes language, then the reverse must be true; it's just common sense. Only a fool argues with simple logic and is blind to or flatly rejects what should be obvious.
I don't think that language change how people think. The way people think changes language, and the meanings for words. The Eskimos have over 30 different words for snow, because of the environment that they lived in. Languages are constructed around the values and beliefs of those that use the language. If there wasn't a need for a word to exist, then it wouldn't exist. Language shows the thoughts of a culture, or the ideals of a culture, but do not influence it.
Definitely. One classic example would be giving directions to individuals from different cultures. In languages that don't use words like "left" and "right" as directions, in studies they could not follow the simplest directions using these words even when having them explained and demonstrated. In their minds, it was a nonsensical idea that they just couldn't grasp. But these same cultures could tell you north, south, east, west, anywhere at anytime and gave directions accordingly. It seems like a small thing, but it clearly demonstrated very different ways of thinking based on the language taught to them since youth.
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