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Language v. Thought

Discussion in 'General Debates' started by The Hammer, Jan 15, 2016.

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  1. Yes, Language influences how we think and perceive the world.

  2. No, Language does not influence how we think and perceive the world.

Results are only viewable after voting.
  1. The Hammer

    The Hammer Well-Known Member

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    So, I am currently taking a class in linguistics and we had this debate a few days ago, and I wanted to share this with others and see what everyone's opinions were on it. The question posed to us was: Does Language influence the way they think and perceive the world?

    I find this a very intriguing topic of discussion, and a good argument can be made for either case. Go ahead and select the answer that you agree with most from the poll and then defend your position!

    May the odds be ever in your favor!

    Edit: As clarification. Does someone who speaks one language, think fundamentally different then a person who thinks another?
     
    #1 The Hammer, Jan 15, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2016
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  2. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    Answered "Yes". It makes a significant difference as is clear from the way propaganda uses words by triggering an emotional response to an issue, particuarly when we don't know alot about the subject. the same can be said for advertising. However, the "meaning" of words is derived from their association, so obviously our primary sources for defining what words means is the objects they correspond to and our own experiences. it is only really when it gets more "abstract" that we start to see real effects.
     
  3. Terese

    Terese Mangalam Pundarikakshah
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    I have no idea! :confused:
     
  4. Rick O'Shez

    Rick O'Shez Irishman bouncing off walls

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    Very much so, you could even say that thought and language define the way we perceive the world.
     
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  5. BSM1

    BSM1 What? Me worry?

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    Absolutely! When I start thinking in a foreign language I don't know WTH I am thinking about.
     
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  6. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    Yes, and in profound, deep ways that are entirely taken for granted by the speakers of the language. I suspect the question in the course was rhetorical.
     
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  7. Rick O'Shez

    Rick O'Shez Irishman bouncing off walls

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    I started thinking in French on a school exchange trip, but fortunately I returned to England before any lasting damage was done. :p
     
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  8. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Veteran Member
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    I have read news articles suggesting that language affects how we think and what we learn, so I vote yes.
     
  9. BSM1

    BSM1 What? Me worry?

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    Whee..uh, I mean...oui!
     
  10. The Hammer

    The Hammer Well-Known Member

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    Well in that sense yes, but for purpose of the debate, it is referring not to the ways in which we use language, but the language itself. To clarify, does someone who speaks French, think different from a person who speaks Spanish?
     
  11. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    Yes, I would have thought so. its because of the association that determines the meaning of words (which are themselves simply just sounds or shapes on a page). I remember reading up about translations, and there was a really interesting thing to do with Lenin. he used the term "centralism" which in the West has one meaning to do with beaucratic control, but in Russia has a number of other meanings, including a more democratic sense of people being "united" to achieve a common objective. this double meaning was often missed in how westerners read his works affecting how his work was evaluated.

    But I am only an English speaker, so that's far from an informed opinion.
     
  12. The Hammer

    The Hammer Well-Known Member

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    To play Devil's Advocate, what of the Feral Child? The one locked in an attic until their 16th birthday, or lost in the wilderness and survives for years. Does this person with an inability to speak and communicate via language, not have any thoughts? Can they not perceive their world? It would seem to me that language does not influence one's thoughts and behavior.
    @Quintessence @Spiny Norman @Laika @Brickjectivity @BSM1
     
  13. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    Yes, I would have thought so. Our ability to conceptualise and anticipate a response by abstract reasoning, is related to language as a way of recording our experiences and building up associations. it can be argued that our capacity for language is the source of thought.

    p.s. is there any reason to assume that a Feral Child would not have developed an alternative to our language (say if they were part of a group)?
     
  14. Valjean

    Valjean Veteran Member
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    This is the old Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: a hypothesis holding that the structure of a language affects the perceptions of reality of its speakers and thus influences their thought patterns and worldviews - (from Dictionary.com)

     
    #14 Valjean, Jan 15, 2016
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  15. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    It doesn't seem to me the question is whether or not the "Feral Child" can perceive the world, or whether or not they have thoughts. Clearly they do both. The question is whether or not the absence of human linguistic framing of their experiences - particularly linguistic framing imposed by an external culture - shapes how they navigate and understand the world around them.

    It's very important to be aware that the very act of labeling our experiences changes how we think about them. Two people might observe the same event, and one calls it a "miracle" while the other calls it "coincidence." Imagine a language or culture where the term "coincidence" doesn't exist. In such a culture, the observed event would only be thought of as a "miracle," and never "coincidence."

    To use a personal example, when I was a kid, I engaged in a number of mystical practices, except I had zero exposure to any of the communities that engaged in these practices, which also meant I had zero exposure to the language they used to describe those experiences. As a result, I explored these things with little external influence that framed how I thought about what I was doing.
    When I encountered the communities that engaged in these mystical practices as an adult, and started becoming acquainted with the language, it
    definitely changed how I thought about those experiences I had as a child, and continues to influence how I think about my new or current experiences. What language does is provide a framework for understanding our experiences; arrows pointing in a direction. As a kid, I had no arrows. I groped about blindly in the dark, with no guidance. I couldn't talk about these experiences with anyone else, because I didn't have the words for it. And as I couldn't talk about it, eventually I dismissed it as some oddity and quit practicing for years. The directions I could go in were limited without the language, without that ability to share and communicate with others.
     
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  16. Rick O'Shez

    Rick O'Shez Irishman bouncing off walls

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    I don't see how there could be thoughts without language ( both consists of words ), so I assume the feral child wouldn't have thoughts, just feelings.
     
  17. Mestemia

    Mestemia Advocatus Diaboli
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    Seems to me that language is an artificial barrier erected in a sad attempt to rationalize different thought patterns.
    There are a whole lot of people, all of which speak English only, who have all manner of different thought patterns.
    Seems to me it more about the nature and nurture than it is about the language spoken.
     
  18. Mestemia

    Mestemia Advocatus Diaboli
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    So you think in words, not pictures?
    Do you think that those who think with pictures do not think?
     
  19. Rick O'Shez

    Rick O'Shez Irishman bouncing off walls

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  20. Mestemia

    Mestemia Advocatus Diaboli
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