Language + Thought

20 Sep

What questions do you have about language + thought? To what extent do you believe our language shapes our thinking? Is it possible to understand a culture whose language you do not speak? Do words allow us to have new thoughts, or do they inhibit new thoughts? Respond to some or all of these questions, and include any new discoveries you’ve made in your research.

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36 Responses to “Language + Thought”

  1. siararamirez September 20, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    This whole idea of language and our thinking reminds me of a line in Romeo and Juliet “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet.” By saying this, it means that any object with another name would still be that object. I do not believe that language necessarily shapes our thinking, but gives us an easier way to speak to each other about what we think. With saying this, it is nearly impossible to understand cultures because they have different ways to express their own thinking, and in that way we cannot automatically comprehend what their words can stand for. Our own thoughts, being taught them from a very young age does not allow us any new thoughts, but learning new languages can do so because in other languages there are words for certain feelings we describe with more than one word.

    • siararamirez September 21, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

      Today I spent time learning the vowels of the Na’vi language, which are somewhat similar to our own vowels. The way their vowels are pronounced sound like the way we say some words in English. They also have much more vowels than we do. Learning a new language is odd, they have words for sayings, or words for multiple words.

  2. sod4268 September 20, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    I believe that our language shapes our thinking when we learn new words or when we research things and places and find out new things. I do not know if I would be able to understand a culture whose language i do not speak considering they might refer to things differently. Either way I won’t understand what they are saying. I believe words allow us to have new thoughts because we think about what we hear and what we see.

  3. lukem88 September 20, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    I feel that the languages are a big contributor to different kinds of thoughts and ways people do things/ describe things. In many languages including Polish when you say something in that language it means a completely different thing in English. Also in Spanish if you say a word it might be in terms of masculine or feminine even though it is an object with no gender in English.

  4. mileidar September 20, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    Our language shapes our thinking to a great extent because if we learn something a certain way and were raised with that certain state of mind, that is all we know and are familiar with. Therefore, that is what is going to shape our thinking because we don’t recognize anything out of what we have learned. It is possible to understand a culture whose language you do not speak but only to a certain point because you can learn the language but you won’t fully understand the culture in the way that you would understand it if you were born into it. New words bring new thoughts because it sparks ideas in our minds on comprehension of new language.

  5. Trevor Turner September 20, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    I think it is very true that its nearly impossible to understand peoples cultures. Like in Spanish and chinese and many other languages one sentence in english with 3 words can be many words that look a lot longer in a different language but they mean practically the same thing, thats crazy.

  6. alexanderc6 September 20, 2012 at 10:15 am #

    I do believe that language shapes our thinking, but language is not always required in order to understand what is going on. This is because during a tradition in a culture, you don’t necessarily have to understand each other to know what is going on. Relating to this, is it partially possible to understand a culture whose language you do not speak. You can understand them through pictures, objects and by common sense. Words allow us to have new thoughts, but new thoughts can be interpreted through actions.

  7. rondellw5 September 20, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    I think that the relationship between language and thinking are important to each other. What do all languages have in common in terms of the mind and the thought process? The purpose of speaking a language is to communicate with others, and this obviously impacts the communicative way of thinking. It is possible to understand a culture without speaking their language because while languages are important to culture, there are alternative ways to experience that culture. We could visit their countries and learn about their history through art, historic places, and just the overall experience of living their daily lives. We do not necessarily have to speak a language to understand a culture. I believe that in some cases actions can speak louder then words, therefore we can experience new thoughts without the knowledge of a language. I learned that some dead languages have been attempted to be revived, Mohegan-Pequot language, which went extinct in 1908. This language was attempted to be revived by the Shinnecock and Unkechaung nations of Long Island. I have also learned that some words of languages were being preserved.

  8. cpjr803 September 20, 2012 at 10:22 am #

    I believe our language shapes our thinking to some extent because in different languages the same word means different things in different languages.I see this in different spanish languages because in spanish the word that means fly to Puerto Ricans means a males private part to Dominicans. I believe it is difficult to understand a culture whose language you do not speak because we lack an understanding of what they are trying to convey or tell us. Words do allow us to have new thoughts in the way we think of things and describe them.

  9. sandiminn September 20, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    I believe that people can understand other cultures if you put in more effort and learn it for over a long time. Also, I think our languages shape out thinking because we learn new things and it gives us a larger perception of the world.

  10. kyrag9 September 20, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    I would like to understand how more cultures understand different terms and ways of expressing themselves. I think our language definitely shapes our thinking because as soon as you see a color you compare it to certain objects like food or nature and it makes you feel a certain way based on those things. I think it is possible to understand a culture even if you can’t speak their language because you don’t have to know a word in order to feel what it means. I think words do allow us to have new thoughts because it makes you think in different ways. One thing I feel though is based on the culture and the people, those things can affect the language.

  11. alenag3 September 20, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    Language takes a huge impact in someone’s life, I think language expresses a lot about an individual. Also, I think language shapes our thinking to a huge extend because we are thought what our parents were thought, and everyones ways are extremely unique. I think it is possible to understand a culture whose language we don’t speak, because the thought of being introduced into something new that might interest you will capture you attention. In other words if you truly interested in learning something, you will attempt to your best ability to understand. I think that words allow us to have new thoughts and inhibit new thoughts, because we use words as a way to express ourselves. I think that dead languages are very interesting to learn about, because they show how people in the past use to communicate and how languages have evolved since then.

  12. connor7932 September 20, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    From what I’ve seen with Latin becoming a dead language, Spanish having genders, and Eskimos having words for different forms of snow. I feel that a language fits the necessities of that culture. Eskimos live in an environment that’s always snowy, so they’re going to need words that describe the kinds of snow they have. I’m not quite sure why Spanish is gender defined, but I guess they felt it was necessary. And no one has a reason to speak Latin anymore so it’s slowly dying off. I feel that the words used in a language determine are understanding of what’s being talked about. For example when the BBC crew visited the Himba tribe, they couldn’t point out a blue square in a bunch of green squares because they have a general word for brighter colors.

  13. manene096 September 20, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    I think that it is possible to understand a culture without knowing the language by the way they present themselves or how they present their culture. But also words do allow us to think better and inhibit new thoughts be able to express better. I do think language shapes our thinking because every language is different and those languages have different ways of expressing an action, or things etc…i think language shapes our thinking to the extent that you don’t completely understand anything from the other culture then you need words to understand the culture.

  14. sallygibson3 September 20, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    The extent that i believe that language shapes our thinking is when you have or want to express what your feeling and how you explain your feelings. I believe that it is possible for you to understand a culture whose language you don’t speak because there are other methods of communication that are universal as in gestures. I think words allow use to have more complex thoughts and have a better understanding of your feelings and others not necessary new thoughts. Questions: What are some more universal forms of language?

  15. katherinehebert September 20, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    I think the language factor around the world is very interesting. I think it’s interesting that one character in Mandarin can mean a whole sentence in English. Growing up with a certain language is also a different impact than trying to learn a language in a class. I find the color concept interesting too; the fact that knowing more than one language can change your concept of color too. I’ve never thought of language like this so much until very recently, but it’s pretty cool and interesting to see it like that.

  16. gbbyb September 20, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    Learning any language is possible but when you aren’t familiar with what you are being taught it is definitely challenging. Words allow us to inhabit new thoughts and opinions. Different languages can help us develop other ideas about our own language. With culture it is the same but without knowing the language the culture could be hard to grasp. For instance, when the researcher was working with the Himba people to try and understand how they interpret colors, he discovered that because they have different ways of labeling, it was hard for them to tell the difference between simple colors such as green and blue. We see green as one color and blue as another but we found out that the difficulty that the Himba people were going through to find the difference was because they put those colors in the same category. In all, new languages provides us with a new way of thinking.

    • gbbyb September 22, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

      During class today, we focused on different languages. In my group, we focused on trying to comprehend the Na’vi language from the film called Avatar. We watched videos on how to speak the language, and the more videos we watched the more we were able to comprehend it. It reached a point where we were able to start a conversation with our classmates. It was a great learning experience and it was interesting to learn the meaning behind different words and how they were pronounced.

      • gbbyb September 22, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

        fantasy languages*

  17. wendyn6 September 20, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    Language is something that defines things like who you are, where you come from, or your knowledge depending on how many languages you know. Because of this language is power and people who are multilingual are able to communicate with various different people and cultures. This being said I think that language has the power to shape the way we think in terms of not allowing us to think outside the box because we instead stick to what we’ve been taught. For instance not being able to have a word for a thought doesn’t mean that it is not comprehensive which is what we would otherwise think. However sometimes not being able to comprehend provokes new thoughts or different ideas from these languages. It is often those cultures that do not use certain words to express their thoughts that drive researchers or scientist to investigate on the deeper meanings of many languages or different expressions. Whether that be color, numbers or directions. That goes to show that languages shapes our thinking and often drives us to want to dig deeper into different cultures meanings and/or thoughts.

  18. alexandertd September 20, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    I think that languages do shape who a person is. We learn from our society and everything that we take from growing up will affect our lives. Dead languages show us that the society who spoke it didn’t do a good enough job in preserving it and letting it go through many generations,

  19. farzanap September 20, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

    Althought languages are used to communicate with others through that same language, people speaking other languages have an alternative way to communicate. Although understanding another language may be impossible becuase they have different meaning for many things, i beliebe If one is interested in learning the language and puts their mind to it then they will surely understand. Language doesn’t necessarily shape us, it shapes out our thoughts into words in order for communication with one another.

  20. mileidar September 21, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    The experience today from learning a new language was interesting and new. Seeing vowels and alphabets that vary so much from the English language is frightening at first, but when you try to pronounce it and try to say words and phrases you kind of get the hang of it. It is difficult to remember words that have no origin from the English language and none of it is familiar but it takes time to learn new languages.

  21. alexanderc6 September 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    Something I noticed while attempting to learn Esperanto, was that it is similar to Spanish. This is true in many languages. There are many English words that have originated from other languages, such as Latin and Greek. It seems to me like the people that invented this language based it off of Spanish or a language similar to Spanish because a lot of the words are similar. Because of this, I do in fact believe you can understand a language to some extent if it is similar to another language that you do understand. You can use the similar words to piece together what something might mean. Another interesting thing is that new languages do in fact bring up new thoughts. In the English vocabulary, you don’t have a word for certain things. As brought up before, in Chinese there are words for a grandma or grandpa on one specific side of your family. In English this doesn’t exist, you need to say which side of the family they are on.

  22. rondellw5 September 21, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    The language I learned a little about is called Esperanto, which translates to “one who hopes”. This language is most similar to Spanish because a lot of the words are built similarly. For example, grande means “big” in both Esperanto and Spanish. I learned that in English when we make a word plural we add an “s”, but in Esperanto you must add a “j”. All adjectives in Esperanto seem to end in “a”, and all verbs seem to end in an “i”. Learning all these different things makes me realize that language is powerful to thoughts because description of thoughts are essential to understanding the thought itself.

  23. kyra Green September 21, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    Today I tried to learn a new language called Na’vi. This language is used in the Avatar movie. I thought that it was really interesting because the language is really complicated. This showed how easy of a language English really is. I could see how much work was put into this language but the crazy things was that the Na’vi language uses the same words for different meanings, you just pronounce it differently. Also a lot of the words almost sounds like your singing instead of talking. It’s crazy how humans use such different languages. So the question is how do different cultures create these languages. Is it based on their history, their families, or is it just random?

  24. gregsamus September 21, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    I believe that language is a necessary part of life but i believe that there should just be one dominant language to avoided and eliminate any confusion or barriers between people. But on the other hand it brings a sense of individualism. Learning a new language also increases you knowledge and vocabulary for example learning Chinese can help you in math because their language the way their numbers are addition is part of the way that they speak. Traveling to a country and not knowing the language can cause a lot of problems and confusion but language defines who we are who are family and our birthplace is without language we would all be nothing

  25. Alena Guerrero September 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    Today in sixteen I focused on learning the language Na’vi, I was able to find some websites with many words translated to english. I had a lot of trouble attempting to pronounce the words by using those type of websites, because the websites did not allow me to hear someone pronounce them. When I figured I was not going to be able to learn much thats way I found a way to unblock youtube and watch videos on people teaching Na’vi. This strategy allow me to learn how to pronounce the words way faster, even though it was still extremely hard. Also, I found this experience very interesting because I learned that some people make up languages as a living. This shows that there are a lot of languages many people don’t know about, and that there are a lot of creative people. This shows a great amount of creativity, and that language is something your thought as soon as you are born. Also, this shows how much of a great impact language has in each and every individual.

  26. lukem88 September 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    I feel that the extent that language shapes our thinking is very high. I feel this because of one of the examples of research that we saw today. The research was that the way the chinese numbers are helps them develop much better in math. Today I tried to learn Na’vi. I feel that the best way to learn a new language is to be placed in an environment that speaks that language.

  27. sallygibson3 September 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    My experience with learning a new language was lot more difficult than I expected because I thought that I would find a site that made it easy to understand the language and learn the alphabet but there wasn’t and i had to ask my peers for help. When I had access to youtube it allowed me to hear the sounds of the letters which made it a lot easier to practice pronunciation. But I know that I will not retain any of the word or letters I’ve learned today.

  28. manene bamba September 21, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    I want to know what’s the most important part of gaining a mental understanding of a language is. Is it learning that languages alphabet, general phrases, vocab, etc… I feel the best way to learn language is just from hearing spoken because that way you can gain an understanding of pronunciation. I think if you pay attention to peoples body language when they speak, you can get an understanding of what they’re saying.

  29. cpjr803 September 21, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Today I observed the Klingon language and learned how to say some phrases such as arlogh Qoylu ‘pu’ which means what time is it. I also observed that the words have capital and lower case letter thrown in and jumble up. I also noticed by listening to phrases that the lowercase letter q makes an h sound. I also learned that when you speak Klingon you have to speak with force in your voice. You also have to be careful using lowercase q and capital because they have different sounds. I found this activity to be interesting.

  30. manene bamba September 21, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Today we first talked about languages and how it changed our thoughts. Also today i read an article about ‘The Games of Thrones’ and the unique language they use called Dothraki created by a 23-year-old linguistics graduate Richard Littauer. He made a website that teaches the language http://www.dothraki.org/. i also learned another language called Na’vi and this language i noticed that the word sound a lot like.

  31. wendyn6 September 21, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Today in sixteen we studied fantasy languages such as Na’vi of the 2009 film Avatar and Dothraki of Games of Thrones medieval fantasy television series. It was so interesting seeing and hearing these languages being spoken. They are uniquely different from English which makes them so intriguing. I studied the Na’vi language and found it very difficult to speak and understand the language but it was fun nonetheless.

  32. alexandertd September 21, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    What I learned about Na’vi is that it’s similar to many modern language. Obviously there are different words and letters, but the structure is the same. Na’vi uses nouns, verbs, and vowels like spanish, english, and latin. This makes me think that the creator of Na’vi studied those languages to reate this one.

  33. farzanap September 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Learning Na’vi was such a difficult task. I honestly thought it would be much easier. This language is unusual but i like it. I am not immune to that language because I was not taught Na’vi growing up. English is one of the hardest languages to learn but for us it doesn’t seem like that because we grew up learning English.

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