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Reference To Different Areas Of Knowledge English Language Essay

By age four most human learn to communicate through oral language and by age six or seven most children can express written thoughts. Unique abilities of communicating through oral language clearly separate humans from all animals. There are an estimated 6700 recognized languages in the world [1] . And each of this language has different vocabularies. For example in Lithuanian language there is just one word to say ‘love’, however Spanish has five words. So, is it correct to say that language affects the way we think about the world?

First of all, a good argument, which confirms with this idea, is Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, language determines our experience of reality, and we can see and think only what our language allows us to see and think [2] . What is more, this hypothesis states that language and culture are so closely connected that one defines the other [3] . One of the examples, which are connected with human science and history, was done by an American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead [4] . She found out that some people from South Pacific, who she studied, did not have a word for war in their vocabularies. It is very important that I should mention is that these people did not participated in the war, so the hypothesis is that we must experience something, in this case war, to give it a name. So, if you say war for person, whose native language is English, he will start to think about weapons, soldiers and amours, but if you say the same word to South Pacific person he would just think about this word as a strange sound or letters combination. However, during years people started want to know more about other cultures and their history, so different cultures became close knit. So, South Pacific people have had to adapt their language and invent word to say ‘war’. So, now if you say war in South Pacific language people will start to think about same things as English speaking people. Another example of Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, which is connected to human science, is that in a certain part of New Guinea [5] , people live a hand-to-mouth existence as they always have done. Consequently, they have no reason to count things, because they do not have any money. Their language has a word for one and another word for two. And this is all their counting system. Today, because of contact with the outside world, they like South Pacific people had to adapt their language. They started to use the word dog to indicate the number four (maybe because dog has four legs). So, before inventing number four they had no idea that the word four means, however after invention of word four (dog) they now know that this mean four things. From these examples, we can conclude that by invention of new words people’s knowledge area splay out. In some ways, learning new words provides you with more to think. The way we classify our actions and the objects of the world, perfectly allow for an extended area of thought.

Secondly, another aspect is specificity of the vocabulary in a language. It can be defined as person’s ability to recognize and differentiate between objectives or ideas [6] . The good example of the specificity of the vocabulary in a language and its effect on people thinking we can found human science experiment done by Roberson, Davies and Davidon in 2000 [7] which shows that the more specific a vocabulary a person has regarding color, the easier it is for person to distinguish different colors. In this experiment were tasted native English speakers and native Berinmo speakers. They were asked to look at the colors on a screen and remember them. Berinmo speakers statistically forgot blue and green colors, but remembered difference between shades of green more easily than those who spoke English. It can be explained by looking into Berinmo language, in it there is no language distinction between blue and green colors. However, there is a language distinction that separates green into two categories (between ‘nol’ and ‘wor’). The Berinmo speakers’ ability to remember and recognize colors is effected by the vocabulary they have to describe colors. Another example could be seen in natural science. For instance Berinmo speaker is doing a chemistry experiment and gets two green solutions and writes that one solution color is not green, but nol and another wor. However, then this experiment will be done by the English speaker he will write that both solutions color are green. These examples show that vocabulary affects our thinking and perception of the world.

Thirdly, it is believed that grammatical gender, which difference in different languages, can change the way people think and describe things. For example, studies show that people in those languages there are gender difference are more likely to group unrelated words with similar genders together. What is more, they are likely to describe feminine inanimate objects with feminine adjectives [8] . For, example German speakers would describe bridge as beautiful, elegant and pretty, however Spanish speakers would say that it is big, dangerous and strong. This example shows that the perception of the bridge can vary in different speaking countries; however they think and imagine the same bridge. Another example can be word key. German speakers would describe it as hard, heavy and useful thing, and Spanish speakers would describe the same key as golden, tiny and lovely. The important aspect is that to minimize bias, this experiment was done entirely in English (all subjects were bilingual). What is more, the subjects were given no indication of what the experiment intended to prove. However people knew English language, but their native language affected them so, that their perception of the worlds, such as description of the key or the bridge, was different from each other. Another example we can see in arts, for instance German speaker writes a poem about the bridge and think about it as elegant, pretty, but then Spanish speaker will start to read this poetry he will imagine big, dangerous bridge. These are other examples how language affect the way of thinking.

However, some people believe that thoughts are independent of language. Opposition of Sapir-Whorf hypothesis quotes three main points: translatability, universality, and difference between linguistic and non-linguistic events [9] . The translatability says although language may differ largely in expressing certain details, it is still possible to translate those details from one language to another (Fishman) [10] . How I mentioned in introduction some languages may have one word for what another has three or eight words for, but the idea is the same and the thoughts are the same. A well known example, the Inuit has many different words to describe snow, and it helps them to make finely grained snow discriminations [11] . However, the all meanings of the different snow words are the same, because they all mean snow, just with little differences. Universalism: that idea that all independently created languages follows certain universal structure (there are deep structures that are common to all languages (Fishmann)) [12] .  So, all cultures would be related which contrast with Whorf’s ideas that all cultures see the world differently because of their language. Researches also believe that “linguistic events“(evidence thought through language) must be compared independently to “non-linguistic events“(evidence about thought gained though other means than language) before a correlation can be found [13] . What is more, the another example, which shows that vocabulary does not shape what we know we can see in math for instance one plus one is equal to two, but in human science we still understand that one egg plus one sperm is equal to one baby. Or in the art that one line of blue drawn over one line of red is equal to one line of purple. We can conclude, that there are exceptions from Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, because every language is not wide enough to express what person thinks and in some cases you may understand that you are telling, however other person will not understand you.

After a thorough evaluation of the knowledge issue, it can be concluded that there is evidence both in favor of the claim, but also against it.  However, this assertion is simply too broad and extreme. Vocabulary simply does not always restrict what we can know, or vice versa. Thus it would be unfair it and unjustified to reach the conclusion on either side of the extremes. However, language is adapting to the fast moving world and people are starting to learn more than one language and maybe some day one language will get as informative and strong that will confirm this knowledge issue.

1,472 words

Raminta Kazlauskaite IB1

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