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I love travelling and I have been to many places and the point of travels is to learn new things and one thing that I have learnt from all my travels is that, people from different places, think and perceive things differently, no two people in the world think the same way. This difference in perception in many cases is due to the culture they come from. I got thinking and also realized that even language can have influence over their thoughts, after all language is an integral part of every culture.
Like for example, in India, students refer to their teacher as "sir" or "madam", this maybe because they are speaking in their respective mother tongues. They are so used to talking to their elders with words that are considered respectful and when they speak to their friends and people close to them they use more casual words. The same scenario is in the US, students refer to their teachers as Mr. or Mrs., and both these styles are acceptable but if the students where to switch places then the students would find these references very different and sometimes even "weird".
I have decided to address this issue of how the language that people speak in might affect their thinking. I am going write an article about it, I have chosen this I would be able mention to references to prove the authenticity of the work and I could refer to interviews and other articles on the same topic.
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12th Dec 2012, Sreenidhi Times:
It so happens that "whether or not language affects the thoughts in our mind" is one of the major unresolved questions in the study of linguistics. This is very important since language happens to be a vital role as a tool to help people in understanding and interpreting observations, reflect on ideals or in perceiving new situations they encounter and also in expressing one's own beliefs and opinions to others. We take the languages we know for granted and never even bother to realize the difficulties we would face if we didn't know them.
Benjamin Whorf, the student of the renowned anthropologist Edward Sapir said that language has supreme power over the mind, and his striking prose convinced an entire generation into believing that our mother tongue restricts what we are able to think, his exact words were, "language not only influences thought; language determines thought-thought cannot exist without language", but most psychologist don't seem to agree with this statement. They believe the mind is capable of thinking with associating it with words; for example, it is very simple to imagine an object bouncing without having to verbalize it.
To really see if language does influence our thoughts, Hanako Yoshida and Linda Smith of Indiana University came up with an experiment to test it. The experiment takes help of a linguistic feature of the Japanese language: the fact that articles don't necessarily give any idea of what type of noun we are speaking about. For example, in English, we would say "some sugar" sometimes-even say "the sugar" but we never say "a sugar" by doing this we give an idea of what the material is made of. At the same time we never say some T.V, we would say a T.V, by this association of articles we are able to tell whether an object is a material or a shape. This is not the case in Japanese, where it is possible to refer to sugar or T.V without having to indicate what the material is made of. The experiment was performed with young Japanese children who hadn't yet learnt the Japanese word for some; the result showed that even though they didn't know the word they were still able to understand what the material was made of. The experiment showed that, when the children were not aware of the words they should use to express what they see and when they were thoughts the new words they were able to better associate them and understand them.
An additional interesting fact about language is, the vernacular of a person is very important. Research has proved that if subjects like science were taught in the each person's mother tongue, they would be able understand and remember things better.
There is one other fact that can be observed while comparing English and French. When we are trying to tell someone how old we are, we would say " I am 10years old" but the same statement in French is "J'ai 10 ans" which literally translates to "I have 10 years". We can see how literal meaning differs between these two languages but the basic idea to express one's age is the same, this signifies that these thoughts irrespective of the language used to express it, the meaning of what a person is trying convey is the same as long as the relate topic being discussed is the same, but for the fact the nuances and the origin of the thought is differentâ€¦like in French what it means is that I have lived 10 years..or like in American Indians or any ancient tribe they refer as "having seen 80 moons"
There is this one other thing that stands out when we compare the same two languages; French and English let us see how language can affect thought. In French, by using the words cousinÂ orÂ cousine-meaning cousin- in a conversation we allow the listener to know the gender of the person we are speaking about, since in this language we associate all the words with their respective gender it becomes evident what is that persons gender whereas in English I could say I spent the night at my friends without every having to mention the gender. Even in some language like German, Hebrew and Russian the nouns are even given gender. For instance in Russian, water is referred to as she and in French a man's bread is addressed as feminine, this doesn't mean that these languages unusual rather these objects are given specific gender only to enhance and help the rules of their respective languages.
Since we have been using our respective mother-tongues since the early stages of our childhood it becomes a habit and once a habit is learnt it is almost impossible to lose it, what I mean to say is, for example, every time a Russian sees water he/she associates it with the feminine gender not because they want to but because they so use to calling it so. Therefore I conclude by saying, yes language does influence our thoughts but not in every instance and in every decision we make.
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