Does Language Affect The Way People Think Or Is It The Other Way Around?

1458 Words Dec 8th, 2014 6 Pages
Does the language affects the way people think or is it the other way around? Our textbook, Cognitive Exploration of Language and Linguistics by Rene Dirven, provides two theories: linguistic relativity and universalism. Researchers who believe linguistic relativity claim that language affects the ways in which its respective speakers conceptualize their world. Benjamin Lee Whorf, representative researcher for linguistic relativity, argues that language determines thought, and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories. Universalism, which is a contrasting concept to the linguistic relativity, assumes that human thought is significantly alike across all cultures and that since language is a reflection of human thought, all languages are similarly related. For instance, every language has equivalent terms for live and death. Universalists use terms semantic primes and universal concepts to explain this phenomenon. In fact, both theories, linguistic relativity and universalism, could be advocated. However, after some strong researches done by universalists, Whorfian view or linguistic relativity theory has been undermined and abandoned in academic society.

Although there are some weaknesses to linguistic relativity theory, it is not difficult to find examples of Whorfian theory in our everyday life. For instance, compare to the people in the US, Koreans are really sensitive about the age since he or she must use different language to the elder person.…
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