How Language Is Influenced By Our Language

1824 WordsApr 22, 20158 Pages
The possibility that the way we think is influenced by our language has interested scholars for hundreds of years. The strong view of this 'language relativity hypothesis ' or 'Sapir-Whorf -hypothesis ' where our actions are determined only by language has been widely abandoned. However answering the question whether language can still shape our thoughts to some extent has been proven more difficult. In this paper I will examine some of the recent research that seems to support the idea that although language does not completely dictate how we think it can have an impact on our cognitive fuctions. The ability to use language as a way to communicate is a defining difference between humans and animals. Even though human beings form one…show more content…
For example when learning a second language it might be hard to find a definitive and suitable translation but at the same time common sense tells us that ”a stone is a stone whatever you call it” (Gumperz & Levinson 1996: 1). The two different outlooks have also appeared in the academic world gaining advocates for both perspectives. The concept of linguistic relativity has interested linguists, psychologists, anthropologists and philosophers for centuries (Boroditsky 2001: 2). St. Augustine 's view in the 4th century was that language is merely a terminology for pre-existing concepts, and in the 13th century Roger Bacon claimed that appropriate translations between languages are impossible due to the incongruity between their semantic fields (Gumperz & Levinson 1996: 2). Lucy (1996) explains that the beginning of the 20th century was dominated by the supposition that differences in linguistic and cultural behaviour are caused by cognitive distinctions. After that the increasing popularity in cognitive sciences has shifted the course towards more universalist ideas (Lucy 1996: 37). The idea that language shapes the way we think is also known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis after the two linguists who made the hypothesis well-known. Edward Sapir was an American anthropological linguist who, like so many anthropologists of his day, was a student of Franz Boas. He was
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