What Does Language Influence Thought?

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TO WHAT EXTENT DOES LANGUAGE INFLUENCE THOUGHT? “LANGUAGE, IT IS NATURAL TO SAY, HAS TWO PRINCIPLE FUNCTIONS: THAT OF AN INSTRUMENT OF COMMUNICATION, AND THAT OF A VEHICLE OF THOUGHT. WE ARE THEREFORE IMPELLED TO ASK WHICH OF THE TWO IS PRIMARY. IS IT BECAUSE LANGUAGE IS AN INSTRUMENT OF COMMUNICATION THAT IT CAN ALSO SERVE AS A VEHICLE OF THOUGHT? OR, IS IT CONVERSELY, BECAUSE IT IS A VEHICLE OF THOUGHT, AND CAN THEREFORE EXPRESS THOUGHTS, THAT IT CAN BE USED BY ONE PERSON TO COMMUNICATE HIS THOUGHTS TO OTHERS?” -MICHAEL DUMMETT (VESSEY) The relationship between language and thought is still an emerging topic of discussion. Various opinions arise from philosophical, sociological and linguistic points of view. There are two main…show more content…
J., 2001) . Language is what allows us to have greater control over our thoughts insofar as it enables us to name our ideas and thus discriminate and distinguish more finely between them. Like Locke, Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951) believed that language is a tool for communicating ideas. Although their theories might seem similar, Wittgenstein was more interested in the use of language and how it is related to the world rather than the ideas in the mind. In his early work, he tried to reduce German to basic components to show that the components of language have a one to one mapping on to the components of the world. He reduced the world to a collection of facts which match up to simple words in reality. This theory states that language mirrors the aspects of the real world; therefore the function of language is to picture reality. Words only have a meaning when they name objects. Later, Wittgenstein revised his views and realised that language did not mirror reality, it is the reality which depends on our language. Words have meaning when it is recognised by more than two people and not all words relate to objects in the world. For example “and”, “or”, and “when” have a meaning, yet they do not seem to exist as an object in reality (SILBY, 1998) .
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