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How Languages Affect the Way We Think

In the words of Humphry Davy, “Language is not only the vehicle of thought, it is a great and efficient instrument in thinking”. This is how learning and communicating has become easier, through sound vibrations. But might languages also show how individuals think and behave?

 

It has become second nature to be born and, in time, start speaking the language of our households, our native language. Over past centuries, a common language became required, especially for bartering, trading, or negotiations amongst nations. 

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Many languages existed and possessed unique qualities, especially noticeable when conveying a message or describing movements and elements. These have ranged from Sumerian to the common English language, from ancient Latin to today’s Spanish.

 

 

Why language is humanity’s greatest invention

 

Language is considered a tool but in truth, it holds a stronger power than that. The languages we speak hold hidden secrets and legacies which can help us decode past dynasties and understand the simple livelihood of the earliest humans. In simpler terms, language is “the window of human nature” (Pinker 2005). On account of this, we can grant names to the elements we see, although one dissenter, Sally Carrighar, argues that human names for defining natural things is unnecessary because all we need to do is appreciate their essence (Peterson n.d).

 

How does language interact with thought?

 

Language can be segmented into a spectrum of 5 elements that help us communicate and develop our cognitive abilities (Boroditsky 2017).

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Motion of time

 

In linguistic terms, the Thaayorre people (aboriginals in Australia who speak Kuktayor language) are well oriented compared to the modern human. This is due to the way they structure their speech through compass directions in daily conversations; north, east, south, and west. In Kuktayor, time is based on your surrounding landscape. 

 

That means when facing south it moves from left to right, the opposite goes for the north. When facing east, time comes towards the body and away when facing west. This is a basic shadow scale, measuring time using the sun and its directions from a person’s standpoint. Kuktayor is clearly different from English and Hebrew speakers, to give but two examples, who coordinate time according to their writing direction (left to right or right to left).

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Author:

Mokgaetji Margueritte

Social Media Coordinator

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The opinions expressed in this article/publication are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of GiLE or its members.

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