To what extent can language shape our beliefs?
Maja Pivk, 3.h
In my essay for TOK I will deal with an issue regarding language. We think and express our mind using language. But does the language affect our ability of perceiving things? Would we be able to think the same way if we wouldn’t speak any language, like animals? Do other cultures, which use other languages perceive world in a different way than us? Those are the main questions with which I will deal in my essay. Language shapes how we think about the world. This phenomenon is called linguistic relativity. If a language had no word for a certain concept, then its speakers would not be able to understand this concept. Language is different in every culture. It adapts to environment in which people live. There are many examples for that. It is often said that Eskimos have fifty words for snow, but it’s not exactly true. Sami languages, that is languages spoken by people near Arctic Circle have hundred words for snow or for different kinds of snow, for example “snow that stuck to a house”, “virgin snow that has not been walked on”, “ one or two inches of new snow on top of snow” and so on. There is an example of geographic language, which means that people don’t express directions with “left, right, behind or in front of” but simply with “north, south, east and west”. That means they can define directions without a compass or other tools. They almost have an superhuman sense of orientation. That’s typical for Australian aboriginal tongue, Guugu Yimithirr, from north Queensland. That language forces its speakers to look outward and pay less attention to themselves, which is extremely important for the tribal people living close to nature. If you ask a Guugu Yimithir speaker how he knows where north is, he couldn’t explain it any better than you can explain how you know where “behind” is. But does this mean that they think about universe in another way? It is proven that...
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