language and thought

Topics: Linguistic relativity, Linguistics, Language Pages: 5 (1804 words) Published: October 26, 2013
Have you ever tried to catch yourself thinking? You can try to think while remaining conscious of your thinking process. Try and see if you are always thinking using language and, if yes, try to see if your language in the thinking process is very clear, grammatical or unclear and messy. Suppose we believe we can't think clearly without using language, what about those deaf and mute people? If they do not have a language, do they think without language or they do not think at all? Then what about children of two or three years old? Their language is certainly not adequate enough. Do they just think unclearly with whatever language they have acquired? Would it be true that children's clarity in thinking depends on their language ability? Do a small experiment on yourself before reading this section. The relationship between language and thought has long been a subject of discussion. There are a wide range of opinions about the general nature of the relationship. It is probably true to say that every possible relation between the two has been proposed by some theorists. Classical theorists like Aristotle argued that the categories of thought determine the language. To them, language is only the outward form or expression of thought. An opposing view was expressed by the behaviorist J. B. Watson. According to him, thought is language. He believed that thought is sub-vocal speech, like a very quiet whisper to oneself. Watson's position, in its radical form, is no LANGUAGE DETERMINES THOUGHT

There are dramatic vocabulary differences from language to language. In some languages, there may be only a single word for a certain object, creature or concept, whereas in another language, there may be several words, even quite a large number. Generally, the greater number would be to show finer distinctions. In Chinese, there is only a single term luotuo ( 骆驼 ); in English there is camel (or dromedary for the one-humped camel, and Bactrian camel for the two-humped animal). But in Arabic, it is said that there are more than 400 words for the animal. The camel is of far greater importance as a means of travel with most Arabic-speaking people. The greater number of words relating to the camel is an obvious reflection of this. The 400 or so words may show differences in the camel's age, sex, breed, size, etc.; they may indicate whether the animal is used for carrying heavy loads or not. It is said that there is at least one term which indicates that the camel is pregnant. The Eskimo language has a large number of words involving snow. For example, apun = "snow on the ground", qanikca= “hard snow on the ground”, utak= “block of snow”. Can all these examples tell us that language system forms thought or is necessary for thought, and a particular language imposes particular ideas of nature or of one's culture? Yes, some scholars, for example, E. Sapir and B. Lee Whorf, think so. This view is generally referred to as the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis or Whorfian Hypothesis . According to them, the child's cognitive system is determined by the structure of the language he acquires. Since linguistic structures are different, the associated cognitive systems are also different. Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis has two parts. The first is called linguistic determinism , which says that linguistic structure determines cognitive structure. That is, learning a language changes the way a person thinks. The second part is called linguistic relativity , which says that the resulting cognitive systems are different in speakers of different languages. Sapir spoke of language as a "tyrant" that not only reflects experience, but actually defines it, imposing upon us particulars and ideas about the world. Whorf, who was Sapir's student, shared his views stating that language is not only a reproducing instrument for voicing ideas but rather is itself the shaper of ideas. We cut nature along lines laid down by our native language. He noted that some...
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