Understanding Thoughts Through Language

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Christina Kompanijec
English 200
Argumentative essay: draft four

If asked which cognitive ability you would miss the most if it were taken away, the majority of people would respond with the obvious choices of sight or hearing, but how many people would think about our sense of language? Language affects our lives in ways that we do not often realize. In the essay “How Language Shapes Thought” Lera Boroditsky argues that many of our cognitive abilities are enhanced, or hindered depending on the fundamental structure of our system of language. I found that Boroditsky used much of her own research in order to support her claims that direction, time and gender are concepts largely affected by the structural system of our language. Overall I found Boroditsky’s arguments to be sound and thorough. I agree with her claims that language shapes thought. When visiting a small town in northern Australia, Boroditsky came to realize that the residents had an impeccable sense of direction; contrasting to that of the American scholars she repeated the experiment with back in the United States (Boroditsky 63). Boroditsky reached the conclusion that direction is one of many cognitive aspects that are largely shaped by language. I found Boroditsky’s theories hard to refute as she backed them up with many hard facts. Boroditsky furthers her credibility through the acknowledgement of previous flaws within the theory, as seen in the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which lacked any major empirical evidence.

Boroditsky is able to show the importance of a language’s structure and the how it impacts the meanings and thoughts behind the words that are used. “Suppose I want to tell you that I saw Uncle Vanya on 42nd Street. In Mian, a language spoken in Papua New Guinea, the verb I used would reveal whether the event happened just now, yesterday or in the distant past, whereas in Indonesian, the verb wouldn’t even give away whether it had already happened or was still coming up. And in...
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