How Language Shapes Thought

Topics: Linguistic relativity, Benjamin Lee Whorf, Language Pages: 3 (992 words) Published: November 19, 2012
Shaped by Language: What Comes First the Thought or the Language Language, due to its specific properties, is one aspect that makes human beings unique in comparison to other animals and species. The fact that different languages can alter the way we perceive the world, and objects we view. From the perception of space, time and even nouns, languages changes the way we think. Countless studies show that linguistic processes effect even down to the most fundamental thought processes, which unconsciously shapes our brain altering perception. Language is important to how we deal with experience with each other and how we view the world. Consequently, some cognitive psychologists believe that language may influence thought processes. Because of changing unpredictable of human’s thinking in different cultures, it is difficult to define effects of a particular language on a particular thought pattern. The question of language and thought has been debated constantly similar to the age-old question of what came first the chicken or the egg. Drawing on our experiences we must contemplate the original theory that language shapes thought. The hypothesis introduced by Benjamin Whorf, which is known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis or linguistic determination has stood the test of time and is a beginning to any debate about language and thought. He believed that our thoughts are completely limited by our language. A strong quote by Benjamin Whorf suggests that, “We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances as we do, largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it in this way--an agreement that holds throughout our speech community and is codified in the patterns of our language” (Whorf 213-14). This allows me to believe language is basically the need for a given group of people to communicate with each other. Another question to ask when thinking about language is what came first, man or language? The size of one’s world can shape the...

Cited: Baldwin, James C. (1979). “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What is?” The New York Times, July 29, 1979 by the New York Times Company
Chandler, David. "The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis." The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. N.p., 18 Sept. 1995. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. <>.
Guilbault, Rose Del Castillo. “Americanization Is Tough on ‘Macho’” About Language: A Reader for Writers. 5th Ed. Eds. William H. Roberts and Gregoire Turgeon. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998. 238-39.
Whorf, B. L. (1940): 'Science and Linguistics ', Technology Review 42(6): 229-31, 247-8. Also in B. L. Whorf (1956): Language, Thought and Reality (ed. J. B. Carroll). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
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