How language seems to shape one's view of the world

(58 Posts)
alexpolistigers Tue 28-Jan-14 19:28:04

I thought this was an interesting article

I've noticed that I do have different mannerisms when speaking different languages. And having spent time in Italy and Greece, I've noticed that people are more likely to suffer from ailments that we English-speakers don't, as there are words or phrases for them in the languages there. For example, colpo di aria in Italy, or tha sou piasei i mesi in Greece.

Bonsoir Tue 28-Jan-14 19:44:57

I agree - language and its associated culture gives us possibilities for thought. Some thoughts are much more common than in others and so learning another language broadens your available spectrum.

alexpolistigers Tue 28-Jan-14 20:19:04

Exactly, Bonsoir. I even look at colours differently, having learnt other languages, and not in the blue/green way. I caught myself thinking of colours in terms of vegetables the other day, and I described something as "cabbage-coloured" in English, where I would probably once have said "pale green". And yet it seems perfectly natural now to see a deep purple and think of aubergines, or a deep red and think of morello cherries, and so on!

MardyBra Tue 28-Jan-14 20:44:12

I found this book www.amazon.co.uk/Through-Language-Glass-Different-Languages/dp/0099505576/ref=pd_sim_b_1 an interesting read on this topic alex.

alexpolistigers Tue 28-Jan-14 20:46:05

Oh, that does look interesting, Mardy, thankyou!

CoteDAzur Tue 28-Jan-14 20:56:41

Interesting article, thanks alexpoli.

I'm not sure if this is exactly what you mean, but my best friend is a native German speaker (I'm native English) and she has a pronounced difference in the way she speaks depending on which language she is in. I don't think she even realises it. In German she has a slight "little girl" lisp and intonation (we are both in our 40s) but in English she is very clipped and polished, more businesslike in a way. It's very interesting to see her switch back and forth!

I have no idea if I'm different in French / English / German - although apparently I speak Spanish with a German accent blush

That is really interesting. I always think Latin and Greek being different might account for some of the theology differences West and East, but I'm not sure. I guess part of the difficulty is, how much is it that language shapes how you see the world, and how much is it that if you see the world a certain way, you contribute to changing the language you speak to let you communicate that? I reckon if you studied MN as a language community it'd be quite distinctive.

Bonsoir Wed 29-Jan-14 09:13:43

On MN posters often adopt positions that are PC cliches in the UK. If you state an opinion that is contrary to that accepted cultural norm, you can be guaranteed a very strong reaction without anything much in the way of justification. Monolingual mono cultural posters are not subject to the same range of conflicting opinion that plurilingual pluricultural posters are.

CoteDAzur Wed 29-Jan-14 12:16:37

That is true, Bonsoir but I'm not sure if the determining factor there is being monolingual. It probably has to do with being small minded due to never having ventured outside of their small towns.

CoteDAzur Wed 29-Jan-14 13:29:49

Re how language shapes one's view of the world - There is no gender in Turkish (no equivalent of French le/la or even English he/she) and this is generally accepted as having originated from and perpetuated the equality of women & men in ancient Turkic tribes.

That lasted until Turks adopted Islam, unfortunately. I think we can safely say that language shapes one's view of the world to some extent, but that religion trumps it.

SpookedMackerel Wed 29-Jan-14 15:48:50

Very interesting.

I live "abroad"; we're a family of English speakers trying to learn a new language (German).

The DC will eventually become bilingual; hopefully dh and I will be fluent with time.

At the moment, I feel that people I am friends with through German don't know the "real me". I don't have a range of ways of expressing myself, I can't speak in a nuanced way because I just don't have the vocab yet. I can't be sarcastic, or tell jokes, I can't use wordplay...it's like I'm a completely different person.

Bonsoir Wed 29-Jan-14 16:24:10

It's not just the small town posters, cote. There is quite a lot of "I went to Oxbridge and I live in London ergo I know everything" grin

motherinferior Wed 29-Jan-14 16:31:44

Actually, Bonsoir, an Oxford English degree is guaranteed to leave you with an enduring conviction that language shapes us utterly. (Or certainly that's what I believe. But then I'm not madly monocultural...come to that, London isn't exactly monocultural either, so perhaps falls outside the parameters of your argument?)

You don't have to be multilingual or have lived in several countries to understand that language is significant in our social contraction of reality. Reading sociological and epistemological literature will also do the trick grin

motherinferior Wed 29-Jan-14 16:33:23

So I find it a bit of a truisim, really: perhaps because I've explored it for other things I've written. Of course one is a different person when speaking different languages - languages shape us, utterly, at a level that's even deeper than other stuff like religion.

I think probably any English degree is going to involve a certain amount of work on how language shapes us - but then, lots of them include a compulsory foreign language element.

motherinferior Wed 29-Jan-14 16:33:57

Or wot Buffy said grin

Words alone are certain good, like the man said.

I do love it when children get to that stage of realizing not everyone speaks the same way they do. My niece has a 'friend' (she's two) and they don't speak the same languages, and they are just beginning to cotton on to this fact. Before they seemed utterly unaware that the other one wasn't actually able to understand them.

motherinferior Wed 29-Jan-14 16:36:58

And one of the things that is endlessly being reworked in the UK is, in fact, the issues of a multicultural and multilingual society. Look at the veil (outlawed in France, endlessly debated here).

I think it may also be why you get certain philosophical traditions concentrated by language. French post-structuralists, American pragmatists, Critical theorists in Frankfurt etc. Obviously there's an element of physical proximity too, they collaborate and influence each other but there must also be a cultural-lingusitic element that influences their thinking.

YY, I think that makes total sense buffy.

I was thinking this the other day teaching my class - lots of German terms sound really intellectual and scary to them, and they assume the idea is very complicated too, but if you're German, you just think 'meh, that's a perfectly ordinary word!' and you're not scared of thinking about it.

motherinferior Wed 29-Jan-14 16:41:14

But also children learn to speak different versions of their mother-tongue/s too. Mine sound rather posh and RP some of the time, but also talk the fabulous urban English with its African-Caribbean vowels and plosive Punjabi consonants ("Laaaaaahk a dog) and utterly mysterious terms...

grin

Oh, yes.

I don't think anyone really speaks a single register of a language (if register is the right term). Most people automatically figure out how to vary how they speak so they fit into the culture they're currently in.

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