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.

It would also come as very little surprise to me if children's brains are structured to think in certain ways depending on the language(s) they learn while their brains are most plastic. Maybe German thinkers think in complex structures because the language is complex and structured? Americans are very no nonsense and pragmatic because their language is? And so the two things, language and thought, feed off one another, compliment one another.

No doubt that's simplistic but I bet it has some influence on how our thinking develops.

CoteDAzur Wed 29-Jan-14 16:44:54

Yes, bonsoir, there is definitely a bit of that, too grin

motherinferior Wed 29-Jan-14 16:46:33

I can speak Bolshy Lefty, which is slightly different from Nice Middleclass Lady grin.

And the language of the domestic too. My Indian mother says that her father - with his Princeton degrees, and the books he'd written all in English - would only speak endearments to her in Tamil.

I had a great-great-ancestor of some kind in that family who translated the Old Testament into epic Tamil verse. Now there's a cross-cultural shift for you grin
(History does not relate how actually readable it was, mind.)

It must do, buffy.

I believe it's known that bilinguals' brains are structured differently, though I don't remember if the experiments were brain architecture or brain imaging.

motherinferior Wed 29-Jan-14 16:48:10

I don't do enough on neurology, but I'd think it was bound to.

motherinferior Wed 29-Jan-14 16:48:32

(Because even though I went to Oxford I don't know absolutely everything. Though I'm working on it.)

grin at MI. Bolshy Lefty, I like it.

That's fascinating about your family. And rather lovely.

I remember my cousin telling me that her grandfather always came across as extremely cold verbally although he was an affectionate man, and she thought it was because while he'd been a little child, his mum spoke Welsh to him and that was the 'affectionate' language - but he forgot how to speak it because it was pretty much forced out during that period. After she died he didn't speak it any more so didn't have the vocabulary.

I think that's really sad.

DS tells me that Einstein's brain was unusually large.

<misses point>

You don't, MI?! shock

Get Out. I bet it's cos you live in a small town or London. sad

SpookedMackerel Wed 29-Jan-14 16:50:40

LRD I think that is what I was trying to get at before - I do speak just one "register" at the moment, and the only "me" there is is totally bound up by being an English speaker. So when I'm in German I'm this totally fake unreal person.

Whereas for my bilingual DC it will be an inherent part of who they are. But I wonder if it is too late for me, if even if I become fluent I'll feel the person I am when speaking German isn't the real me.

I love language. I love the way clever people can play it like a musical instrument. I am very glad to have stumbled across the postmodern evocative tradition in research because it encourages academics to write stories and poetry instead of dry dull reports grin

motherinferior Wed 29-Jan-14 16:52:19

Yes, it's the stuff about jokes and nuances, isn't it, SM.

I think you'll find it was Einstein's hair that was unusually large, Buffy. <misses even more points>

Buffy, I think it is the other way around!

Because the Germans are a complex structured people, they have a language that reflects this.

Also, may I say, as in "import", that the English language is fascinating and beautiful? It is also very complex and nuanced and at times a little bit difficult, though always pleasant to the ear….like it's people ?

YY, spooked. How long have you been learning? I just wondered - I am hopeless at languages, but my brother is married to a German woman. For a couple of years he felt, I think, very like you. These days not so much. I do notice he has a slightly different persona in German, but it's not a one-note persona at all.

buffy - the which?! I have not come across this.

NomDeClavier Wed 29-Jan-14 16:55:15

MN language is fascinating. I wrote a corpus linguistics module essay on it a few years back. I suspect very few of my conclusions are still valid wink

I definitely have different mannerisms in different languages, possibly shaped by how I was when I learnt them. I sound a lot more confident in Italian than French despite being much better at French, for example.

CoteDAzur Wed 29-Jan-14 16:57:35

"languages shape us, utterly, at a level that's even deeper than other stuff like religion"

There is definitely the theory I have read worked into several very good books that language is the software that shapes the brain (hardware) that we are all born with. By now there is also no doubt about the cognitive advantages of bilingualism, for example.

Still, specifically re 'shaping how one views the world', I'm afraid brainwashing religion still has the power to trump the perspective gained through language ime.

The [http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Fields_of_Play.html?id=m-SJICOCVTwC&redir_esc=y this]] LRD. Well that's an example anyway.

Writing as a way of knowing in and of itself. A creative, generative process. And not boring. It's liberating and wonderful.

Fuck, link fail. First time in ages I didn't preview to check.

The this

Thanks buffy. smile

BalloonSlayer Wed 29-Jan-14 17:00:12

I am fascinated by the way some languages, like Chinese, are tonal, so that you say the sound of a word, but the way you say it - rising, falling, flat, alters the meaning.

MardyBra Wed 29-Jan-14 17:06:31

"MN language is fascinating. I wrote a corpus linguistics module essay on it a few years back."

That sounds fascinating. Yes, there is a definite MN style and tone imo.

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 29-Jan-14 17:10:44

Mardy, there is.
I'm fascinated by the Twitter style because I've found myself imitating it when I'm on there. It's partly to do with the 140 character limit, obviously, but it's also to do with projecting a particular terribly enthusiastic, positive persona at all times.

I moved to Vietnam when I was 23 and speak it almost fluently. I picked up the local accent, unfortunately. I am studying to be an interpreter and not being able to speak "Standard" Hanoian Vietnamese is a bit of a challenge.

Anyway, I picked up habits and different ways of thinking here. I'm 30 now and many locals ask me if I'm half Vietnamese. I'm 76 pounds so very small as well. I have a lot of friends here, and act very much like a local.

I speak 7 languages and I'm "different" in each one.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Wed 29-Jan-14 17:27:16

I'm glad someone's mentioned Chinese... I accept what everyone says about how there can be shifts in personality when using different languages - but I've never found, when mangling a European language, that my understanding of the universe had to change.

And then I tried Mandarin. And found that the relationship between say "pencil" and "desk" was not what I had previously believed. "On" just didn't work in the same way between the two. It actually hurt my brain and I never went back...

Bonsoir Wed 29-Jan-14 17:30:13

I think that the personality nuance that each language confers tends to fade with age and you become the same person whichever language you are speaking: as you get older and are more self-assured, external thought influences.

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