Previously published in Examiner
Part 6 of the language seriesIt is now coming to light that the feminists were not wrong, language does affect the way we think. Therefore, language affects the way society sees and appreciates or ignores women in general.
Empirical Research on how language affects the human thought processes
In her article posted June 12, 2009, Dr. Lera Boroditsky assistant professor of psychology, neuroscience, and symbolic systems at Stanford University set out to test if language really does shape thinking by doing research in her labs at Stanford University and MIT; and by collecting data from all over the world. Her findings showed that people who speak different languages think differently and that even little grammar flukes can change how a person views the world.
Dr. Boroditsky explains how language shapes thinking just by the grammar rules of a certain language. For example, she states that if we take the sentence “Bush read the book”, in English we would have to change the tense of the verb read (pronounced reed) to read pronounced red to reflect the past tense. Some languages such as Indonesian will not let you alter the verb tense.
In languages such as French and Russian you have to indicate not only the tense of the verb, but the gender and then the spelling will alter as well, so if George Bush was reading the book the spelling and grammar would not be the same if Laura Bush was reading it. In Russian you have to give even more information about the read. Did Bush read part of the book or all of it? Each case would require a different form of the verb. The Turkish language gets more complicated because the form of the verb would have to indicate if you actually saw Bush read the book or you merely read about it or someone else told you. At this basic level of grammar you can see how our thinking is very much affected by what is written.
To be continued
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Department of Psychology Concordia University – Cognitive Science