Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Life Without Language

I found this post about the relationship between thought and language fascinating.
Human thought, for the majority, is not simply the individual outcome of our evolved neural architecture, but also the result of our borrowing of the immense symbolic and intellectual resources available in language. What would human thought be like without language? . . .

My own feeling, and I have not worked with a population that has a non-Western sense of time, is that it’s likely a softer form of the Whorfian argument, that language and culture affect the perceptual qualities of different sensory channels to varying degrees (perhaps more in some phenomenal qualities than in others) is the most defensible (and arguably, this is what Whorf was arguing all along). Time, for example, may be difficult to perceive in certain ways if you are not culturally trained to habitually conducting yourself in relation to time appropriately: certainly, there is deep cultural difference in the degree to which people orient themselves by the clock, and varying emphases that societies place on recurrence or irreversibility of time. This isn’t to say that language is a perceptual world, but rather than languages can induce certain perceptual biases that may be more or less difficult to overcome. But what about those without language? . . .

So can people have thought without words? Well, the evidence-based answer would seem to be, yes, but it’s not the same sort of thought. Some things appear to be easier to ‘get’ without language (such as imitation of action), other things appear to be a kind of ‘all-at-once’ intuition (such as suddenly realizing all things have names), and other ideas are difficult without language being deeply enmeshed with cognitive development over long periods of time (like an English-based understanding of time as quantitative and spatialized). In other words, language is not simply an either/or proposition, but part of a cognitive developmental niche that shapes both our abilities and (unperceived) disabilities relative to the fully cognitively matured language-less individual.
--Greg Downey

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14 comments:

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Ebenezer said...

This is what early childhood educators are getting at when they identify a need for language development activities for children who come from homes where there isn't as much speech, or where the speech isn't used to convey ideas. Those children truly do have a lot of "catch-up" to do in the language deparment, in order to make it possible for their thought processes to be powerful and useful for academic (and other) learning

Culturist John said...

Languages have different pronoun structures. So, for example, instead of "I", the Korean language uses the pronoun "us." Rather than my wife, it is our wife.

This is another reason that we must drop mluticulturalism and adopt culturism. Becoming a culturally split or culturally divided nation has consequences. Languages encode values. Values shape economies. Both shape your fate in battle.

The word "gringo" indicates a hostile relationship to the majority population of America. It indicates an entire disposition that doesn't propel America forward.

Language is important. Culture is important. Multiculturalism doesn't take language or culture seriously. It says to "celebrate" everything. It has no sense of realpolitik.

We MUST DROP MULTICULTURALISM FOR CULTURIISM NOW!

www.culturism.us

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Term Papers said...

Language is a term most commonly used to refer to so called "natural languages" — the forms of communication considered peculiar to humankind. By extension the term also refers to the type of human thought process which creates and uses language. Essential to both meanings is the systematic creation, maintenance and use of systems of symbols, which dynamically reference concepts and assemble according to structured patterns to communicate meaning. The scientific study of language is called linguistics.

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jhon said...

Time, for example, may be difficult to perceive in certain ways if you are not culturally trained to habitually conducting yourself in relation to time appropriately: certainly, there is deep cultural difference in the degree to which people orient themselves by the clock, and varying emphases that societies place on recurrence or irreversibility of time. This isn’t to say that language is a perceptual world, but rather than languages can induce certain perceptual biases that may be more or less difficult to overcome.
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