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While reading, I thought the concept of Linguistic Relativity to be extremely interesting. The basic idea of linguistic relativity is that characteristics of language shape our thought processes. Lilienfeld ultimately decides that the theory isn't conclusive and that other aspects of perception play an important role in shaping how we think.
I, personally, was intrigued by the study that goes against the idea that language affects thinking: color categorization. Although people across the world that are part of different societies and cultures speak various languages that have different numbers of basic color terms, still all people can, for the most part, divide the same color categories. This study shows that people can still understand something, even if their language doesn't outright teach it to them.
For example, in a New York TImes article, the author uses the example that even though an English speaker has never heard the German word "Schadenfreude" doesn't mean that he or she cannot understand the meaning if given an explanation or that he or she is incapable of feeling the emotion. (Schadenfreude refers to the pleasure derived from another person's misfortune.) Just because a language prohibits a person from an initial understanding, it does not rule out the possibility of being able to comprehend it if given the chance. Given this view, it seems to suggest that people from different cultures and societies cannot learn about or understand other people in different countries with opposite ways of living.
However the article also discusses the ways in which giving directions through language can affect the way we think. For example, most people typically use egocentric directions which are dependent on our own bodies..."go left then walk straight until the house and then turn right." Versus geographic directions which are oriented on the earths axises..."head north then turn east." The different sets of directions would influence the way we think of getting to each place.
Still, I think that Linguistic Relativity can be a little far reaching, but definitely holds true to a point.

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This page contains a single entry by ibach006 published on October 25, 2011 12:37 AM.

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