Language is arguably the most powerful tool for communication. People use it to comprehend the world around them through listening, talking and even reading. We communicate our desires, needs, disappointments, facts and feelings by our speech and writings. If we strengthen our linguistic skills, we stand a better chance of understanding other people. This paper, therefore, studies the manner in which language influences and individual’s thoughts and mode of communication.
It has been found that the languages we speak affect our perception of the world around us. Lera Borodtsky, a psychologist, performed a simple experiment to verify this claim. She asked a five-year-old girl, an aborigine from a little village in Northern Australia, to point north. The little girl pointed north without any hesitation. When she went back to Stanford University, she repeated the experiment in a lecture hall. The lecture hall was awash with seasoned scientists. She asked them to point north while blindfolded. To her amazement, they fumbled, guessing and pointed to every possible direction. A five-year-old in one culture performs it with so much ease. On the other hand, seasoned scientists fumble with the same task. What could explain this? The answer she got surprised her. It turned out that language must have played a major role in this whole exercise (Garth 56).
The notion that language impacts differently on peoples’ thinking, has been a subject of discussion for long. Linguists argued that there exists a strong relationship between language and thought. Their claims, however, have been opposed on the basis that it lacked evidence. They claimed that language and thought were universal and did not possess any peculiarity in their relationship. However, from mid 20th century, many people began to research on this matter (Garth 78).
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The newly found evidence has overturned the old position held by many people on the universality of language and thought. This evidence indicates that one’s mother tongue shapes his thoughts. It has been found that people whose language relies on absolute directions are very good at knowing where they are, even in places or buildings they are not familiar with. Either, it was established that direction of writing in the different language has an influence on how one organizes time.
If, for example, you have three sets of pictures. Suppose one of the pictures bears a young child, another one a middle aged man, and the last one bearing an old man. If you tell a Hebrew and an Englishman to arrange them in a time line, there will be notable differences. The Hebrew will arrange the picture from right to left. On the other hand, the Englishman will arrange them from left to right. Moreover, speakers of different languages have different ways of remembering events. For example, if someone did something, they way an Englishman remembers what he or she did would be very different from the way a Hebrew would do it.
It is a well-known fact that non-Standard English is fast spreading in the United Kingdom. To begin with, we need to ask ourselves one question. What is the origin of non-Standard English? English started out as old English with origins in the Anglo Saxon invasion of the Isles of Britain. The Vikings also had an influence in the development of the English language. They created a language variation in England by causing a North South divide. Varied dialects thereafter developed in different areas, the main reason being the economic divide. The peasants who were unable to speak the Standard English of the elite and rich developed their own way of speaking. Though Standard English resulted in the creation of different dialects, its main components remain to date (Robert & Diana 36).
Non-English have borrowed from the many languages and dialects, which are present in the United Kingdom. Immigrants have also made their own important contributions to the development of non-standard language. The different dialects in the United Kingdom so far include RP, Somerset, South Welsh, and Estuary English among many other dialects (Robert et al. 45).
Celebrities have used such dialects to cut a niche for themselves. More often, politicians find themselves in situations where they have to switch to particular dialects in order to be relevant to the electorate. This includes the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair. It is well-known fact that one can only despise these languages at their own peril. Therefore, it is imperative that people appreciate these dialects as they are. Otherwise, one might be rendered irrelevant (William 22).
We can classify language in many ways. This can be achieved by controlling it. It has been shown that a language becomes increasingly boring and unclear as it becomes more abstract. On the other hand, language is clear and more vivid when it is concrete and specific (William 38).
Abstract terms are the concepts which have no tangible references. Some of the abstract terms are freedom, good, moral and any other term ending with an -ism such as feminism, racism among other words. Since these terms are very common and easily recognizable, we may have an imagination that we comprehend them. However, the fact remains that we do not really understand them due to the dynamism present in their meanings. Take love for example. In childhood, it means one thing. In youth or adolescence, the meaning changes and when we marry, we come to another level of understanding. Even though the word is the same, the meaning keeps changing. This does not mean that we should not use abstract words. Concepts and ideas are only represented by abstract terms. They come in handy when naming ideas. On the other hand, they do not have the ability to make things interesting on their own (Willard 76).
Concrete terms refer to the events and objects which our senses can relate with. Examples include spoon, carpet, green, hot, talking. The meanings of these terms are very stable. The matter is that we can relate to them with the different senses that we have. The sense of touch, hearing, taste, and sight – all can be applied to these terms. A spoon in childhood remains the same as in adulthood. On the other hand, the abstract term like success may mean different things to different people.
Depending on your occupation, there is always a tendency to use more than one of these terms. A good example is politics that has many abstract terms. Politicians talk about freedom, success and many other things. However, Different people understand them differently (Willard 88).
We can, therefore, conclude that language is a powerful tool that greatly influences an individual’s way of thinking. Moreover, it significantly affects the mode of communication as it dictates the manner in which one will pass a piece of information. Thus, language shapes our thoughts and dictates our communication.
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