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Does Language Shape What We Think?

Here is something that none of us probably think about. If the language you speak does not accommodate words for certain areas of human culture it may change the way you see the world. In one interesting example a language that had no number words made it hard for its speakers to count accurately.
Although number words and counting are a fixture of life in most cultures from the time we are old enough to play hide-and-go-seek, some languages have only a handful of number words. In a paper published in 2008, MIT cognitive neuroscientist Michael Frank and colleagues demonstrated that Pirahã, a language spoken by a small Amazonian community, has no number words at all. The research team simply asked Pirahã speakers to count different numbers of batteries, nuts and other common objects. Rather than having a word consistently used to describe "one X" a different word for "two Xs" and yet another word for "three Xs," the Pirahã used hói to describe a small number of objects, hoí to describe a slightly larger number, and baágiso for an even larger number. Basically, these words mean "around one," "some" and "many."


Umm, I think about this constantly and I know several language theorists who do the same. But I guess if you don't, it must seem like nobody does.
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I mean, this is only one of the biggest lingustic/philosophical debates of all time. Highly unlikely that any Neatorama readers think about it.
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Language does not matter much, no matter what the language people tend to think and behave in same manner on important issues. Learning another language does not change way you think either.
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Yes, lets all draw a bunch of conclusions based on studies of a language used by some stone age isolated group of lost in time primitives.

That's sure to clear things up.
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I think language has the power to change what we think. Think of the way we discard and introduce new words into the language, or change their meaning. Gay used to mean happy, now we all associate that word with homosexuals. Or the way we must dumb down certain ideas so that the average reader understands it. Or the way sometimes there are so many thoughts in one's head and one cannot think of a right word to use, for it doesn't exist or has been destroyed. Language is powerful. I've seen so many try to convey their ideas, but their vocabulary being so poor, their ideas -- even if they're great -- come out as mediocre.
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Even if you have a strong vocabulary, as I do, you merely alienate the majority of the population with what appears to them as excessive and oppulant verbiage. Recently I read two books employing the word "Stultify" which one author felt it was necessary to define lest it be erroneously associated with the word "stifle".

Because I read material from all ages, I occassionally slip in and out of middle-english and Shakespearian use of language and employ a mass of historical references that more often than not leave my listeners dumbfounded. It gets even worse when I engage in technical discussion of scientific theories, recently while discussing the effect of caloric intake on obesity I made the error of mentioning peroxisome-proliferator activated receptors, and at that very moment the conversation ended and it's contributors dispersed, as a matter of fact, even before I could finish saying it.

The idea that you have to work for knowledge and understanding is burried deeper than the mythical Atlantis, these days everyone already knows everything or their opinion or private reality is every bit as good as anyone else, so why would we need anything more than a kindergarten (a German word meaning "Child"+"Garden") mastery of language.
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I should add there is some exception when it comes to specialization and with regards to any field that is not psychology or it's subset morality.

That is, we fully recognize that someone donning a P.H.D. or Doctorate in some field is qualified to be as verbose as needed, even if their listeners do not understand and are merely consumed with awe.

But the Age of the Polymath is gone. Despite the historical fact that a large body of social and scientific progress was pioneered primarily by autodidacts. Anymore, to be recognized as someone possessing understanding in more than one field of human knowledge requires one spend their whole life in a study hall. They will achieve their goal just in time to die.

I make the exception with respect to psychology and it's subfield morality, because these are areas where people are easily offended and maintain their own personal reality or version of the facts regardless of the source of conflicting information. It wouldn't matter if God itself revealed it to them, they would still not be willing to accept it. But when it comes to building bridges, we readily recognize that some exerpience or technical mastery is real.

There is one other field of "Knowledge" which shares a wide skepticism despite it's conclusions and that is the philosophical study known as "Epistemology" wherein the limitations of human understanding are explored and defined. People get really sloppy about this and quickly arrive at their beliefs without ever considering a study of epistemology. When their convictions are apparently undermined by some bright epistemologist, they are satisfied to fall back on the institutionalized scientific establishment as if it were a concrete reassurance that epistemology is unimportant.
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@ Ryan S

Love your comments. If only I was not drunk out of my mind rigt now I might be able to say someting sensible.

Never the less:

I forgot what I wanted to say. Never mind.

Oh; who or what the fu** are you?

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Close enough. Apart from being 'artificial', though that distinction is something I'd challenge. And I prefer to think of myself more as God's Advocate and the society; the devil. More of a protagonist with the majority being antagonists. The roles are backwards is all. Mind you, those appearances are probably rooted in which side of the fence you are on.
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The book "don't sleep, there are snakes" covers the Pirahã language; I found the fact they didn't have colour terminology to be more interesting than the fact they count like trolls. "One, two, many, lots".
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