Language Shaping Thought

In fact, you don’t even need to go into the lab to see these effects of language; you can see them with your own eyes in an art gallery. Look at some famous examples of personification in art — the ways in which abstract entities such as death, sin, victory, or time are given human form. How does an artist decide whether death, say, or time should be painted as a man or a woman? It turns out that in 85 percent of such personifications, whether a male or female figure is chosen is predicted by the grammatical gender of the word in the artist’s native language. So, for example, German painters are more likely to paint death as a man, whereas Russian painters are more likely to paint death as a woman.

Lera Boroditsky, “How does our language shape the way we think?” (2009)

Wrote about Jack Kerouac writing much, if not most of his original work in French–and, in particular, Quebec French, where Kerouac would write phonetically. The English version as the second version of much of his work. So the ideas and tone of On The Road, the run on with the teletype paper, could be referenced to how he thought in French. Some research on language and thought discussed here, here and here. If you have more than one word for snow, or for blue, or have no words to describe numbers, how does your language affect thought? Called “Whorfianism”, after the initiator of the theory, Benjamin Lee Whorf. Controversial, since Whorf was a fire prevention engineer with an interest in linguistics, rather than a full-time academic with related academic pedigree. He nonetheless published influential papers.

When teaching Accounting Theory or Commercial Law in English and then in French, find that the students in the French sections seem to grasp the abstractions more readily, and are able to discuss more easily, and more precisely. Find the same with news commentary in English and French.

Maybe just finding what one wants to look for…

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About brucelarochelle

Practising Lawyer and Part-Time University Instructor (Accounting, Commercial Law, Organizational Behaviour); Part-Time Federal Tribunal Member. Non-practising Chartered Professional Accountant (Chartered Accountant and Certified Management Accountant).
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