Are we merely expressing ideas in language, or is the structure of language (without our knowledge or permission) shaping the ideas we want to express?
Just looking at the children’s songs, shows how different the language is. In English, we need to use different forms of verbs to express different tenses, so “sat” uses “sat” instead of “sit”, but in Indonesian, you do n’t need (in fact, you ca n’t ) Expressing the tense through the transformation of verbs.
In Russian, there is not only a change in tense, but also a change in gender—if Mrs. Egghead sits there. In addition, you also need to consider whether the action of “sitting” has been completed. If our egg-shaped protagonist sat on the wall as he wished for the whole time instead of falling off the wall, then we need to use another form of verb.
In Turkish, you need to use verbs to show how you got this information. For example, if you saw this fat man sitting on the wall with your own eyes, you would use some form of verb, but if you just read or heard about it, then you need to use a different form of verb.
British, Indonesians, Russians and Turks will pay attention to, understand and recall their experiences in different ways, just because they use different languages?
All major differences in the field of mental research are related to these issues, which also have important implications for politics, law, and religion. However, until recently, there has been very little empirical research on these issues. For a long time, the politeness of the idea that language may shape thinking was said to be untenable, and more often it was considered crazy and wrong. Now, a series of new cognitive studies have shown that, indeed, language does have a profound effect on how we understand the world.
Thinking about whether language determines the way of thinking can be traced back hundreds of years. Charlemagne claimed that “learning a second language has a second soul.” However, this view was in the language of Noam Chomsky in the 1960s and 1970s Learning theories is no longer recognized by scientists. Dr. Chomsky believes that all human languages essentially use a common grammar, and there is no significant difference between various languages. The theory is that since there is no difference between languages, it makes no sense to study whether language differences will lead to differences in thinking styles.
The study of language commonality has found some interesting information, but for decades, no so-called commonality has survived scrutiny. On the contrary, as linguists continue to study various languages in the world (there are about 7,000 languages in the world, only a small part of them are analyzed), countless unexpected differences have emerged.
Of course, people cannot be inferred to think differently just because they use different languages. Over the past decade, cognitive scientists have begun to study not only how people speak, but also how people think, and explore whether our understanding of basic concepts such as space, time, and causality can be constructed by language.
Take Pormpuraaw, a remote indigenous tribe in Australia as an example. The expressions “left” and “right” are not used in the local native language. Whatever they talk about is expressed in an absolute basic direction (that is, east, west, south, north), which means that they will say something like, “There is an ant on your southwestern leg.” The people of the Pormpuraaw tribe ask when they say hello , “Where are you going?” A realistic answer might be, “I’m going to a place far south-southwest. What about you?” If you can’t tell the direction, then you can’t even say hello Way to fight.
About one-third of the world’s languages (used in a variety of environments) rely on absolute directions to express space. After such long-term language training, people who speak these languages are excellent at discerning directions, even in strange places, they can know where they are. They showed the ability of scientists to discriminate in directions that were originally beyond human capabilities. This is a major difference, a completely different way of defining space through language training.
The difference in the way people view space is not limited to this. People rely on their spatial knowledge to construct many other more complex and abstract representations, including time, numbers, tone, blood relationship, morality and emotion. If the people of the Pormpuraawa tribe have a different understanding of space, do they also have different views on other things? For example, time.
To find the answer, my colleague Alice Gaby and I went to Australia and gave the Pormpuraawa people several photos showing the development of time (for example, a person of different ages, a crocodile growing up, or a The root is being eaten by the banana). All they have to do is arrange a bunch of unordered photos in chronological order and put them on the ground. Everyone taking the test has to do it twice, each time facing a different direction. We have done the same test for English and Hebrew speakers. As a result, English speakers will arrange the photos from left to right in chronological order, and Hebrew speakers will swing from right to left ( Because Hebrew is written from right to left).
We found that Pormpuraawa people will arrange the photos in chronological order from east to west. That is to say, if you are going north to south, the order will be from left to right; when you are going south to north, the order will be from right to left; when you are going west to east, the order will be toward yourself, and so on. Of course, we did not tell any participant which direction they were facing. The Pormpuraawa people not only knew the direction they faced, but also naturally used this spatial orientation to construct their temporal representation. There are many other ways to rank time in the language system of the world. In Chinese Chinese, people may rank things in the future below and things past in the past above them. In the Aymara language of South America, the future is ranked behind, and the past is ranked in front of it.
In addition to space and time, language can shape the way we understand causality. For example, English usually uses an agent to do something to describe an event. English-speakers tend to say “John broke the vase”, even if John did it unintentionally. Those who speak Spanish or Japanese are more likely to say “the vase is broken” and alive “the vase is broken”. These differences in expression will have an important impact on how the speaker understands the event, how to construct the concept of causality and the role of the subject, what kind of impressions the witness will have on the event, and how much blame and punishment will be given to the event.
Caitlin Fausey of Stanford University did a study in which she showed English, Spanish, and Japanese people to watch a few videos. Two people broke the balloon intentionally or unintentionally and broke the eggs And spilling drinks. Then they unexpectedly performed a memory test on everyone: In three different events, do you remember who of the two people in the video was the agent? She discovered amazing cross-lingual differences from the testers’ memories. Spanish and Japanese speakers do not perform as well as the memory of the actors in accidental events as well as English speakers. But it is worth noting that they remember the actors in the deliberate events well (because Spanish and Japanese refer to the actors in the description of such events). However, for accidental events, the actors in Spanish and Japanese are usually not mentioned, so they also do not encode or memorize the actors in the event.
Another study was to let English speakers watch Janet Jackson ’s well-known “clothing failure” (this is a brilliant new creation by Justin Timberlake that does n’t mention the actor) (Vocabulary) Read another one of the two written reports in the video port. Except for the last sentence, the contents of the two reports are the same. One of them used the saying “tear off the clothes” containing the actors, while the other said “the clothes were ripped off.” Although everyone who participated in the experiment watched the same video and saw it with their own eyes Ripped off the clothes, but the language still played a role. Those who read “Tear off clothes” not only blamed Justin Timberlake for thinking that the number of people who wanted to receive a fine was 53% more than the other group.
In addition to space, time, and causality, research shows that language patterns can shape many other aspects of thinking. Russian has made a particularly careful distinction between light blue and dark blue, so Russian speakers can better distinguish the colors of the blue line. In the Piraha tribe of the Amazon Basin in Brazil, the local people do not like to use numbers in their language, but use “rare” and “many” to express, so they cannot grasp the specific number. Studies have shown that Shakespeare’s understanding of roses is also biased: after changing the rose to many other names, it is no longer fragrant (this is the answer given by blindfolded experimenters who smell the rose). (Shakespeare has a famous saying: “The name was originally meaningless, just like a rose, and the name is still fragrant.” ──Annotation) The
language model opens a window for us to study the mentality and orientation of a certain culture. For example, the sentence structure in English focuses on the agent, and in our criminal justice system in the United States, when we find a criminal and punish him / her accordingly, then justice is already achieved (and Not by seeking victims and making corresponding compensation to achieve judicial justice). So, does language shape cultural values? Or do cultural values affect people’s language? Or is this influence bidirectional?
Of course, language is a creation of mankind, a tool we invent and continuously improve to meet our own needs. Just because people who use different languages have different ways of thinking does not mean whether language shapes thinking or thinking shapes language. In order to explain the role of language in shaping thinking, it is necessary to directly manipulate language and study what effect it will have on cognition.
One of the most important research advances in recent years is the display of this causal relationship. Experiments have shown that if you change the way people talk, you change the way they think. If people learn another language, they will inadvertently learn a new way of looking at the world. When a bilingual speaker switches between the two languages, the way they think will become different. Moreover, if you remove people ’s ability to use language while performing a simple non-verbal task, their performance will change dramatically, and sometimes they will not act smarter than mice and babies. (For example, in a recent study, MIT students were asked to count how many dots there were on a screen. If they were allowed to count normally, they performed very well. If they were allowed to complete at the same time A non-verbal task—such as hitting an instrument, their performance is still good. But if you let them perform a language task while looking at the dots—such as repeating the words mentioned in the news report, Their performance will be a mess. In other words, they need language skills to count.)
All these new studies show that the language we use can not only reflect or express our thoughts, but also shape the expression we want to express. thought of. The structure of language profoundly shapes the way we construct the real world, helping us become smart and well-thought.
Language is a unique talent for human beings. When we study language, we will discover to some extent the reason why we are human, so as to peek into the nature of human nature. When we discover the differences between various languages and their users, we will also find that due to the different languages we use, there will be significant differences in human nature. In the next stage, we will try to understand the mechanism of language to help us build an incredibly complex knowledge system, and understand how we can use the knowledge we have mastered to create ideas beyond the current level of knowledge. These are the most fundamental questions that each of us wants to ask ourselves. Why are we what we are today? Why do we have such a way of thinking? Research shows that one of the important reasons is the language we use.