To have a second language is to have a second soul
Thread poster: Jacek Krankowski
Check which one is now in command by asking yourself what adjectives you would use to describe a key or a bridge. Read on:
You are what you speak
New Scientist vol 176 issue 2371 - 30 November 2002, page 34
Alison Motluk meets the psychologists who aim to show that your mother tongue
really does affect the way you see the world
DOES the language you speak influence the way you think? Does it help define
your world view? Anyone who has tried to master a foreign tongue has at
least considered the possibility. And those who have ever had cause to
remonstrate with a foreign lover may even be convinced.
At first glance, the idea seems perfectly plausible. Conveying even simple
messages requires that you make completely different observations depending
on your language. Imagine being asked to count some pens on a table. As an
English speaker, you only have to count them and give the number - let\'s say
there are 11. But a Russian also has to consider what gender the pens are
(neuter), then use the neuter form of the word for 11. And a Japanese
speaker has to take into account their shape (long and cylindrical) as well,
and use the word for 11 designated for items of that form.
On the other hand, surely pens are just pens, no matter what your language
compels you to specify about them? Little linguistic peculiarities, though
amusing, don\'t change the objective world we are describing. So how can they
alter the way we think?
Scientists and philosophers have been grappling with this thorny question
for centuries. There have always been those who argue that our picture of
the Universe depends on our native tongue. Since the 1960s, however, with
the ascent of thinkers like Noam Chomsky and a host of cognitive scientists,
the consensus has been that linguistic differences don\'t really matter, that
language is a universal human trait, and that our ability to talk to one
another owes more to our shared genetics than to our varying cultures. But
now the pendulum is beginning to swing the other way as psychologists
re-examine the question.
This new generation of scientists is not convinced that language is innate
and hard-wired into our brain. \"Language is not just notation,\" says Dan
Slobin of the University of California at Berkeley. \"The brain is shaped by
experience.\" Slobin and others say that small, even apparently insignificant
differences between languages do affect the way speakers perceive the world.
\"Some people argue that language just changes what you attend to,\" says Lera
Boroditsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. \"But what you
attend to changes what you encode and remember.\" In short, it changes how
To start with the simplest and perhaps subtlest example, preparing to say
something in a particular language demands that you pay attention to certain
things and ignore others. In Korean, for instance, simply to say hello you
need to know if you\'re older or younger than the person you\'re addressing.
Even a day\'s difference can matter. Spanish speakers have to decide whether
a relationship is intimate enough to employ tu or formal enough to require
Usted. In Japanese, simply deciding which form of the word \"I\" to use
demands complex calculations involving your age, the age of the person
you\'re speaking to, your gender, their gender and your relative status.
This process is what Slobin calls \"thinking for speaking\" and he argues that
it can have a huge impact on what we deem important and, ultimately, how we
think about the world. To give another example, about a third of the world\'s
languages describe location in \"absolute\" terms: speakers of many Pacific
island languages, for example, would say \"north of the tree\" or \"seaward
from the tree\" rather than \"beside the tree\", as we might in English. In
these languages, you always need to know where you are in relation to fixed
external reference points, says Slobin. \"Even when you are in a windowless
room, or travelling in a bus in the dark,\" he says, \"you must know your
location relative to the fixed points in order to talk about events and
locations.\" So, even if you didn\'t use the word \"north\" in conversation, you
would always know where it was.
Whether your language places an emphasis on an object\'s shape, substance or
function also seems to affect your relationship with the world, according to
John Lucy, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in
Nijmegen in the Netherlands. He has compared American English with Yucatec
Maya, spoken in Mexico\'s Yucatan Peninsula. Among the many differences
between the two languages is the way objects are classified. In English,
shape is implicit in many nouns. We think in terms of discrete objects, and
it is only when we want to quantify amorphous things like sugar that we
employ units such as \"cube\" or \"cup\". But in Yucatec, objects tend to be
defined by separate words that describe shape. So, for example, a \"long thin
wax\" is a candle. Likewise, \"long banana\" describes the fruit, while \"flat
banana\" means \"banana leaf\" and a \"seated banana\" is a \"banana tree\".
To find out if this classification system has any far-reaching effects on
how people think, Lucy asked English and Yucatec-speaking volunteers to do a
likeness task. In one experiment, he gave them three combs and asked which
two were most alike. One was plastic with a handle, another wooden with a
handle, the third plastic without a handle. English speakers thought the
combs with handles were more alike, but Yucatec speakers felt the two
plastic combs were. In another test, Lucy used a plastic box, a cardboard
box and a piece of cardboard. The Americans thought the two boxes belonged
together, whereas the Mayans chose the two cardboard items. In other words,
Americans focused on form, while the Mayans focused on substance.
But how significant are these findings? \"Yucatec people don\'t live in a
world of artefacts,\" says Paul Bloom from Yale University. \"If you could get
these results in the Japanese I\'d be convinced.\" Similar studies with
Japanese speakers, however, have proved inconclusive.
Undeterred, Lucy points to his own studies indicating that all young
children tend to focus on the same qualities - shape in the case of objects
like combs and boxes, and material when it\'s something amorphous like sugar.
Then, at about the age of eight, differences begin to emerge that reflect
language. \"Everyone comes with the same possibilities,\" he says, \"but
there\'s a tendency to make the world fit into our [linguistic] categories.\"
Boroditsky argues that even artificial classification systems, such as
gender, can be important. To an English speaker, the idea that words can
arbitrarily be considered male or female or neutral is peculiar. It makes no
sense that words like \"bra\" and \"uterus\" can be masculine while \"penis\" can
be feminine. What\'s more, there is no agreement between languages. The word
\"sun\" is neutral in Russian, feminine in German, and masculine in Spanish.
Some psychologists argue that these inconsistencies suggest gender is just a
meaningless tag. Boroditsky disagrees. To construct sentences in these
languages, she says, you end up thinking about gender - even if it\'s
arbitrary - thousands of times every day.
To test how this affects the way people think, she presented Spanish and
German-speaking volunteers with nouns that happened to have opposite genders
in their native tongues. \"Key\", for instance, is feminine in Spanish and
masculine in German, and \"bridge\" is masculine in Spanish and feminine in
German. Boroditsky asked the volunteers to come up with adjectives - in
English - to describe these items. German speakers described keys as
\"awkward\", \"worn\", \"jagged\" and \"serrated\", while Spanish speakers saw them
as \"little\", \"lovely\", \"magic\" and \"intricate\". To Germans, bridges were
\"awesome\", \"beautiful\", \"fragile\" and \"elegant\", whereas Spanish speakers
considered them \"big\", \"dangerous\", \"solid\", \"strong\" and \"sturdy\".
\"These are really gender-laden terms,\" says Boroditsky. She confirmed this
by asking a team of \"gender-blind\" English speakers to rate the adjectives
used in these responses as either masculine, feminine or neutral.
Oosative or soupative?
Critics argued that perhaps the classification of objects according to
gender has more to do with people\'s culture than the language they use. So
Boroditsky took English speakers and taught them a made-up language, called
Gumbuzi. In Gumbuzi, words were categorised according to gender-neutral
labels \"oosative\" or \"soupative\". Oosatives included a fork, an apple and a
guitar. Soupatives included a spoon, a pear and a violin. And as well as
remembering the Gumbuzi word for each object, volunteers had to remember
which category they belonged to. She then assigned pictures of ballerinas
and brides, or boys and kings, arbitrarily to either group.
Despite the fact that the English-speaking volunteers had no experience of
gender assignment in their native tongue, when the picture of the violin was
lumped in with the feminine images, they described it as \"artsy\", \"curvy\"
and \"delicate\", whereas when it was with the masculine pictures, people
described it as \"impressive\", \"shiny\" and \"noisy\".
The Gumbuzi speakers showed all the same effects as the German and Spanish
speakers, says Boroditsky. And she has an idea why. Afterwards, when asked
how they remembered which items belonged in which category, the volunteers
admitted they\'d focused on male or female attributes. \"If you can make
something meaningful, you can remember much better,\" says Boroditsky.
She suspects that this same process may be happening, albeit less
intentionally, while we learn real languages. \"The private mental lives of
people who speak different languages can be very different,\" she argues.
\"This is incredibly important if you are interested in the way people
But critics, including Lila Gleitman from the University of Pennsylvania,
are unconvinced. She says the questions that Boroditsky asks her volunteers
make no sense, so people just guess at an answer. It\'s a bit like studies
where people are asked: \"Which is the better example of an odd number, 7 or
15?\" and most people answer \"7\". \"If you can\'t make head nor tail of the
question,\" says Gleitman, \"you do the best you can.\" Bloom, too, has
reservations. He believes that for gender influences to be significant in
altering our world views they would have to spill out into other domains. To
test whether this does happen, Boroditsky is currently analysing bridge
design in countries that speak Spanish or German.
The general consensus is that while the experiments done by Lucy, Boroditsky
and others may be intriguing, they are not compelling enough to shift the
orthodox view that language does not have a strong bearing on thought or
perception. The classic example used by Chomskians to back this up is
colour. Over the years, many researchers have tried to discover whether
linguistic differences in categorising colours lead to differences in
perceiving them. Colours, after all, fall on a continuous spectrum, so we
shouldn\'t be surprised if one person\'s \"red\" is another person\'s \"orange\".
Yet most studies suggest that people agree on where the boundaries are,
regardless of the colour terms used in their own language.
But it\'s not as simple as that. Some studies - including one of
hunter-gatherers from New Guinea called the Berinmo - do suggest that
language affects our interpretation of colours. Other findings are open to
debate. Besides, Boroditsky and others argue that colour is not the best
example to test their idea because it can be observed directly. They believe
language may wield its strongest influence in abstract domains, such as
concepts of time, love, numbers and political ideas, where sensory
information can\'t really help.
Consider time. Many languages use spatial terms to describe it. In English,
we say things like \"The best is ahead of us\" or \"We\'re behind schedule\" or
\"Let\'s move the meeting forward\". To English speakers, in other words, time
is horizontal and the future lies ahead. In Mandarin, however, time is
vertical, springing up from the ground like oil from a well, and this is
reflected in the phrases that Mandarin speakers use to talk about it. Point
to the future and it\'s down, not straight out. But does this little
To find out, Boroditsky took Chinese volunteers bilingual in Mandarin and
English and had them watch fish swimming on a computer screen - in some
cases vertically, and in others horizontally. In English, she asked
questions like, \"Does March come earlier or later than April?\" She reasoned
that if her volunteers were thinking about time vertically, then the fish
swimming straight up the screen should speed up those thoughts, and the
opposite should be true for other volunteers who spoke only English. This is
indeed what she found. Boroditsky sees this as evidence that people think of
time in fundamentally different ways depending on their native tongue. But
Gleitman is quick to counter that we can be taught very easily to think of
time in different ways - and that Boroditsky\'s own follow-up studies confirm
Perhaps more compelling is the idea that the language you speak
systematically influences your interpretation of events that you don\'t
witness yourself, but only hear about. \"Almost everything we know about the
world comes through language,\" Slobin points out. Speech allows us to
experience the world vicariously in a way that no other animal can. We tend
to assume that a description conveys the same message whatever the language.
But if Slobin is correct, the language we use may alter our understanding of
everything from current affairs and history to politics and celebrity
He wanted to know if the way languages convey action could have a bearing on
how we visualise events and what we feel about them. We all live in the same
objective world, but different languages focus on different aspects of it.
In languages such as English, Dutch, Russian, Finnish and Mandarin, for
instance, verbs are very expressive in describing the way action takes
place. Other languages, such as Spanish, French, Italian, Hebrew and
Turkish, tend to use simpler action words, such as \"go\", then perhaps add a
few words to indicate how the subject moved, for instance, \"while running\".
The former languages provide manner \"for free\", while the latter have to
append it - and often don\'t even bother.
Bilingual people report that news seems much more dynamic, full of energy
and violent when written in a language like English. Examples in newspapers
appear to bear that out. Describing a confrontation between Greenpeace and
the authorities, one British paper, The Guardian, described how French
troops \"stormed\" the boat and \"clambered\" aboard, and how Greenpeace
\"breached\" the exclusion zone to \"power\" across the lagoon in dinghies. Le
Figaro, a French paper, wrote that French authorities \"took control\" of the
vessel and that activists were \"crossing the limits\" into French territorial
This led Slobin to wonder whether speakers of languages with prosaic verbs
compensate somehow, perhaps by mentally embellishing simple words with extra
action. To test this idea he gave English and Spanish monolinguals passages
to read from Spanish-language novels. English speakers read direct, not
literary, translations. So, for example, a passage from Isabel Allende\'s
novel La Casa de los Espiritus read in English like this:
\"He picked up his bags and started to walk through the mud and stones of a
path that led to the town. He walked for more than ten minutes, grateful
that it was not raining, because it was only with difficulty that he was
able to advance along the path with his heavy suitcases, and he realised
that the rain would have converted it in a few seconds into an impassable
Afterwards, Slobin asked the volunteers to describe the way the protagonist
moved - and found the opposite of what he had predicted. The English
speakers reported rich mental imagery for the way the character \"stumbled\"
and \"trudged\" into town. Very few of the Spanish speakers, from Mexico,
Chile and Spain, did so. Most of them said nothing at all about the way the
protagonist moved and in fact reported seeing \"static images\".
What\'s more, Spanish-English bilinguals showed the same dichotomy. After
reading the Spanish version, they reported clear images of the man\'s
physical surroundings but said things like, \"I don\'t see any sort of
detailed action.\" Yet a typical response from the very same people,
answering the same question about the same passage written in English, was:
\"I can see more concrete walking and can sort of make out a pace... The
story feels different.\" So, far from embellishing, people using languages
like Spanish that lack colourful verbs apparently don\'t pay much attention
to motion. \"I find the Allende findings really puzzling,\" admits Slobin.
For the moment, Slobin and others are scratching their heads trying to
understand some of their findings but, if it does turn out that the language
we speak influences the way we think, the implications are far-reaching. We
already know that each language is unique and provides its own insights into
human history and culture, but if they also provide different ways of seeing
the world then they are even more valuable than we had assumed. \"We need all
of this kind of data to understand human nature,\" says Slobin.
And with at least half of the world\'s 6000 languages likely to disappear
over the next century, scientists are racing to learn what they can about
them. When languages become extinct, warns Slobin, so do some of their
unique insights. Boroditsky agrees. \"Some languages may have invented
certain ways of thinking that could be useful to us,\" she says. \"We don\'t
even know what treasures there are.\"
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| Agree agree agree! || Jan 3, 2003 |
Happy New Year
| Another article by Dan Slobin || Jan 3, 2003 |
Buon Anno anche a te, Antonella, e a tutti quanti!
Language and Thought
by Dan Slobin of the University of California, Berkeley
No one would disagree with the claim that language and thought interact in
many significant ways. There is great disagreement, however, about the
proposition that each specific language has its own influence on the thought
and action of its speakers. On the one hand, anyone who has learned more
than one language is struck by the many ways in which languages differ from
one another. But on the other hand, we expect human beings everywhere to
have similar ways of experiencing the world.
Comparisons of different languages can lead one to pay attention to
\'universals\'--the ways in which all languages are similar, and to
\'particulars\' --the ways in which
each individual language, or type of language, is special, even unique.
(...) Because it is so difficult to pin down effects of a
particular language on a particular thought pattern, this issue remains
unresolved. It comes in and out of fashion and often evokes considerable
energy in efforts to support or refute it.
There are two problems to confront in this arena: linguistic relativity and
linguistic determinism. Relativity is easy to demonstrate. In order to speak
any language, you have to pay attention to the meanings that are
grammatically marked in that language. For example, in English it is
necessary to mark the verb to indicate the time of occurrence of an event
you are speaking about: It\'s raining; It rained; and so forth. In Turkish,
however, it is impossible to simply say, \'It rained last night\'. This
language, like many American Indian languages, has more than one past tense,
depending on one\'s source of knowledge of the event. In Turkish, there are
two past tenses--one to report direct experience and the other to report
events that you know about only by inference or hearsay. Thus, if you were
out in the rain last night, you will say, \'It rained last night\' using the
past-tense form that indicates that you were a witness to the rain; but if
you wake up in the morning and see the wet street and garden, you are
obliged to use the other past-tense form--the one that indicates that you
were not a witness to the rain itself.
Differences of this sort have fascinated linguists and anthropologists for
centuries. They have reported hundreds of facts about \'exotic\' languages,
such as verbs that are marked or chosen according to the shape of an object
that is being handled (Navajo) or for the relative ages of speaker and
hearer (Korean). Such facts are grist for the mill of linguistic relativity.
And, indeed, they can be found quite readily in \'nonexotic\' languages as
well. To cite a fact about English that is well known to linguists: It is
not appropriate to say Richard Nixon has worked in Washington, but it is
perfectly OK to say Gerald Ford has worked in Washington. Why? English
restricts the present perfect tense (\'has worked\') to assertions about
people who are alive. Exotic!
Proponents of linguistic determinism argue that such differences between
languages influence the ways people think--perhaps the ways in which whole
cultures are organized. (...) [\'The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis\']
How can such bold claims be substantiated beyond examination of individual
languages themselves? If one takes the hypothesis seriously, it should be
possible to show that Turks are more sensitive to evidence than are
Americans, but that Americans are more aware of death than Turks. Clearly,
the hypothesis cannot be supported on so grand a level. Rather, experimental
psychologists and cognitive anthropologists have sought to find small
differences, on controlled tasks, between speakers of various languages.
Maybe Navajos are somewhat more sensitive to shapes of objects, for example.
The results have been mixed. In most cases, human thought and action are
overdetermined by an array of causes, so the structure of language may not
play a central causal role. Linguistic determinism can best be demonstrated
in situations in which language is the principal means of drawing people\'s
attention to a particular aspect of experience. For example, if you
regularly speak a language in which you must pick a form of second-person
address (you) that marks your social relationship to your interlocutor--such
as Spanish tu (\'you\' for friends and family and for those socially
subordinate) vs. usted (\'you\' for those socially above in status or for
those with whom you have no close connection) or French tu versus vous--you
must categorize every person you talk to in terms of the relevant social
dimensions. (As a thought experiment of linguistic determinism, think of the
categorizations of social relationships that would have to be made if
Spanish became the common language of the United States.)
Going beyond thought experiments, some of the most convincing research
demonstrating some degree of linguistic determinism is being conducted under
the direction of Stephen C. Levinson at the Max Planck Institute for
Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Levinson and his
collaborators distinguish between languages that describe spatial relations
in terms of the body (like English \'right/left\', \'front/back\') and those
that orient to fixed points in the environment (like \'north/south/east/west\'
in some aboriginal Australian languages). In a language of the second type
one would refer, for example, to \'your north shoulder\' or \'the bottle at the
west end of the table\'; in narrating a past event, one would have to
remember how the actions related to the compass points. Thus, in order to
speak this type of language, you always have to know where you are with
respect to the compass points, whether you are speaking or not. And
Levinson\'s group have shown, in extensive cross-linguistic and cross-cultur
studies, that this is, in fact, the case.
Much more research needs to be done, but it is not likely that the
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis will be supported in the strong form quoted above.
For one, language is only one factor that influences cognition and behavior.
For another, if the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis were really true, second language
learning and translation would be far harder than they are. However, because
language is so pervasive--and because we must always make cognitive
decisions while speaking--weaker versions of the hypothesis will continue to
attract scientific attention. http://www.lsadc.org/web2/lg____thought.html
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| Some advantages of having a second language, hence a second soul || Jan 3, 2003 |
A combination of studies support the idea that bilingual children (as opposed to monolingual) show advantages in the domain of cognitive flexibility. Lambert urges the development of additive forms of bilingualism and biculturalism as a means of easing pressure on ethnic groups.
He presents four possible effects of becoming bilingual which may play on the individual:
Identification with one\'s own cultural background
Identification with the host culture
View self as having dual allegiance; socially competent and accepted by both groups
View ethnic labeling and identification as irrelevant
Bilingualism/biculturalism is not synonymous with identity loss, and there are rewards in holding a dual heritage. To foster this condition, however, a strong educational exposure to one\'s mother tongue initially, and an additive bilingual program throughout schooling must exist.
Lambert, Wallace E. 1977. “The effects of bilingualism on the individual: Cognitive and sociocultural consequences.” Bilingualism: Psychological, social, and educational implications, edited by Peter A. Hornby. New York: Academic Press. 15--27.
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| Wonderful, indeed. || Mar 16, 2003 |
I am really interested in Linguistics and Semiotics.
I have found your posting on these subjects very interesting.
It is indeed a thorny matter to tell apart language from mind; however
I think there must be a basic connection and connotation between mind and language.
I can venture to the conclusion that languages do indeed give form to
the way people think and, consequently, express themselves.
However, among many diverse languages (codes) we find some \"languages\"
really particular and characteristic, shared almost in the very same form
by all human beings: mathematics, for instance, is one of such languages (codes).
Regarding these same languages, what must we come about to? Can we assert
that even mathematics is characterized by the native language a mathematician is fluent in?;
because, a mathematician thinks in his own native language about entietis, such as: numbers, relations, etc.,
that are fairly universal, apart from the way they are \"coded\" (spelled) in a particular language.
What is your opinion?
[ This Message was edited by:fbarbutoon2003-03-17 16:31]
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| | Neon
English to Russian
| But a Russian also has to consider || Apr 11, 2003 |
>But a Russian also has to consider what >gender the pens are
>(neuter), then use the neuter form of the >word for 11
I don\'t want to let anyone sin against the truth!
pen is feminine (not neuter)
There\'s no neuter form of cardinal numerals in Russian. They have no gender. They change by case only.
When you say in Russian how many pens are on the table you use 11 (unchangeable here) and than genitive case of \'pens\'
| | ViktoriaG
Local time: 02:50
English to French
I am Hungarian born and have lived in Quebec, Canada since childhood. My REAL native language would be Hungarian, but since I have lived more in Quebec than in Hungary, and most importantly, since most of my cultural and intellectual growth happened in Quebec, I should rather say that my native languages are French and English.
I practice all three languages on a daily basis and one of my main motivations to speak to family members every day is - this will sound so insensitive - to keep my original native language alive in me. I also browse the net in different languages, switching languages every few days, depending on my mood - (proof that language IS closely related with mind). I have three separate MSN explorer profiles on the same computer, one for each language.
The way I see it all, the fact that I actively use those languages affects my mind tremendously. In fact, I go as far as believing that knowledge of several languages can raise a person\'s IQ, thereby allowing them to have a broader, more complete view of things. I have been monitoring my IQ and it has steadily been rising as I built up my linguistic skills. Another thing I noticed is that the more linguistic abilities I acquire, the smaller the difference between IQ test results in different languages.
As you all know, IQ tests are supposed to be done in your native language. By age 16, I had a lot of trouble identifying my native language and did not quite know what language to take the test in. So I took it in all three languages (at different moments in the same year) and found out that although I knew my French and English perfectly well, my result in Hungarian was visibly better. English was my \"worst\" language. This would mean that I was still thinking in Hungarian more than in the other two languages.
As I revisit this issue time after time (redoing tests in different languages), I seem to notice that the gap between the languages was gradually filled over the years. Test results in Hungarian have risen slightly, while French has increased steadily and English is almost catching up with the rest with a significant improvement.
Another observation of mine that leads me to think that there exists a strong link between language and mind is the following. When I think, sometimes I use one language, sometimes another and the choice of the \"thinking language\" seems to be random and out of my control. Also, the intervals at which I switch thinking languages vary between a matter of seconds and entire days. I will want to say something to someone and the first word sometimes comes in a language that the other person doesn\'t understand. I surprise myself thinking in a language not related at all to the conversation I am having at the moment, yet I am thinking about what the person just said to me in their language. But half the time, I will think in the language of the person I am talking to. The same thing occurs when I dream. It is especially dreams that hold the most clues to me in this matter. My mother does not speak a word of English, yet she speaks to me in English in my dreams, and sometimes she does in Hungarian or in French. It still is always her voice, even if my MEMORY cannot recall her speaking English. And she sounds perfect. Obviously, I am not fooling myself. Also, when I tell someone about a movie I saw three weeks ago and they ask whether I saw the English or the French version, most of the time, I simply cannot give an answer. I remember the subject of the film, the characters, specific things that have been said by characters, colours of objects, etc. I can sometimes recount the whole movie. But I can almost never tell which language I saw it in. My mind seems to disregard the language as long as it is one I understand.
I think that this realization in itself is a relevant clue for the subject.
I too believe that the native language will influence the logic and patterns of thinking of a person, the same way culture will. After all, language is a part of culture. But when a person speaks several languages, I find that the logic acquired from the native language and the one acquired from the second language are fused together. If French is a zoom and English is night vision, I could say that I see things through a zoom and night vision at the same time. Simply put, the knowledge of several languages, in my opinion, provides their speaker with a broader view on everything in general.
A skill I noticed I have started to improve at a significantly higher speed since I have started in linguistics is the association, in my mind, of things that at first sight seem unrelated to each other. Finding the missing link. I feel that as my linguistic skills develop, so does my sense of understanding. It is true that with the languages I speak (those mentioned above and others spoken with less proficiency) give me a chance to travel and be understood in most countries of the world. I can converse with residents of 80% of the planet, whereas unilingual people can only communicate, in average, with 20% of the citizens of Earth.
I esteem that knowledge of language contributes to a person\'s intellectual abilities the same way mathematics do. You will most likely never consciously use your knowledge of algebra again after high school (unless you want a career in science), but you will subconsciously apply its principles to most everything you touch until you die. Often, it is this knowledge that will help you to succeed whereas you wouldn\'t have succeeded had you missed your algebra classes.
Conclusion: language and mind are interrelated. Language, among other things, shapes a person\'s mind. Of course, this is just my humble opinion, and I am not a scientist. But my personal experience suggests that language is much more relevant to the capacities of the mind than it seems.
Any other people out there with several native languages are welcome to comment. Anybody else feels like me?
P.S.: I perfectly agree with the above example of 11 pens. It is true, in my opinion, that, depending on your language, you will use a different process to get to the same answer.
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There's no neuter form of cardinal numerals in Russian. They have no gender.
Except for the numeral "one" which does have 3 genders. Could that have misled the author with respect to "11"?
Also "two" has genders.
[Edited at 2003-08-11 07:57]
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|PDF Translation - the Easy Way|
|TransPDF converts your PDFs to XLIFF ready for professional translation.|
TransPDF converts your PDFs to XLIFF ready for professional translation.
It also puts your translations back into the PDF to make new PDFs.
Quicker and more accurate than hand-editing PDF. Includes free use of Infix PDF Editor with your translated PDFs.
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