Language and thought  

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A variety of different authors, theories and fields purport influences between language and thought.

Many point out the seemingly common-sense realization that upon introspection we seem to think in the language we speak. A number of writers and theorists have extrapolated upon this idea.


Scientific hypotheses

  • The Sapir–Whorf hypothesis in linguistics states that the grammatical structure of a mother language influences the way adherents to it perceive the world. The hypothesis has been largely abandoned by linguists as it has found at best very limited experimental support, at least in its strong form. For instance, a study showing that speakers of languages lacking a subjunctive mood such as Chinese experience difficulty with hypothetical problems has been discredited. Another study did show that subjects in memory tests are more likely to remember a given color if their mother language includes a word for that color; however, these findings do not necessarily support this hypothesis specifically.
  • According to Cognitive therapy, founded by Aaron T. Beck, our emotions and behavior are caused by our internal dialogue. We can change ourselves by learning to challenge and refute our own thoughts, especially a number of specific mistaken thought patterns called "cognitive distortions". Cognitive therapy has been found to be effective by empirical studies.
  • In behavioral economics, according to experiments said to support the theoretical availability heuristic, people believe more probable events that are more vividly described than those that are not. Simple experiments that asked people to imagine something led them to believe it to be more likely. The mere exposure effect may also be relevant to propagandistic repetition like the Big Lie. According to prospect theory, people make different economic choices based on how the matter is framed.

Other schools of thought

  • General Semantics is a school of thought founded by engineer Alfred Korzybski and later popularized by S.I. Hayakawa and others, which attempted to make language more precise and objective. It makes many basic observations of the English language, particularly pointing out problems of abstraction and definition.
  • Neuro-linguistic programming, founded by Richard Bandler, claims that language "patterns" and other things can affect thought and behavior. It takes ideas from General Semantics and hypnosis, especially that of the famous therapist Milton Erickson. Many do not consider it a credible study, and it has no empirical scientific support.
  • Advocates of non-sexist language including some feminists say that the English language perpetuates biases against women, such as using male-gendered terms such as "he" and "man" as generic. Many authors including those who write textbooks now conspicuously avoid that practice, in the case of the previous examples using words like "he or she" or "they" and "human race". Political correctness is similar, but it is a loose cultural meme and has never been formally codified. Both are considered widely controversial.

See also


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Language and thought" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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