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Reading: Exploring How Language Shapes Thought

dialects, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, language, readings

Since language is how we make meaning out of our world, it makes sense that language would impact how we view the world around us. Many researchers have shown that the way we use language impacts the way that we think.

This article from Cracked (Warning: contains some profanity and sexual innuendo. For a more formal version of similar content, see this WSJ article.) puts several examples of language shaping our perception into a relatable, comical list. Everything from how we visualize time to how we perceive colors to how we follow directions is ultimately controlled by the words we use to explain those things.

Compass Inlay

This article would provide a great starting point for a larger conversation on the brain and language. It would also be a great supplement to a conversation about dialects and discourses, helping to demonstrate that learning to speak in a variety of ways is not only an asset to our social mobility, but also to our ability to see the world in more ways.

Here are some possible discussion or reading response questions:

  • What surprised you from this article?
  • Do you believe that words shape the way that we see the world? Can you think of any examples that aren’t on this list?
  • If words shape the way we see the world, how can we use words to make sure we are seeing our world in the best way?
  • Are some ideas more important in certain cultures than in others? For example, do you think that there are certain groups of people for whom having more words for shades of a color is more important? What does this tell us about how language is created?

Photo: Steve Snodgrass

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