View Full Version : Language and Psychology


Globex
Sep 14, 2008, 02:36 PM
Do you think that the structure of a language (grammar, writing systems, sentence structures, idioms, relationships between words, etc.) affect the way native speakers of that language think? If you think so, in what ways does language affect a person's psychology?

Discuss.

Synsensa
Sep 14, 2008, 06:58 PM
I bet everyone things equally the same in differences, but of course due to language it will be different. Different structure, different words, different sounds, but the mind still works the same.

Firstlady
Sep 14, 2008, 10:41 PM
I'd think the culture as a whole, as opposed to solely language, affects psychology. Language could play a minor role.

LightFang
Sep 15, 2008, 01:02 AM
I think language affects how people think.

Wasn't that called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis or something?

Well, don't ask me complicated questions anyway. I've procrastinated too much as it is.

Fifty
Sep 15, 2008, 01:03 AM
It probably has some small effect, but certainly not any sort of Worf-Sapir, Eskimos-have-30000-ways-of-saying-snow-omg-so-profound way.

El_Machinae
Sep 15, 2008, 06:42 PM
It has some pretty important effects. If nothing else, our phonological voice is a huge component of our reasoning process. Heck, languages which have 'quick' sounding numbers have an easier time remembering number-strings. (e.g., "five" is one syllable, "seven" is two: languages with more syllables in their numbers have a harder time remembering phone numbers)

warpus
Sep 15, 2008, 10:36 PM
When I switch my mind over to Polish, I do see the world in a different light.

I can't quite put a finger on it, but it's true.

LucyDuke
Sep 17, 2008, 10:45 AM
It has some pretty important effects. If nothing else, our phonological voice is a huge component of our reasoning process. Heck, languages which have 'quick' sounding numbers have an easier time remembering number-strings. (e.g., "five" is one syllable, "seven" is two: languages with more syllables in their numbers have a harder time remembering phone numbers)

More information please.

El_Machinae
Sep 17, 2008, 12:29 PM
The phonological voice is the voice you hear when you 'talk to yourself'. It's distinct from the sound you hear when you 'remember' a sound. You can imagine a song, but you have a much easier time singing a song to yourself.

A lot of our thinking is arranged around either language or visual stimuli, and our short-term memory(*) can contain both visual and verbal components at once. The verbal component (the phonological voice) is capable of 'remembering' a string of words about 4 seconds long easily and so if the words are short, you can remember more of them.

You'd think that remembering a series of numbers would be similarly easy, regardless of what those numbers were, but inter-language studies have shown that it's easier to remember numbers which are 'quick' to say. English has more 'quick' numbers than some other languages, and so English allows english-speakers to remember strings of numbers more easily than some other languages. Ideally, you could replace certain numbers in your own language with shorter words to get even more short-term memory benefits. (replace 'seven' with 'sept' and 'eleven' with 'onze', for example, might have long-term benefits)

*short-term memory being what you 'keep in mind' for just a second, but then would soon forget. Forgetting a phone number while on the way between the phonebook and the phone would be a failure of short-term memory

LucyDuke
Sep 17, 2008, 01:12 PM
That's incredibly cool. Thanks! :) Do you know of a website or book or anything where I can read more? Or is there a name for this phenomenon that I could look up?

Eran of Arcadia
Sep 17, 2008, 01:50 PM
While it is true that there are several thousand Inuit words for snow, it is about as correct as saying that no two snowflakes are alike - technically true but not in any meaningful way.

LucyDuke
Sep 17, 2008, 02:02 PM
Have you got a source for that?

Eran of Arcadia
Sep 17, 2008, 02:07 PM
Either Snopes or the Straight Dope, but no, I don't have a link.

Mise
Sep 17, 2008, 02:19 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eskimo_words_for_snow

LucyDuke
Sep 17, 2008, 02:21 PM
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/263/what-are-the-nine-eskimo-words-for-snow

I'm not buying "technically true".

Eran of Arcadia
Sep 17, 2008, 02:25 PM
What about it are you not buying? Is it not technically true? Bearing in mind how many languages are involved and how they form words?

LucyDuke
Sep 17, 2008, 02:44 PM
What is a "word for snow"? Is slush an English word for snow? If English were similarly constructed, would a word meaning "I didn't think it was going to snow on Thursday" be a word for snow?

I buy that they have a lot of words that involve snow. I don't buy that, even "technically", they have several thousand words that are really individual words for snow.

Unless your reasoning is that any word which has a meaning that somehow relates to snow counts as a "word for snow", in which case I expect you couldn't assign a finite number, the number is not that high.

Eran of Arcadia
Sep 17, 2008, 02:52 PM
Some languages rely on compound words, made up of individual parts. German does it too. If there isn't a space there, it is considered a single word.

Mise
Sep 17, 2008, 03:05 PM
Read the wiki link :p

In 1911, Eskimos had 4 words for snow.
In 1940, Eskimos had 7 words for snow.
In 1978, Eskimos had 50 words for snow.
In 1984, Eskimos had 100 words for snow.

I'm pretty sure the Eskimos didn't invent 96 words for snow in 73 years.

Oh, and last Thursday, my boss said they had 1,000 words for snow.

El_Machinae
Sep 17, 2008, 04:41 PM
That's incredibly cool. Thanks! :) Do you know of a website or book or anything where I can read more? Or is there a name for this phenomenon that I could look up?

Hmmn, it's usually discussed in the "short-term memory" section of a Cognitive Psychology textbook. Cognitive Psychology is outrageously fun, especially for those of us who were raised as dualists. I don't know if you have a local second-hand ad website where you could buy such a textbook easily.

El_Machinae
Sep 17, 2008, 07:15 PM
I'm sorry, I misspoke. A typical person can easily (short-term) remember the number of items they can pronounce in 1.5 seconds. So if you populate a list of items with words that are multiple-syllable, a person should be able to remember fewer of the words.

Fifty
Sep 20, 2008, 07:20 AM
It has some pretty important effects. If nothing else, our phonological voice is a huge component of our reasoning process. Heck, languages which have 'quick' sounding numbers have an easier time remembering number-strings. (e.g., "five" is one syllable, "seven" is two: languages with more syllables in their numbers have a harder time remembering phone numbers)

Interesting! I was mainly referring to the nonsense peddled by Whorf-Sapir, specifically such fantastically absurd statements as:

"In Hopi, an American Indian language of Arizona, the word for 'dog', pohko, includes pet animal or domestic animal of any kind. Thus 'pet eagle' in Hopi is literally 'eagle-dog'; and having thus fixed the context a Hopi might refer to the same eagle as so-and-so's pohko." -Benjamin Whorf :crazyeye: