Free Essay SamplesAbout UsContact Us Order Now

Thinking through language

0 / 5. 0

Words: 2200

Pages: 4

38

Thinking through Language
Student’s name:
Institutional affiliation:
Abstract
Thinking through language is an article by Bloon & Keil (2001) that provides a strong opinion on the controversial question of whether language affects human thoughts. The article’s authors begin the article by indicating a side of the argument that language has nothing to do with human thoughts. The other side of the argument is that one is born with the ability to think, with or without language development. Contrary to the two beliefs presented in the books, the authors present a stand that language development is critical to the ability to think. The article cites anthropologists and linguists and other people that suggest a strong relationship between language and how a human being thinks. Developmental experts are also of the opinion that language development has an imperative role to play in cognitive development. This article discussed two perspectives in support of the argument for the relationship between language and thoughts. Firstly, proficiency in two different languages, such as English and Hopi, leads to differences in human thoughts. Secondly, people who have already developed a language such as English have differences in thoughts from animals or those who have developed no language.
Introduction
Thinking through language is an article by Bloon & Keil (2001) which provides a stand on the controversial question of whether language affects human thoughts. The authors begin with indicating a side of the argument that language has nothing to do with human thoughts and one is born with the ability to think, with or without language development.

Wait! Thinking through language paper is just an example!

On the contrary, the authors present a stand that language development is critical to the ability to think. The article cites linguists and anthropologists who suggest a strong relationship between language and how a human being thinks. Developmental experts have also argued that language development has a critical role to play in cognitive development.
The article points to two perspectives in support of the argument for the relationship between language and thoughts. One of the perspectives is that proficiency in two different languages, such as Hopi and English, lead to differences in thoughts. The other one is that people who have developed a language such as English have differences in thoughts from animals or those who have developed no language. While these two perspectives seem to differ, the reality suggested by the authors is that all languages have syntax and as such have an impact on human thoughts. It is clear from the article that the authors present two clear perspectives on the matter yet they opt not to take either argument. They delicately find a balance between the two perspectives by suggesting that the language syntax as a significant effect on human thought processes.
The author discusses three important positions all of which are important in cognitive development. There is one that involves those who believe in language-general effects. The other is the one for those who believe in language-specific effect. The last one is the one of those who believes that none of these effects exist. The second position is the theory of the language in question, where the experts suggest the kind of language in question affects the way one breaks up information in the mind. The third position involves the level of effect the language has on thoughts. The final position is on the kind of effect the language has on thoughts.
Regardless of the seemingly controversial arguments, Bloon & Keil (2001) takes a stand in support of the fact that language affects the thought processes in humans. The nature of these effects is the focus of their article. The effects resulting from the structure of the language are the main focus of the discussion in this article. The structure of language, syntax, lexical, and morphological among others affect the thoughts and the way this happens is the main concern of the authors of the article. Thus, given the fact that the structure of language differs from one language to another, it means that the thought processes of individuals proficient in different language think differently. The example of Hopi and English speakers is the classical example given in the article to prove that the differences in languages affect the way people think. For instance, “English-speakers have a linear Newtonian perspective on time/space, while Hopi-speakers are natural physicists, adhering to relativistic principles” (p.354).
In the article, the authors suggest that the differences in the languages suggest differences in cognitive structures. Different studies have been cited by the authors to indicate these claims. In the same situation, it is posited that people with different language proficiencies will think about different aspects. It is because the differences in language cause differences in the way information is processed by the mind. The words belonging to a language is another aspect that has been used in providing support for the argument that language affects the way we think. This is because words have an important role to play in mental computation. In the article, the argument that the human language affects the thought processes is central to the fact that mental computations are significant in the thinking process.
The conclusion that is drawn by the authors is that language has an effect on thought and this is the reason why humans learn and use language. However, they have doubt as to whether the effect is any other way than in the way humans communicate. The language that a person learns makes it possible to carry out attract inferences and assists in shaping the external world into categories. The authors have suggested that the current research does not challenge the claim that language has an impact on human thoughts, the kinds and nature of thoughts. Instead, the authors seem to believe that the current research tends to support the very notion that language plays a central role in the human thought process. The thesis of the power of the language over the human mind is what the article supports.
The argument of the author might seem convincing due to the seemingly strong evidence provided. However, this might not necessarily be the case. I refuse to think that my mother tongue has a major influence on the way I think and on what I think about. Language cannot restrict what and how we think. The human capacity to think is inbuilt, and so is cognitive capability. These develop as a child develops from one stage to another and has nothing to do with the language that one learns in the process. The language cannot impose an image of reality. Humans have an understanding of concepts regardless of what language they develop or are proficiency in. This means that whatever an object an individual sees, he or she will understand in the same way regardless of the language. For instance, a stone is a stone whatever the language one speaks.
It is far from reality what the authors suggest, and supported by linguists such as Whorf, that thinking amongst English speakers is different from Hopi speakers. It is true that there are differences in individual speakers of different languages, but the reality is that the difference is in communication and not in the way the individuals think. Although Bloon & Keil (2001) appears to be giving some evidence to support their claims that language has an impact on thoughts, there is still the lack of concrete evidence to back the claims. Language could appear to offer some habits to the learners that influence experience, but this has little to do with the capacity to think. There is no limitation to human thinking, and the idea that language can cause a limitation is baseless.
Language cannot constrain the mind of an individual. I would argue that even those who are not able to communicate using a language can still think. Thus, the claim that a language lacking words for a particular concept means that the speaker cannot understand the concept is also baseless. One does not have to learn words to be able to communicate, and being able to communicate even without words means that one is able to think. It is baseless to argue that just because a language does not have a future tense means that the speakers are not capable of grasping the idea of time. The sense of time is a fundamental aspect of humans and does not depend on the structure of language that one develops.
I will use an example to indicate that the arguments indicated by Bloon & Keil (2001) are not founded and that thinking is fundamental to all humans with complete mental ability. Take for instance an individual born in an isolated jungle. This is a person who is not able to learn any language due to the lack of social contact. However, such a person would still perform the basic tasks for survival. For instance, the person would still go out in search for food and prepare it appropriately for consumption. This shows a human being with the capacity to think. However, the though process has nothing to do with language because the person has developed none. In some cases, the person will even save some food for the next meal, which means that the person has the sense of time. Evidently, this classical example contradicts any argument that language is a determinant of thought process in human beings.
Given that there is no evidence in support of the strong relationship between language and thoughts, there should be another thesis that is different from what is suggested in the article by Bloon & Keil (2001). Language is important, but not because of any effect on human thoughts but due to the effect on the ability of humans to communicate. What I would propose is an argument that language has an effect on the ability to communicate what one is thinking. For instance, in the case of an English and Hopi speaker, the problem would be in that the two speakers would not be able to communicate with each other as long as their languages are different. They will think about the same thing, but they cannot communicate what they are thinking because of the language differences.
Language does not forbid or prevent individuals from thinking anything. However, language has an influence in that it shapes the way we experience our world. Languages differ, not in what they may express but in what they express. This statement helps in understanding the real power of language. Different languages do not influence our minds in different ways, but influence the way we express what we are thinking. The language makes it possible for the speaker to specify some kind of information and requires one to be attentive to particular details and experiences of the speakers. This has completely nothing to do with the way one thinks, but an expression of what one is thinking about.
The speaker of another language might be thinking about the same thing with an English speaker, but the differences in language will cause them to express themselves differently. For instance, what comes to mind when one sees food and is hungry is to begin eating. The thoughts haven nothing to do with what language one speaks. Food is food whatever the language the person speaks. Some speech habits are developed since very early in a person’s life and it is natural that they get used to the mind’s habits that are far beyond the language that one of proficient in. As one develops through the various stages of development, some abilities of the mind develop, such as the ability to think. The language proficiency also develops, but apart from the development of the capacity to think. Thinking develops in a natural way, and has nothing to do with language. Language makes us speak differently, but this does not mean that we are thinking differently.
Using the argument that all language does is helping us to convey what we are thinking the entire article by Bloon & Keil (2001) becomes unfounded. The argument that language affects thoughts appears ridiculous especially given the fact that even the individuals suggested to have the most undeveloped languages are able to think about concepts such as time and space. Even if a language does not have a word for a concept does not mean that the speakers of the language do not understand the concept. Rather, the authors should have investigated the potential outcomes of what a language helps the speaker to express. Particularly, the focus should be on the mind’s habits which develop due to the necessity to specify concepts.
Thus, one’s mother tongue should not be viewed as some sort of “prison house” constraining the ability of a person to think or reason. This is a natural ability that develops in an individual with the standard level of mental ability. After all, there is still a lack of adequate evidence in support of such an argument that language has an influence in the way a person thinks. Human thinks in basically the same manner, but convey what they are thinking differently. Bloon & Keil (2001) should have adopted such a perspective in their article to make it more rational. As it is, the article presents baseless ideas of a connection between language and the working of the mind. It is erroneous to overestimate the significance of abstract reasoning in a human life. It is also a mistake to believe that what one thinks depends on the kind of language that one speaks.
Words and other language structures have an influence in the way we experience our world, but not because of an impact on the way we think, but because of the impact on how we convey what we think. We make decisions, not based on the language we speak, but because of the ability to think and reason, which is founded on out mental ability. Language is important, but not because it teaches us how to think and reason, but because it is necessary to express ourselves as social beings. Cognitively, one develops as he or she develops from infancy to adulthood. Throughout the development process, one also develops the capacity to think. The language also develops, but independent of the capability to think and reason. It comes to play when one has to convey or express what one is thinking. Such a perspective of thinking would be interesting for an article by Bloon & Keil (2001).
Reference
Bloom, P. & Keil, F. (2001. Thinking through language, Journal Mind & Language, 16(4), 351367.

Get quality help now

Johanna West

5.0 (518 reviews)

Recent reviews about this Writer

StudyZoomer is the company that is always by your side. I was looking for a job, and they helped me with my resume and cover letter so that I hit a home run without hurdles!

View profile

Related Essays