What Is The Relationship Between Language And Thinking

Submitted By Suzanne-Owen
Words: 2356
Pages: 10

Discuss the relationship between language and thinking. Language and thinking are one of the most fascinating and complex issues within psychology. Philosophers have debated upon it for over two thousand years. It has been said that thinking is often in the form of images and that the thoughts and feelings are expressed through gestures and facial expressions unconsciously. However, the exact relationship between language and thought has been the subject of debate amongst psychologists and philosophers. These views fall into four categories (Gross, 2010, p245). These views are by the people who work in a variety of disciplines such as psychology, sociology, linguistics and anthropology. The first viewpoint was that ’thought is dependant on, or caused by language’. The linguist and anthropologist Sapir and a linguist named Whorf were both interested in comparing languages. They both saw all members of a culture, or subcultures within the culture share this as a major feature of cultures, as language (Gross, 2010). This makes it a determining influence on how individuals think. A sociologist named Bernstein focused mainly on the subculture (social class), differences in language codes. It is seen to be that the difference in these codes as a major influence in the intelligence and educational attainment (Gross p275). There was then a social constructionalist named Gergen, who regarded language as providing a basis for all thoughts, a system of categories for dividing experience and then giving it meaning. The second viewpoint ’language is dependant on, and reflects, thoughts’. This is classed as the extreme version. According to Piaget, language reflects the individuals’ level of cognitive development. The third viewpoint ’thought and language are initially quite separate activities’ is where Vygotsky (1981) says that language is by far the most important psychological tool the human species possesses. It is capable of transforming how to think about the world and altering ’the entire flow and structure of mental functions’ (Gross, 2010, p283). Finally the fourth viewpoint ’language and thought are one and the same’ is where Watson (1913) says that thought processes were really no more than the sensations produced by the tiny movements of the speech organs, they are too small to produce an audible sound (Gross, 2010, p276). Firstly, there was Benjamin Whorf and Eric Safir who proposed that language is not merely an interface but plays a formal role in shaping thought (Gleitman, 2012, p504). Whorf stated: ‘We are thus introduced to a new principle relativity, which holds that all observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar, or can in someway be calibrated‘ (Whorf, 1956, p214). This is where ’thought is dependant on, or caused by language’. come into this view of Whorf’s. Whorf’s (1956) view entails that linguistic categories will be the “Program and guide for an individual’s mental activity”, including the memory, reasoning and decision-making (Whorf, 1956, p212). The possibility that language is a central vehicle for concept formation has captured the interest of many linguists, anthropologists, philosophers and psychologist and has led many experimental exploration attempts to find the origins and substance of aspects of thought and culture in the categories and functions of language (Gleinman, 2012, p504). This intrigued Choi and Bowerman (1991). Choi and Bowerman began studies on the way in which common motion verbs in Korean differ from their counterparts in English. Korean motion verbs contain location or geometric information whereas English is more of a spatical preposition (for example English speaker would say underneath but a Korean speaker would say covered by). The way that Choi and Bower man (1991) explain this is by using a scene where a tape is put into a tape player. They say that English speakers would