Language: Impact on Thought and Society
Language has long been appreciated as an essential component of culture and interpersonal communication. Each tongue has its unique and complex morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and phonology. Even though objects described by languages are shared, for the most part, each language has its distinct features, shaping the perception of reality and creating specific thought patterns. Furthermore, language participates in the formation of mass thought, thereby influencing processes at the level of society. This essay will focus on particular examples of how tongue contributes to the way of thinking in individuals and cultures.
There are many examples of language-specific conceptualizations of motion, color, space. The idea that languages use different ways to organize the same experiences served as the basis for Sapir–Whorf Hypothesis, which is also known as the linguistic relativity hypothesis. It states that linguistic semantic structures influence the thoughts of people. Describing motions in English and Spanish is an excellent example of this concept. English verbs of motion such as “roll” or “slide” encompass manner, whereas Spanish verbs conceptually refer to a path. This helps English speakers to visualize manners and Spanish speakers more easily visually interpret way (Mondal, 2021). Another example is how linguistic structure of English and Spanish regarding accidental and intentional causations events. The linguistic structure of Spanish implies differentiating between deliberate and spontaneous, and it has been shown to influence the memory content of Spanish speakers. On the contrary, in English, intentionality is either clarified by context adverb or not expressed at all (Mohamed, 2019). Hence, languages can decipher the perspectives from which people execute the same thoughts and ideas differently.
The appropriate area to investigate language contributions to the shape of human thoughts is bilingual minds, where different linguistic logics influence each other. A study examined the perception of causation events in English and Russian monolinguals and English-Russian and Russian-English bilinguals. Participants were asked to watch animations that expressed internal forces, like an object pushed by a person, external forces, like a person resisting pushing, and events where it was unclear what kind of forces dominate – internal and external ones. The expression of causation in the Russian language made Russian speakers prone to focus on deliberate intent throughout the experiment, whereas English speakers focused on both internal and external forces (Mohamed, 2019). Then participants had to associate different types of forces with verbs like “enable” and “allow” or “make” “force” groups of monolingual Russians and bilingual participants whose first language was Russian associated internal forces with individuals even when asked in English, and vice versa for English-Russian bilinguals. These results demonstrate the influence of languages on bilingual speakers.
Language is believed to influence the way of thinking of concrete individuals and public opinion in general. Cognitive psychologists posit that language significantly affects human thinking. Since it informs the enter viewpoint from which mental recognition begins, the variations of language, for instance, defining objects of nature by masculine or feminine pronouns male might decipher attitudes towards gender equality. Evidence suggests that the use of gender-neutral pronouns contributes to shaping mass opinions on the rights of gays, lesbians, and transgender people and the matter of gender equality (Tavits and Pérez. 2019). In 2015 Sweden officially introduced the gender-neutral pronoun “hen,” which provided a way to denote persons without association with gender, thereby improving male-female parity. According to a recent study that investigated different groups of people in Swedish society, the use of gender-neutral pronouns helps to resolve mental bias and influences public opinion (Tavits and Pérez. 2019). Besides, it positively affected the overall attitude toward LGBT individuals. These data suggest the significant impact of language on public opinion and the course of critical social processes such as approaching gender equality and defending the rights of bisexuals, homosexuals, and transgender people.
Language is an integral part of people’s everyday lives and society. Recent studies support the idea that specific structural components of different languages impact conceptual views on various events and transitions between languages in bilingual individuals. Furthermore, by altering particular language components, we can contribute to important events in society by changing the point of view on gender and sexuality at the linguistic level. Language contributes to define thoughts and attitudes in the society.
Mondal, P. (2021). The limits of language-thought influences can be set by the constraints of embodiment. Frontiers in Psychology, 1241.
Tavits, M., & Pérez, E. O. (2019). Language influences mass opinion toward gender and LGBT equality. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(34), 16781-16786.
Mohamed, M. (2019). Interpreting intentions: evidence for cross-language influences in bilinguals.