The relationship between culture and language Diposting oleh Kelompok 18 di
So how does language shape thought? One fairly obvious way is by conditioning experience — most of us will have an intuitive feel at least for the truth of this — it is after all the basis of poetry. At a more fundamental level, however, they are the very words that we attach to objects and actions and concepts that affect our perception of them.
There is a whole branch of linguistics devoted to the study of this someone yesterday very kindly offered me its name, but it escapes me now — but very generally we know that an apple pie can taste rather different if it is called a pudding rather than dessert.
Perhaps the earliest clue that words themselves can at least subtly alter experience comes from learning a second language and appreciating that the same object can be represented by a completely different string of syllables that actually brings out a different quality of it.
The word 'rain' for example is 'brishti' in my mother tongue Bengali — and to my ear all the drama of a tropical storm is present within the word 'brishti' and not so much of it in the somewhat curt 'rain'. My exposure to a second language occured at a very early age — almost as I was learning to speak — for I was just over a year old when my parents moved to Ethiopia from Calcutta - which is where I was born, and still, in most senses, belong to.
The Ethiopians were, and I am sure still are, a very proud people, and foreigners had no option but to learn their language Amharic which has the same roots as Hebrew if they were to survive there.
This my parents did most willingly, as it was their interest in other cultures and languages that had brought them there in the first place. I, of course, acquired it naturally and spoke it alongside my mother tongue with ease — as most bilingual children clearly do.
Thus, language was never a monolithic construct for me, and I was sensitized to the distance between a word and its referrent almost as I became conscious.
I am not aware that being exposed this early to two languages had any particular consequences for my personal development, and Amharic is now completely lost to me, or if not lurks so deep in the recesses of my mind that it may as well not be there.
In some ways, I was not even conscious of navigating between two languages, and so did not learn one of the most valuable lessons from the process of unglueing word from object — which to my mind is tolerance. Indeed, when we moved to Zambia when I was four, and I was suddenly surrounded by English speaking children, I reacted with anger rather than bewilderment — how dare they speak in a language I do not understand!
Soon of course I was speaking English fluently myself, and it has occupied a prominent position in my life ever since, although I still refuse to grant it — quite irrationally of course - the same seat in my heart as my mother tongue.
So, just to summarise where I have got to so far in terms of the relationship between language and thought by indulging in my own early experiences — the demolition of a one to one correspondence between word and object is the simplest useful byproduct of learning more than one language — and in my view this is a critical step towards truly internalising the concept of tolerance, the acceptance of different styles and faiths.
And although an early exposure to more than one language may have benefits with regard to fluency in both tongues, I think that too early an exposure actually detracts from the perception of the relationship between word and object as not being fixed and absolute.
In the latter case, the subtle differences between these words serve the additional purpose of taking us towards the somewhat more advanced notion that language conditions experience. For me however, it was not so much that the same object could be represented by an entirely different set of sounds as the fact that certain words in a particular language had no equivalent in others, that concretised for me the notion the language conditions experience.
My father always told me with a certain smugness that certain Bengali words had no English equivalent — words such as abhiman which describes a sort of gentle tremulous reproachfulness or biraha which means separation from a lover, but also contains the sublime anguish of such a condition.
Biraha is a beautiful word, and of extreme poetic convenience, but I wonder whether packing the complex pain of separation into one word does not actually confine us in some ways — channel us inevitably towards a state of intense heartache. Perhaps a more fluid alliance of words and concepts, even though it may be more cumbersome, grants more freedom to the individual.
I have offered here a very impressionistic, and not at all erudite discussion of how language can condition experience, or more properly how I became aware of this, partly through my exposure to a number of languages, partly through delving into the meanings of particular words.
By the time I was in my early teens, this realisation was firmly in place within me, but it was about this time that I became aware of another language that would change my life. This was the language of mathematics, and I fell in love with it for two reasons.
One was its inherent beauty — a beauty that stemmed from its economy and lack of ambiguity — the very tight association between symbol and meaning, the knife-edged clarity of each statement, the leanness of its form. The other reason I became enchanted with the language of mathematics was because of what you could do with it — how you could use it to make sense of our physical universe.
I devoured books on classical physics with the same emotional energy as I consumed poetry and fiction, and to this day I maintain that science and art are fuelled by the same fire — that passionate urge to understand. There is a beautiful line in a picturebook called The Sea of Tranquility by Mark Haddon whom many of you will know as the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime — which is about a young boy obsessed with the moonlanding, and is set appropriately in The line is this: Science and writing are indeed different adventures, but behind them both is the same need — the need to comprehend a little further, a little better the world within us as well as the world without.
So where do they differ then? In language, of course. Which brings me to my second point — language affects not just experience, but also comprehension. In the case of science, this comprehension is advanced by the lack of ambiguity — whereas in literature, it is often ambiguity itself that enriches our understanding of the human condition.
I will give you examples of both. Here, I shall restrict myself to my own specialised field, because as Peter Doherty mentioned in his excellent lecture on Tuesday which some of you may have attended — we are all novices in every field but our own.
My love affair with mathematics never ended, and eventually I found myself engaged in the rather peculiar act of using mathematics to understand infectious disease. This is for me a very rewarding business and also pays the mortgage and the school fees particularly as it combines my interests in biology and mathematics.
So how do you use mathematics to gain insight into infectious disease? More recently, an industry has grown in using mathematics to predict the future, a phenomenon that is not restricted to infectious disease but stretches widely into areas such an economic forecasting and the like.
I have argued before, and will argue again today that this is an extremely dangerous and highly seductive territory, where the apparent rigour of mathematics can appear to lend an illusion of certainty, an illusion even of control.
There are certain situations where the level of information surrounding a particular crisis is sufficiently detailed and explicit that intelligent mathematical models can provide some insight into future, if not current, methods of control. However, many do not fall within that category.We discuss arguments showing that language cannot be taken to be the vehicle of thought.
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So, just to summarise where I have got to so far in terms of the relationship between language and thought by indulging in my own early experiences – the demolition of a one to one correspondence between word and object is the simplest useful byproduct of learning more than one language – and in my view this is a critical step towards truly .
Video: Relationship Between Thinking & Language. Language and Thought. For another example of the relationship between thinking and language, let's look at how language influences our.