Did the Wall Street Journal obtain an idea from The Global Citizen?
I always love when a respected publication confirms what I have always believed. I was very enthusiastic to read the WSJ article entitled:
“New cognitive research suggests that language profoundly influences the way people see the world; a different sense of blame in Japanese and Spanish”
The WSJ article puts forth the same idea on July 24th, 2010 that The Global Citizen posted on June 5th, 2010 – “Speak American – Fun lesson in language“
WSJ: “Do the languages we speak shape the way we think? Do they merely express thoughts, or do the structures in languages (without our knowledge or consent) shape the very thoughts we wish to express?”
Global Citizen: ” The question is, does language form our thoughts or is it the other way around? I would argue that our language is what gives structure to our thoughts. Therefore, when we think in English we also “reason” in English.”
“When we learn another language, we are also learning a completely new “mentality.” The way one thinks about things changes along with the language. It is true that we can “translate” with great accuracy but there are subtle changes to the meaning.”
WSJ: “In Russian, you would have to mark tense and also gender, changing the verb if Mrs. Dumpty did the sitting. You would also have to decide if the sitting event was completed or not. If our ovoid hero sat on the wall for the entire time he was meant to, it would be a different form of the verb than if, say, he had a great fall.”
Global Citizen: “I’m not sure if I can think of a super great example to demonstrate but I’ll give it a go. I won’t use English/French/Spanish because they are too close on the linguistic tree. Instead, let’s do English/Japanese.
– English – I want to eat spaghetti
The stress of this sentence is on “I.”
– Japanese – Spaghetti tabetai – Spagetti wants to be eaten
The stress is on the Spaghetti
-Of course it is translated “I want to eat spaghetti” but really the focus is taken off the person who wants to eat the spaghetti and put on the spaghetti itself. And the real kicker is it could mean “Do you want to eat Spaghetti!!” All you have to do is change the inflection at the end as in a question.”
Where are my royalties??
Just kidding. It does feel very good however when a respected publication confirms what I have previously written about and then I know I am not completely crazy.
There was also something very surprising in the article which I did not know. I am a big fan of Noam Chomsky and apparently he did not believe that language begets mentality. He believes the following:
“Dr. Chomsky proposed that there is a universal grammar for all human languages—essentially, that languages don’t really differ from one another in significant ways. And because languages didn’t differ from one another, the theory went, it made no sense to ask whether linguistic differences led to differences in thinking.”
Again, I love Noam Chomsky and this is the first idea I believe he is completely wrong about. It is my opinion that language does give structure to mentality and not the other way around. We see the world differently due to language and therefore, our mentalities ARE different.