Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Language may shape thoughts

Sharon Begley has this nice Newsweek article about Stanford professor Lera Boroditsky's research on how language might shape thoughts. Some examples: the gender of nouns in different languages seem to affect perceptions of the entity associated with the noun; people have a better memory for colors if there are distinct names for different shades; speakers of a language with different words for two concepts often have an easier time distinguishing between them.

From a previous blog post, you might have seen that I am very interested in this sort of thing but don't have much background.

Also, I love Sharon Begley.

1 comment:

Brian Burg said...

This is pop linguistics at best. See Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (Linguistic relativity) for some background.

As a cheap and possibly broken analogy, consider the parallel with programming languages and Turing completeness. Most languages are turing-complete, but the elegance in expressing some turing machine computations certainly differs.

The wikipedia article has a summary of how 'linguistic relativity' is currently viewed in academia.