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How your language shapes the way you think


According to a fascinating new study, your primary language influences and shapes the way you see and experience the world. From causality to tense to time to direction and space—this recent cognitive research investigation definitively proves that our native tongues shape the way we think.

A sampling of highlights:

  • Russian speakers, who have more words for light and dark blues, are better able to visually discriminate shades of blue.
  • Some indigenous tribes say north, south, east and west, rather than left and right, and as a consequence have great spatial orientation.
  • The Piraha, whose language eschews number words in favor of terms like few and many, are not able to keep track of exact quantities.
  • In Spanish and Japanese, the agent of causality is dropped: “The vase broke itself,” rather than “John broke the vase.”

Full eye-opening story at The Wall Street Journal.

More on language.

Photo credit: Fotolia

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  • Anonymous

    This fascinating study on language confirms what has seemed intuitively convincing. For therapists, spiritual care givers, healers, doctors, and others, greater sensitivity to language and culture is vital. In my own practice, I know that taking into account the mother tongue and culture of clients and patients can yield powerful shifts in the interaction. Thanks for sharing this article.