Thinking, Language and Intelligence

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Introduction to Psychology_Application Paper Chapter 9 Thinking, Language and Intelligence In this paper, I am going to write about how language and thought are closely related to each other. The reason I am highly interested on the topic “Thinking & Language” is because I speak 7 languages, and I realized that my personality, thinking, attitude and behavior change with the language I speak. I feel like there are many versions of “ME”. What I experienced in speaking 7 different languages is that there are certain things that are just untranslatable between languages.

In order to convey the same thought or message in different languages, I can’t directly translate word to word instead I have to use words that are appropriate in that language. Many times, there are meanings that express differently in different languages, with the result that same event is described differently, depending on the language in which I use. Utterances are not filmclips of an event (Slobin, 2003, p. 159) Rather, Utterances present a sketch of events, and they include different features of the events, depending on the language.

I find when I am speaking Mandarin, I feel like I am much more a “noisy” and “harsh” person. In English, I feel like I am more a “relaxed”, “cool” and “extroverted” person. When I am around Japanese and Korean, I find myself a “shy”, “polite” and “reserved” person. In Japanese language and Korean language, people often add “I think” at the end of the sentence after stating their opinion. They have a very indirect way of communicating, for instance, in a typical Japanese sentence, “blah blah blah + ??? I think)”, in a Korean sentence, “blah blah blah + ?? (seems like / looks like)” these are often the way of expressing one’s idea. When speak in Mandarin and English, I express myself more directly and assertively, while in Japanese language and Korean language I express myself much more indirect and softer which make me feel like an introverted person. Many bilinguals report that they have different senses of self, depending on which language they are using (Matsumoto, 1994).

They may even reveal different personality profiles when taking the same test in their two languages (Dinges & Hull, 1992) My mother tongue is Mandarin, basically, I’m thinking in Mandarin most of the time, even though I do think in other languages some of the times. But when it comes to calculation and math question, I can do it most quickly in my narrative language. It’s difficult for me to do calculation in English or other languages. The numerical reasoning that makes use of language is something that only with language can do. (Erika Hoff, 2009, p. 282) I acquired Mandarin, English and Malay at very young age.

In these three languages, the verb for “wear” is applicable for all types of clothing. However, in Japanese and Korean language, there are different verb for “wear” depending of the section of body and the piece of clothing. For example, they have different verbs for the things you wear on hand, feet, head, shoulder, or around limb. I find it confusing and difficult to use all the verbs when I first learned Japanese language and Korean language, unlike Japanese and Korean I have never classified clothing by what part of the body the clothes are being wear, how the clothes are being wear and so on.

In my narrative language, we never categorized clothing in this way. As Japanese and Korean people use a wide range of verbs more frequent, I think they are able to imagine action better than Mandarin speaker and English speaker. There is cross linguistic evidence that supports the notion that linguistic input provides a push to cognition development. (A. Gopnik, 2001) Korean speaking children who hear proportionately fewer nouns and acquire nouns later than English-speaking children—also are older when they first spontaneously categorize objects.

That is, the cognitive change and the associated burst in children nouns vocabularies observed in English-speaking children both occurred later in Korean-speaking children. (Erika. H, 2009, p. 281) Another case is related to language and perception. There was one time, a Pakistan friend of mine asked me to switch on the light in the classroom, he told me it was the first switch, when I was about to turn on the light switch to the most left, he said again “ not that, it’s the first one”. I replied “yeah, this is the first one! To me first should be from left to right, but for my friend first should go from right to left. After a while, I figured out what’s the problem, we actually organize our perceptual order in different way based on our writing system orientation. I lay things out from left to right because I write from left to right, but for him it’s the opposite, the writing direction in Pakistan (Arabic) is running from right to left. So, it means that the correct order varies depends on individual’s perspective.

In sum, writing system orientation influences spatial cognition and sequence of events. I find it very fascinating on how language affects our perceptual and cognition, even when we are not using the language. According to Whorf’s (1956) linguistic determinism hypothesis, different languages impose different conceptions of reality: “Language itself shapes a man’s basic ideas. ” Also, language is the medium of thought. We use language in order to think or, put another way, that we think in the language that we use. Erika, H, 2009, p. 282) As mentioned previously, from the example of different kind of “wear” verb in Japanese Language and Korean language, it explained that language does help to expand our cognitive capacities so that we can apply them more effectively to better understand the world. Besides, we also use our language in forming categories (Myers, D. G, 2009, p. 303). In my Pakistan friend’s case, it clearly explained that the structure of our language influences how we understand and organize the world.

Whorf (1956) suggested Linguistic Determinism in which language determines the way we think. A current approach, the Language Relativism suggests that language can influence the way we think, but it doesn’t necessarily do so in every case. There are other factors involved as well. I agree with the idea of Language Relativism, I think sometimes thought influences language. Sometimes language influences thought. Sometimes other things influence both thought and language. Language also gives us a powerful internal mechanism for retrieving, critiquing, and changing our thoughts.

It is not necessary to say that language determine thought as suggested by Whorf. As stated in the Exploring Psychology textbook, thinking and language intricately intertwine. (Myers, D. G, 2009) Our words may not determine what we think, but they do influence our thinking (Hardin & Banaji, 1993; Ozgen, 2004) In a nutshell, language and thinking are tied together at many levels. References Myers, D. G (2009). Exploring Psychology (8th edition). New York, NY, Worth Publishers Erika, H (2009). Language Development (4th edition). USA, Wadsworth Cengage Learning

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