language is by alicejenny


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(Leader)莊皓帆 92110713   撰寫資料.整合.製作Power point

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The related representatives and the theories

(Ⅰ) Lev Semenovich Vygotsky:

A. Reference book: Principle of Language Learning and Teaching

Main content:

The Social interaction, through language, is a prerequisite to
cognitive development. Thought and language were seen as
two distinct cognitive operations that grow together. Moreover,
every child reaches his or her potential development, in part,
through social interaction with adults and peers. Vygotsky’s
zone of proximal development is the distance between a child’s
actual cognitive capacity and the level of potential development
(Vygotsky 1962,1978).
B. Reference web:


Main content:

Language is the crucial tool in determining how a child will learn,
advanced modes of thought are transmitted to a child through
words. Therefore Vygotsky argues that the tools, language and
social structure of the culture into which a child is born will affect
the learning that takes place. Cognitive development is not so
much the unfolding of schema within the individual but more
understanding of the self within the social context.
The Zone of Proximal Development.

Parents , teachers and peers interact with the child and mediate
learning through socially organized instruction. The task of teaching is
particularly complex, because to be effective the teacher needs to
understand the social dynamics as well as the individual differences in
each student and the teacher need to understand their own teaching
style to ensure that learning
is being facilitated. Zone of Proximal Development is seen as the
potential of the child to solve problems (according to their
developmental level) and the level of potential development in regards
to the guidance by more knowledgeable peers or adults. Learners
ultimately appropriate and internalize the knowledge transacted
through assisted performance so that it becomes their own. There
needs to be structure and support in place to
enable a child to grasp concepts, when the child has developed
confidence and is independent this frame work can be removed (This
is referred to as scaffold instruction)
(Ⅱ) Benjamin Whorf 1897 - 1941 :

A. Reference book: Principle of Language Learning and Teaching

Main content:

  One of the champions of the position that language
  affects thought was Benjamin Whorf, who with Edward
  Spair formed the well-known Spair-Whorf hypothesis of
  linguistic relativity-namely, that each language imposes
  on its speaker a particular “world view”.
B. Reference web:

Main content:

The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: It is generally accepted by Ethno
linguists that culture influences language but there is far less
agreement about the possibility that language influences
culture. Edward Sapir and his student, Benjamin Whorf,
suggested that language affects how people perceive their
reality, that language coerces thought. This is known as the
Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. Simply stated, the Sapir-Whorf
Hypothesis says that the content of a language is directly
related to the content of a culture and the structure of a
language is directly related to the structure of a culture.
(Ⅲ) Jerome Bruner (1966): words shape concepts

Reference web:

Main content:

Bruner was very interested in children's stages of cognitive
  development.He described development in three stages:

1. The enactive stage (birth to about age 3) is when children
  perceive the environment through actions that they
  initiate. Showing and modeling have the most learning
  value at this stage.
2.The iconic stage (about age 3-8) is when children are able
  to remember and use information through imagery. Their
  visual memory increases at this stage and children are able
  to imagine things without actually experiencing them.

3.The symbolic stage (about age 8) children have the ability
  to think and talk about things in abstract terms.
  They have a better understanding on mathematical principles
   and the use of symbols and the use of symbolic idioms.

Bruner was very concerned with the idea of discovery learning
and felt that students were more likely to understand concepts
they had discovered through their own exploration and
What’ is Language…?

"Language is a purely human and non-instinctive
method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires
by means of voluntarily produced symbols." (Edward
Sapir, 1921)

"A language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by
 means of which the members of a society interact in
 terms of their total culture." (G. Trager, 1949)

 A language is "a set (finite or infinite) of sentences,
 each finite in length and constructed out of a finite
 set of elements.“ (Noam Chomsky 1957)
Language is "the institution whereby humans
communicate and interact with each other by means of
habitually used oral-auditor arbitrary symbols." (R.A. Hall
1964 )

"Language is a range of possibilities, an open-ended set
of options in behavior that are available to the individual
in his existence as social man. The context of culture is
the environment of any particular selection that is made
from within them ... The context of culture defines the
potential, the range of possibilities that are open. The
actual choice among these possibilities takes place within
a given context of situation."
(Michael Halliday. 1973)
Language is one of the most important areas of human
development. Our communication skills set us apart from the
rest of the animal kingdom, and they're also what brings us
together with each other . Throughout history, many have
reflected on the importance of language.

For instance, the scholar Benjamin Whorf has noted that
language shapes thoughts and emotions, determining one’s
perception of reality.

For the linguist Edward Sapir, language is not only a vehicle
for the expression of thoughts, perceptions, sentiments, and
values characteristic of a community; it also represents a
fundamental expression of social identity. Sapir said: "the
mere fact of a common speech serves as a peculiar potent
symbol of the social solidarity of those who speak the
language." In short, language retention helps maintain
feelings of cultural kinship.
A word is one or more sounds that in combination have a
specific meaning assigned by a language. The symbolic
meaning of words can be so powerful that people are
willing to risk their lives for them or take the lives of others
Language and speech are not the same thing.

Speech is a broad term simply referring to patterned verbal
behavior. In contrast, a language is a set of rules for
generating speech.

Over the last few centuries, deaf people have developed
sign languages that are complex visual-gestural forms of
communicating with each other. Since they are effective
communication systems with standardized rules, they also
must be considered languages in their own right even
though they are not spoken.
Linguists estimate that there are about 5,000-
6,000 different languages spoken in the world
today. The imprecision in this estimate is
largely due to the fact that some dialects are in
the process of diverging and it is not clear that
they have reached the stage of being separate
languages. If two people find each other's
speech unintelligible, they are usually thought
to be speaking different languages rather than
  ( Please kindly take a look at chart below )
The Most Common Languages in the World

                                                                     COUNTRIES WITH
                                                NUMBER OF
LANGUAGE                                                                NUMBERS OF
                                                 NATIVE SPEAKERS
                                                (in the year 2000)

 1.        Mandarin Chinese                 874,000,000              16

 2.        Hindi (India)                    366,000,000              17

 3.        English                          341,000,000              104

 4.        Spanish                          322-358,000,000          43

 5.        Bengali (India and Bangladesh)   207,000,000               9

 6.        Portuguese                       176,000,000              33

 7.        Russian                          167,000,000              30

 8.        Japanese                         125,000,000              26

 9.        German (standard)                100,000,000              40

10.        Korean                            78,000,000              31

11.        French                            77,000,000              53

12.        Wu Chinese                        77,000,000               1

13.        Javanese                         75,000,000                4

14.        Yue Chinese                      71,000,000               20

15.        Telegu (India)                   69,000,000                7
Note : If the 15 major variants of Arabic are
considered one language, Arabic is the 6th
most common language in the world having
198-201,000,000 native speakers with
substantial numbers in at least 46 countries.

Source : Ethnologue Volume I: Languages of
the World, 14th ed. (2000).
These statistics are only rough approximations in
most cases.
皓帆Individual Reflection
    NO, I don’t think so. In my opinion, language interacts
simultaneously with thoughts and feelings. Additionally, I think
that every theory has its advantages, so I collected the related
representatives and the theories to solve this chicken-and –
egg question. After reading these related theories, I realize
that language and thought of human are affected by the
different ages, environments, cultures, and educations;
therefore, I apply the advantages of these theories and my
previous knowledge to prove my opinion.

    First, according to Vygotsky’s view, he thinks that “thought
and language were seen as two distinct cognitive operations
that grow together.” Thus, I think thought and language are
interactive in the cognitive development.
     Second, according to Vygotsky’s ZPD (Zone of Proximal
Development), children are through the social interaction with
adults and peers to reach the their potential development.
Consequently, the Vygotsky’s view shows that the relationship
of language and thought is interdependent.

    Third, according to the Spair-Whorf hypothesis, I know that
we can learn the different world views when we learn the foreign
languages. Furthermore, the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis says that
the content of a language is directly related to the content of a
culture and the structure of a language is directly related to the
structure of a culture. Accordingly, the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
confirms that language and thought have the mutual
influenceable relationships.
   Fourth, in Audio-Lingual Method, culture consists of the
behavior and lifestyle of the target language speakers. Obviously,
learning languages affects our thought and culture. Additionally, in
the languagefour skills, reading and listening are the interactive
process because they are the receptive language and the
productive language; therefore, listening and reading are
developed on the language and thought at the same time.

   Fifth, according to the Jerome Bruner’s view, children have the
ability to think and talk about things in abstract terms. They have
a better understanding on mathematical principles and the use of
symbols and the use of symbolic idioms. Hence, children have
ability to think and to use language symbol on their suitable
developing stage.

   After integrating these related points, I think that language
interacts simultaneously with thoughts.
逸柔Individual Reflection

"Language is the dress of thought," is the famous statement of Samuel
Johnson, who was only translating the words of the Roman Quintillion.
If what you wear reflects what you are, then your style of speech
indicates your thinking. Most of us today have been formed from the
time we were young in the school of casualness and practicality. There
is a natural tendency to reject formalities and embrace the vulgar, to
revolt against the manners and speech of a genteel society in favor of
a more relaxed and casual attitude and way of being.
Within linguistic theory, two extreme positions concerning the
relationship between language and thought are commonly referred to
as “mould theories”, and “cloak theories”'. Mould theories represent
language as “a mould in terms of which thought categories are cast”.
Cloak theories represent the view that “language is a cloak conforming
to the customary categories of thought of its speakers”.
The Sapir-Whorf theory, named after the American linguists
Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf, is a mould theory of
language. Moderate Whorfianism differs from extreme
Whorfianism in these ways:

△The    emphasis is on the potential for thinking to be 'influenced‘
   rather than unavoidably 'determined' by language;
△ It is a two-way process, so that 'the kind of language we
   use' is also influenced by 'the way we see the world';
△ Any influence is ascribed not to 'Language' as such or to
 one language compared with another, but to the use
 within a language of one variety rather than another
 (typically a sociolect - the language used primarily by
 members of a particular social group);
△ Emphasis is given to the social context of language use
 rather than to purely linguistic considerations, such as the
 social pressure in particular contexts to use language in
 one way rather than another.
I do not agree with B. L.Whorf; what I think is that, differences in
languages and society’s cultural background are related and
have their own ways to express their thoughts but it doesn’t
mean that language could change people’s thoughts and
worldview. The first main point to decide that people’s thoughts
is being in the society, nowadays, people have their economic
state to form the social group and rank, thus become varieties
worldview. If the language did change these, then capitalist,
bourgeois and laborer are no different and will have no industrial
disputes at all.
The major theme of Vygotsky's theoretical framework is that
social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of
cognition. Vygotsky states: "Every function in the child's cultural
development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later,
on the individual level; first, between people and then inside the
child. This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical
memory, and to the formation of concepts. All the higher
functions originate as actual relationships between individuals.”
A second aspect of Vygotsky's theory is the idea that the
potential for cognitive development depends upon the "zone of
proximal development" (ZPD): a level of development attained
when children engage in social behavior. Full development of
the ZPD depends upon full social interaction. The range of skill
that can be developed with adult guidance or peer
collaboration exceeds what can be attained alone.
Initially, this behavior begins as a meaningless grasping motion;
however, as people react to the gesture, it becomes a
movement that has meaning. In particular, the pointing gesture
represents an interpersonal connection between individuals.
His principles are 1. Cognitive development is limited to a
certain range at any given age. 2. Full cognitive development
requires social interaction.
Through the chimpanzee and infant child’s experiment they
are similar to each other and have two stages- “pre-language”
and “pre-thought”, that is language and thought are not
produced at the same time, thought comes first then language.
This is much more objective reality, but Vygotsky did not
reveal the intrinsic quality of language and thought
relationship and that’s why we continue with this discussion.
However, I tend to lean toward this theory, but why Vygosky
can’t answer further about the question “As the contained
language’s thought does not include all though in form, why

Linguists J.Foder, Z.Pylyshyn, and B.Mclaughlin have another
hypothesis, that is language as LOT (means thought language
sort) form and appear in our brain. The subject matter is:
1. Faith and other attentions exist in the brain’s mental and physical surface features,
and they are the reason why we are concerned about the appearance of actions.
2. These intention status and intention object have similar organization structure.
Many theories have their individual advantages and disadvantages, much of the time,
we do think in language, and can easily conjure up mental images and sensations that
would be hard to describe in words. Also we can think about the sound of a symphony,
the shape of a pear, or the smell of garlic bread. None of these thoughts require
language. So, it's possible to think about something even if I don't have a word for it?
Yes. Take colors, for example. There are an infinite number of different colors, and they
don't all have their own names. In other words, the influence of language isn't so much
on what we can think about, or even what we do think about, but rather on how we
break up reality into categories and label them. And in this, our language and our
thoughts are probably both greatly influenced by our culture. Learning a different
language won't change the way I think? Not really, but if the new language is very
different from your own, it may give you some insight into another culture and another
way of life. These are my opinions about the questions, though I do believe it’s an old
chicken-and egg one.
Reference Website:
汪 蘋 Individual Reflection

   Basically, in my opinion Language and Thoughts are
 usually interactive between each other.
 Language is the one method in our life to express our
 feeling and is one of the ways that we can ask the things
 that what we needs. Does the language come first, or the
 thoughts bounce up in our mind first? To discuss on this
 topic, we ought to find some clues out in the first place.
 For nowadays, there are some words that youth usually
 used in their life, such as
    “You are so 機車!” It means you are always critical things,
 sometimes no matter whether you know the things or not,
 you are always say the wrong things in the wrong times to
 people, you say things directly but without thinking all the
  “怪角”! It means you are always different between others, it
can be the different logic thinking, or maybe to show in your
speech, actions, thoughts, or even in your wearing styles
   “別忘了E給我那封信!”: The “E” means E-mail something to
    Above examples are to express something that are not the
same meaning as before anymore, and to express some
feeling but not the words meaning. The thought won’t be
changed when using different language.
Okay, now let’s to study why it happened in our youth persons’
life. In case, there has no any needs to their life, then they
don’t need to invent the words to say something, and then we
don’t need any language to express the need. On the contrary,
whenever people want to say something in thought, then
certainly they need the external language to express their
internal real thinking. To find new words that they can use in
language would be the first mission in life. So that I think the
“Thought” should be come out before the “Language”,
therefore, upon the ways we can say the Language can’t
shape the Thought.
A lot of parents even for the teachers, now, for the sake of join
the youth’s life, perhaps sometimes would try to learn their
language first, and learn their life styles and even to learn
some their new words, to use youth’s words in life all the time
when they company with them. Not only to learn the language
of youth, but also through the language to negotiate with young
people, it will make things more smooth going, it’s works than
ever. It has some benefits in understand to the youth’s
thoughts, maybe to learn their thinking logic will
   easier than to understand their language. So that I think the
language should be one kind of tools, but not the only way to
understand their thoughts, because
   thoughts are always can not be shaped, and language can
be varied all the time. The conclusion of mine, I believe the
language should be used in life, but anyhow the thoughts
should be the point for that what we are thinking, and the last
to concern about what does the word meaning in life exactly.
黃 瀟 Individual Reflection

 There are grounds of thinking that about this question,
 but most of them are at the stance of objection. Whorf’s
 hypothesis is too strong and too extreme to accept by
 most linguists. What is thought? It refers to the
 formulation of our thinking. And what is language? It is
 the Communication of thoughts and feelings through a
 system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds,
 gestures, or written symbols. In this sense, the language
 acts as a kind of expression or cloak of our thought. How
 can we discover the relation between language and
 thought? In order to convey my view on this debatable
 question, I try to find a newly invented linguistic item to
 reveal the process of the forming of langue and thought.
 In order to transmit the spirit of anarchy, one Japanese writer
invented the term Chindogu to represent some un-useless
daily gadgets as you can see attaching at the end of my essay.
They represent freedom of thought and action: the freedom to
challenge the suffocating historical dominance of conservative
utility; the freedom to be (almost) useless. Analyzing the
process, it is obvious that Chindogu is the dress of the thought
of freedom within the domain of gadgets invention.
 But it is not the final round of this term. Surfing the website, I
found that are recruiting new membership to on the Internet to
enhance and promote their the spirit of Chindogu. They argued
that Chindogu is not totally useless, it is just un-useless.
Clarifying the idea of Chindogu, there must group of people
who will try to invent their own Chindogu. That is how this term
affects their thought.
 Now, I am trying to relate the idea of Chindogu with my own
life experience, and I find it is true in sometimes, we may think
of some kinds of idea that we thought that it is useful and finally
it turned out to be useless, but we do experience the process
that is kind of absurd.
On the bases of argument with my partners, I agree with the
point of that the potential for thinking to be 'influenced' rather
than unavoidably 'determined' by language. It is a two-way
process, so that 'the kind of language we use' is also
influenced by 'the way we see the world'. And here, I would like
to exemplify the view from the point of pragmatic that is widely
accepted. Young generation in Taiwan like to say: 想A我的錢,
你欠扁啊?Why do we use jargon, slang, or kind of style in our
communication? Why we do not accept or dislike people who
use foul language? The answer for these questions is mostly
about social group identity, for in our life under certain culture
background, the criterion for right or wrong, proper or improper
has been defined and conveyed through languages before we
experience it.

 We know the do and the don’ts in our life. That is how the
language affects us in a certain degree on accounts of social
linguistic point. Any influence is ascribed not to 'Language' as
such or to one language compared with another, but to the use
within a language of one variety rather than another (typically a
sociolect - the language used primarily by members of a
particular social group);
  Emphasis is given to the social context of language use
  rather than to purely linguistic considerations, such as
  the social pressure in particular contexts to use language
  in one way rather than another.
  The assertion about language determinism is dangerous
  in some ways. Observing the origin of language, we can
  get the conclusion that language is the product and
  media of our thought, but it does influence our thought in
  a certain degree. These two ideas interact for thousands
  of years. Language originated from our thought, and
  language does affect our thought in many ways from the
  sense of social linguistic.

Reference website:
Testy’ Individual Reflection

 “ The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis has changed the way many people
look at the relationship between language, thought and cultural
perception of reality. It has influenced many scholars and opened up
large areas of study. While many like Edward Sapir and Benjamin
Whorf support the notion that language strongly influences thought
and others argue that language does not influence thought, the
evidence from research indicates that language does influence
thought and perception of reality to a degree but language does not
govern thought or reality “ .
   Language is a fundamental component of the human experience
and due to its specific properties, is one aspect that makes human
beings unique in comparison to other animals and species . It allows
us to turn our thoughts into meaningful words . If one asks about the
relation between thought and language, people expect the issue to
concern such matters as whether we think in language, whether
creatures without language can "think", and the way language shapes
our concepts.
 In my point of view, there is a much deeper question, which
concerns the nature of linguistic communication. Philosophers
and linguists standardly conceive of language as basically a
means by which speakers convey the content of their thoughts
to others. The question is whether that is a correct picture of
linguistic communication. This is a question about the relation
between thought and language because this standard picture
of communication gives propositional thought a certain priority
over language.
        According to some research , At around age five, the
focus on language changes from acquiring and producing
words, phrases, and sentences, to actually thinking about
language itself . During this time of “metalinguistic
awareness”, we begin to “ play with language ” ( such as
making jokes ), recognize sarcasm, and understand double
meanings . Clearly, language expresses thought, but can
language influence thought ? .
 Indeed, semantic slanting and name-calling are two concepts of
language that have noticeable effects on individual thought and
behavior . As would follow from such a perspective, different
communities of humans, speaking different languages, would think
differently to just the extent that languages differ from one another.

The idea of “ linguistic relativity ” is that having language, or having a
particular language, crucially shapes mental life. Indeed, it may not
just be that a specific language exerts its idiosyncratic effects as we
speak or listen to it ; that language might come to “ be ” our thought ;
we may have no way to think many thoughts, conceptualize many of
our ideas, without this language, or outside of and independent of

     So I do believe that in one sense, it is obvious that language
use has powerful and specific effects on thought . But at the same
time , I also think that “ Thoughts are not determined by our
language , but they may be constrained by our language “ .
A New Language Means New Thoughts….Is it true ..?

      Do you speak any other languages ? Maybe you've
considered how good it would feel to be able to speak to
people in another language, but did you know it also expands
the range of your possible thoughts ? I personally think It's
true. There are concepts in each language that don't exist in
others, as well as different expressions. These can give you
new ways to think, and change your perspective on things.

     “ But I think it should be remembered that language
follows thought, is built up as an expression of thought, and
this is especially true of philosophical terms. When Aristotle
laid down the ways in which the mind thinks about things, it is
true that he could not get away from language as the medium
of thought, but the language follows thought and thought
follows things .
In another thoughts , I have another questions , Does language shape our
thoughts, or is it the other way around ?

       The linguist Benjamin Whorf was one of the first to state that thought
is determined by the language we use, and thus different cultures, since they
are linguistically different, will think in different ways. For instance, in German
there are a number of words for on: an, im, auf, um. A Whorfian linguist would
say that Germans make fine distinctions about the placing of objects, but
English speakers do not, and therefore we are unable to think about "on" in the
same way. It seemed proof that how we speak does indeed alter how we think
about the world. It clearly had shown that environment alters our awareness of
space, and language is merely used to describe the situation .

        Think about it .. How do you think ..? Do you think in English or
Chinese ? or do you think in some abstract terms , then translate your
thoughts into language when you want to express them ..?? . language is
not an after – thought. Language is not just what we use to describe
thoughts . Language not just limits our expressions . But Is it shapes our
thoughts ..?? Is it defines our thoughts ..??
   According to mer personal view and opinion , I think it’s true ,
Language shapes our thoughts ..Language defines our thoughts..!!
 Why..?? Well, here is my reason… , during our growth , we practice
our language and we sharpen our thoughts . The more practice we
get , the more efficient we become at wielding our language /
thoughts . ( Most of this practicing is done at early ages , without our
own realization ) . When you learn a new language , your ultimate
goal mostly is likely to eventually be able to “ think in that language “ .
But how good can you achieve that goal ..? ( and how good are you in
your mother tounge ..anyway.. ? ) Most likely you will get enough
practice in everyday language use . But do you get anough practice in
exploring your thoughts ..?? Do you intentionally practice it ..? If you
don’t become good at thinking in the new language , and you abandon
thinking in your mother tounge , how would you think ..??
It’s just my personal point of view , everyone has their own rights to
express their idea on this issue , so come just come to think of it. , If
language shapes our thoughts , is there any difference in capability of
different language..?? Are some languages inferior to others is the
best language for thinking..??
Language is one of the lenses, or prisons as I call them, from
which we view the world. It is one of the interpitave functions,
inside of our head . In case You ask me to decribe the taste
of a strawberry or the feeling of pain? How could you ask me
without language. How can you say you are in pain without
the word/idea of pain being inside your vocabulary . Now
what type of pain are you talking about? Physical ?
 , Mental ? , Emotional ? Is it sharp or dull ? What has
caused this pain ? . By using language one can get an idea
and express it into a thoughts . Language helps make
relations between ideas. That is why analogies are so
As Orwell described in 1984 , “ He who controls the
language , controls people’s thoughts “ , After all , if the
language does not enable you to think in certain way , you
won’t be able to ..
Statements to the same or related effect to the subject
  from diverse intellectual sources :

1.“ The limits of my language are the limits of my world”
   ( By : Wittgenstein, 1922 ] and “ The fact of the
   matter is that the 'real world ‘ is to a large extent
   unconsciously built upon the language habits of the
( By : Sapir, 1941, as cited in Whorf, 1956, p. 75 ).

2. “Language is a mirror of mind in a deep and significant
   sense. It is a product of human intelligence ... By
   studying the properties of natural languages, their
   structure, organization, and use, we may hope to learn
   something about human nature; something significant,
   if it is true that human cognitive capacity is the truly
   distinctive and most remarkable characteristic of the
3. Contrary to these common beliefs among philosophers concerning
   language, a well-known German scholar and diplomat from the
   18th century, Wilhelm von Humboldt equated , “ Language and
   Thought as inseparable, as language completely determining
   thought “ , in a hypothesis known as the Weltanschauung ( world
   view ) hypothesis ( Brown, 1968 ). Humboldt also emphasized
   “profound semantic” differences between languages which lead to
   varying “cognitive perspectives,” an idea commonly known as
   cultural relativity ( Wierzbika, 3 ). Although little attention was
   given to this extreme view at the time, this same idea drew much
   interest and criticism in the 1930’s in the emergence of a
   hypothesis known as the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis ( Linguistic
   Relativity ) .

      My Website Reference that related to support my Opinion :
林怡君’s Individual Reflection

When I first saw the title, I had no idea at all, because I had never thought
about what language could do with thought. I always thought that language is
only a tool for people to communicate with each other, to express their ideas.
I had never thought it in the other way. Can the language we speak shapes
our thoughts? It’s interesting and also a good topic for debating.

Just like all debates, there is no certain answer before people debate.
Therefore, we need to identify the question, collect information, and then
decide either against or for the argument. First, we need to know why
Benjamin Lee Whorf thinks that languages can shape people’s thoughts.

He was conducted by E Sapir when studying at Yale University; he was
influenced by E. Sapir, and their research and studies. At that time, he made
many researches about English and American Indian languages. They
believe that they way people behave is based on the language they speak.
Because different languages make the ways of recognizing differently,
different group of people have different world-view. This is called Sapir-
It sounds correct, but is language the only factor that influences people’s thought? I
am afraid no body will agree with it totally. Family, education, learning experience,
social relationships, religion, etc. can all effects our thinking and it’s really hard to
proof Sapir-Whorf-Hypothesis scientifically. Therefore, this hypothesis is not
accepted completely.

Meanwhile, there are other scholars believe that language is external of thought
and thought is internal of language. From this point of view, language and thought
are almost the same. When we are thinking something, there are always sounds or
sentences across our mind. For example, when people are angry with their parents
or boss, they don’t usually swear in front of them but those swear words do appear
in their mind. It sounds correct but it can’t be applied on the deaf or mute.

At present, the most popular hypothesis at this topic is brought out by Lev
Semenovich Vygotsky. He believes that cognitive ability develops earlier than
language ability, but thought’s development can be hold by the language.
According to what he said, children have feelings and thought before they can
speak, which is very true. The adults and peer around them will influence the way
they think. Therefore, he thinks it should be the thought affecting our language.
Another example is, nowadays, new words are created everyday. Do people have
the words first then they have the thought? Or they have the thought and then they
create the new words. I personally support the second one.
After reading and discussing with our group member, now I
have different thought about this topic. I think that language
and thought are developed together. One can affect another.
They are not either totally individual or totally the same. When
we learn our first language, the though is constructed most
likely from adults, peers, and education. When we learn the
second language, we learn another culture through that
 By doing so, the second language affect our thought more
than the first language. For example, when we learn countable
noun and uncountable noun in English, it helps us to get the
idea, which we don’t have in Chinese. In Chinese, we describe
the item with its material and shape, but we don’t think if we
can count it or not because even uncountable noun, we still
give it a unit of measurement. Therefore, I believe that for L1
learners, surrounding environment affect one’s thought more
then language, but for L2 learners, the language will affect
one’s thought more than L1.
王淑卿’s Individual Reflection

** The origins of language and thought in early childhood **
The period of infancy, in which fundamental principles of thought
are exhibited well before language; the simultaneous emergence
of language, deferred imitation, symbolic play, evocative memory,
and mental imagery, suggesting language is but one outcome of
more fundamental changes in cognitive abilities; the lack of
effect of language upon reasoning abilities in middle childhood;
and the nature of speech in early childhood, the claim being that
the communicative function of speech results from cognitive
By contrast Vygotsky, while seeing thought and language as
initially separate systems, considers the two merge at around
two years of age, producing verbal thought. Mental operations
are regarded as embodied in the structure of language, and
hence cognitive development results from an internalization of
Current research on infancy has elucidated the perceptual and social
sophistication of the neonate, and points to developments occurring from
this base during the course of adult-infant social interchanges. Preverbal
gestural communication is established between six and nine months, and
by twelve months is under intentional control. The shift to referential
communication is again mediated by social interaction, particularly the
development of routines to bring about the joint attention of adult and infant
upon the same object ?especially the production and mutual
comprehension of manual pointing. In addition, underlying changes in the
infant's abilities to relate 'parts' to 'wholes' and to construct relations
between means and ends appear to inform the elaboration of the
simultaneously emerging cognitive abilities noted by Piaget. This suggests
that the entire symbolic function is a separate cognitive domain to which
wider cognitive abilities may be applied.

For older children the influence of language on thought has proved difficult
to investigate conclusively. Evidence for the Whorfian hypothesis is scarce,
and is incomplete for the claim that language plays a major role in the
developing self-regulation of the child's behaviour.
Previously, this material has been used somewhat uncritically
to inform phylogenetic speculation on the role of language in
the evolution of human cognitive abilities. Recapitulatory
theories of 'terminal addition' have overlooked the possibility
that behavioural development may not occur in stages, and
that such stages may not be additive; 'neotenous' theories do
not deal satisfactorily with how a rearrangement of the timing
of abilities can lead to 'qualitative' changes in 'behavioural
capacities'. Recent work explains parallels in ontogeny and
phylogeny by appeal to common constraints on information-
processing that reflect the demands of changing levels of the
structure of knowledge as it interacts with more basic
perceptual competencies [Eds].
Does language shape thought?

     Does the language you speak affect how you think about the world?
This question is taken up in three experiments. English and Mandarin talk
about time differently--English predominantly talks about time as if it were
horizontal, while Mandarin also commonly describes time as vertical. This
difference between the two languages is reflected in the way their speakers
think about time.
In one study, Mandarin speakers tended to think about time vertically even
when they were thinking for English (Mandarin speakers were faster to
confirm that March comes earlier than April if they had just seen a vertical
array of objects than if they had just seen a horizontal array, and the
reverse was true for English speakers).
Another study showed that the extent to which Mandarin-English bilinguals
think about time vertically is related to how old they were when they first
began to learn English. In another experiment native English speakers were
taught to talk about time using vertical spatial terms in a way similar to
On a subsequent test, this group of English speakers showed the same
bias to think about time vertically as was observed with Mandarin speakers.
It is concluded that (1) language is a powerful tool in shaping
thought about abstract domains and (2) one's native
language plays an important role in shaping habitual thought
(e.g., how one tends to think about time) but does not
entirely determine one's thinking in the strong Whorfian

Linguists and other cognitive scientists are centrally
interested in understanding the relationship between
language and thought. Do we think in language? Is thought
simply no vocal language, or is the linguistic system (partly)
distinct from more general thought processes?
Suppose we present you with a subtraction problem like
1724 - 982 =?and a sentence like
“Conclusions “

Based on Our Groups opinions and data
distributions , our group conclusions as follow :
“ Language is the expression of thought, and the
act of translating thoughts into words is the refining
of understanding “ .
“ Language is a way to express our thoughts to
other people. Sometimes you may have an idea, but
don't know how to express that idea through
language, maybe it's just a picture in your head. To
say that language and thought are the same would
mean that those who lack the ability to use
langauge don't/can't think “ .
Basically language and thought are the same thing, because you
produce words and sentences when you think, although sometimes
there are not well-structured sentences. Also I think thought has the
same characteristics and features as any language , so that thought
and language are the same thing “

“ Language might shape the way we think and usually what we are
thinking can be put into words and spoken, maybe not the exact things
we were thinking but a summary of our thoughts put into words. We all
have language and we all think of things to say and things to do on a
daily basis. Doing so the thoughts we think are then put into some type
of language whether it is spoken or written down on a piece of paper “ .

“ Language also might can shape the direction of thought -- but do you
think that language and thought are "the same"? I found Napoli's
comments about Deaf people pretty salient; the question "do deaf
people think slower than hearing people because their 'spoken'
language is slower ?" also seemed rather absurd, for lack of a better
word. And it does seem that we tend to form a complete thought very
quickly and then unravel it slowly through our words. What do you think ?
“ Language is a vehicle to express our thoughts, but I certainly don't
believe it is essential to thought. Personally, when I'm writing a story, I
tend to think in images and pictures. For example , Imagine that you
are sit down at a computer to write what youve come up with, You
will automatically transit the pictures into words and sentences. So all
in all it’s very convincing points to prove that thought and language
are not necessarily tied together . It is absurd to think that they would
think at different speeds, simply because they speak with gestures
and expressions “ .
“ I do believe that thought and language can be very closely related,
but it is also eveident that though exists outside of language. Human
beings have thought dealing with emotions and feelings that have no
language associated with them. It is also possible for small children to
relate images with certain things, again with no direct language
association. They can associate something they saw their parents do
in the past with something they want now, however this does not
mean that they know language “ .
“ Language and thought are in harmony with each other a lot of the
time but I also think that thought can go outside of language. As others
have said humans or whatever you would like to call , surely had
thought but they just had no way to really communicate their thoughts to
others. Your example of babies having thought but really no language to
communicate their thought is also very interesting “ .
“ Thought influences language and language influences thought, but
they are definitely not the same thing. However, a strong correlation
does exist between these thought and language. It is possible to
visually think, without language coming into the picture. However, we
most often think with a combination of internal language and visuals,
though this is not a requirement of thought. Also, thinking of children
and toddlers who haven't developed language yet, does this mean
there is no thought? I highly doubt it. If you ask most children of early
childhood memories, many can give memories that existed before they
spoke the english language. This is impressive and shows substantial
evidence of both the seperation of thought and language, but also its
strong coorelation “ .

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