argument top image

Does language influence worldview? Show more Show less
Back to question

Over the years, linguists have observed that some languages have a differing vocabulary for colors, numbers, directions, and more, not to mention variations in structure. Researchers wonder whether or not these differences affect how speakers of these languages view the world.

Yes, but worldview also influences language Show more Show less

Research on Pirahã and comparisons of the evolutionary trees of several hundred languages have shown worldview shapes languages. Theories such as linguistic relativity have also shown that languages influence our worldview. Therefore, worldview and language reciprocally influence each other.
< (2 of 3) Next position >

Worldview and language influence each other

To distinguish which influenced the other first is a chicken and egg question. Worldview helped shape languages and languages influence our perceptions. Therefore, worldview and language are reciprocally influencing each other.

The Argument

It is clear that language and worldview are interrelated to some degree. The more interesting question then becomes does language influence worldview or did a people’s worldview influence their language? This becomes a chicken and egg question. A prominent current contributor to the theory of linguistic relativity is Professor Lera Boroditsky. She believes that the next step is to determine if “it is culture that shapes thought which language only conveys, or if it is language itself that does the shaping”.[1] Professor Betty Birner thinks it seems likely that both language and worldview reciprocally influence each other. One of the examples that linguist Benjamin Whorf cited to support his argument that language impacts perception was how the Hopi people think about time differently because they don’t have terms about breaking time into chunks (days, hours, minutes…). To them time is continuous. However, this correlation doesn’t mean that our language shapes our view of time. It could also mean that our view of time shaped each language or that each culture shapes both the way people think and the way they talk.[2]

Counter arguments

If worldview influenced language then all languages would not share a universal grammar. However, renowned linguist Noam Chomsky has identified the organizing principles that make up a universal grammar that is shared by all languages.[3] If language influenced worldview then learning a new language or translating languages would be extremely difficult, yet people do this every day. Additionally, people that share a language would share a worldview. The 1.5 billion people that speak English around the world do not all share a worldview.[4]

Proponents

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://bigthink.com/philip-perry/does-the-language-we-speak-affect-our-perception-of-reality
  2. https://www.linguisticsociety.org/content/does-language-i-speak-influence-way-i-think
  3. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/04/16/the-interpreter-2
  4. https://www.babbel.com/en/magazine/how-many-people-speak-english-and-where-is-it-spoken

Vote

Not sure yet? Read more ↑

Discuss

This page was last edited on Tuesday, 11 Aug 2020 at 17:36 UTC

Explore related arguments