Language as a Way of Knowing is in some ways part of all ways of knowing due to the fact that we use language to express our thoughts. Thus, when engaging in reason or emotional knowledge construction or evaluation, language is present.
Steven Pinker of Harvard identifies two main functions of language:
1. To convey meaning
2. To identify and negotiate relationship types
The first is clear to us all. The second perhaps less so. However when we watch this amazing RSA Animation of Pinker’s talk on the subject of language, the second function is elucidated beautifully:
Another concept we’ll investigate is that of Linguistic Determinism. This is related to the “Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.” This is the concept that our language shapes our cognition. As in, a chinese speaker inherently THINKS DIFFERENTLY than an English Speaker due to the syntax differences of the two languages.
It’s been established that language does affect cognition, but the question remains, “TO WHAT EXTENT?” We’ll investigate this question.
The following article will serve as a jumpoff for our discussion, “Why Cambodians Never Get Depressed” explains the links between language, cognition, diagnosis and treatment. Read and we’ll discuss !
The next stimulus material we’ll use to focus our discussion on language is this piece from the New Yorker that should be of particular interest to you all! It evaluates the purported cognitive benefits of bilingualism. Again, the way in which language affects cognition and thus shapes our acquisition of knowledge. In short, language as a Way of Knowing:
A Fun Piece on Idioms that don’t translate well to English!