Profile Picture

How languages shape the way we think (TedTalk)

5 years ago

This video is an amazing demonstration of the influence of languages on people !

Details : There are about 7,000 languages spoken around the world -- and they all have different sounds, vocabularies and structures. But do they shape the way we think? Cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky shares examples of language -- from an Aboriginal community in Australia that uses cardinal directions instead of left and right to the multiple words for blue in Russian -- that suggest the answer is a resounding yes. "The beauty of linguistic diversity is that it reveals to us just how ingenious and how flexible the human mind is," Boroditsky says. "Human minds have invented not one cognitive universe, but 7,000."
(The transcript of the video is available in 21 languages. You can find them just below the video.)

To complete the examples of the video, what crucial differences between languages have you notice that could influence our way of thinking ?

For instance, I find French language quite sexist... Here is why :
  • when talking about a group mixing men and women, we must use a masculine word to refer to this group (even if there are 1000 women and 1 man) !
  • some words don't have a feminine form as "écrivain" (writer), "agent immobilier" (estate agent), "médecin" (doctor), "vainqueur" (winner)...
  • until recently, a man could be referred to as "Monsieur" whereas for a woman, one could use either "Madame" (a married woman) or "Mademoiselle" (a non-married woman).