GE1132 Mind, brain and language 09.03.2015
Semester B 2014/2015
Rianne Okkema, 40070660
Mind, Brain and Language
Thinking through language (Bloom and Keil 2001)
My little nephew of two years old has begun talking in Frisian, the native language of people from the northern part of The Netherlands. For many people from this part of the country, Frisian and Dutch are their mother tongue because Dutch is the official language of The Netherlands. A lot of children, like my nephew, begin learning and speaking Dutch only when they enter school. In a couple of years my nephew will start his school life; will the change of knowing not one, but two languages in this young age ...view middle of the document...
The last distinction is about the effect language is said to have. I would say that language has a big effect on somebody’s life. Without any language, even your natural language, you wouldn’t be able to communicate and participate in any community.
When talking about the effects and non-effects of cross-linguistic differences, a couple of problems occur. For example, a scientific study of Whorf claims that differences in color word vocabulary cause difference in color perception. English speakers use two words for the color green and blue; speakers of a language that describes a color with a single word should be less sensitive to the distinction. However, cross-cultural research has revealed that this prediction is false; all people perceive and categorize color the same way. Another study of Alfred Bloom (1981) argued that counterfactual thought is more difficult in Chinese than languages such as English. Constructions like ‘if X were to do Y, then Z would happen’ have no easy translation. It turned out, however, that there were serious problems with the experimental design of this study, which made this argument invalid.
Next Paul Bloom and Frank Keil discuss the universal effects of language on thought. They have a look at the proposition in which natural language gives rise to an alternative representational medium with which to think, like inner speech, arithmetic reasoning and memory. Peter Carruthers (1996) has suggested that certain types of thought, such as casual reasoning and social cognition, require the support of an internalized language. Knowledge of a natural language cannot be necessary for all causal and social reasoning, since non-linguistic creatures, such as babies and chimpanzees, have competence in these domains. But certain developmental phenomena may be explained by this proposal. In other domains, however, the original inner voice proposal may have considerable benefits. It seems likely, following Dehaene (1997), that the ability to reason about the larger numbers requires language. To understand that if you remove two objects from twenty objects, eighteen will remain is impossible without the possession of natural language. Without language, all that remains is the approximate accumulator mechanism that humans share with rats and other animals.