Do people who speak different languages, whether it’s English, Spanish, Mandarin or any one of the 7000 odd languages in existence, end up remembering and understanding their respective life experiences differently simply by virtue of their mother tongue? An article in the Wall Street Journal explains how recent research suggests that the answer may be yes.
The idea that language might shape thought is not a new one as evinced by quotes implying just that such as this one by the Austrian philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein :
“If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world.”
However, the hypothesis has generally been believed to be untestable at best and slightly “off the wall” or relegated to the loony fringes of disrepute at worst.
Now the recent cognitive science research indicates that not only does our language indeed profoundly influence how we see the world, it can also affect our understanding of even such fundamental concepts as space, time and causality.