Page 1 of 2 1 2 Last
Results 1 to 10 of 13
  1. Senior Member
    Academic
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • Poland

    • Join Date: Apr 2019
    • Posts: 614
    #1

    Do you think grammar organizes thoughts?

    If language facilitates cognition, and grammar organizes language into useful information, then may speaking a language with different grammar affect how thougths are organized? Do you think this might be partly responsible for cultural differences?

  2. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Japan

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 66,219
    #2

    Re: Do you think grammar organizes thoughts?

    Benjamin Whorf did. I do think that language influences thought to some extent.

  3. Skrej's Avatar
    Key Member
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: May 2015
    • Posts: 2,877
    #3

    Re: Do you think grammar organizes thoughts?

    For linguists who subscribe to Whorf's theory (and most do accept it to some degree), there is debate on how much language influences thought.

    There are the so-called 'Strong Whorf' proponents, who believe as Whorf did that language pretty much determines all our thoughts, and then there's the 'Weak Whorf' camp, who believe that it does influence, but not necessarily controls, our thought processes (and world view).

    I certainly believe from experience that there's something to it. It's easy to spot differences in cultural approaches to a task, but difficult to say how much language affects culture, or vice-versa, and which one is driving those different approaches.
    Wear short sleeves! Support your right to bare arms!

  4. jutfrank's Avatar
    VIP Member
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Mar 2014
    • Posts: 8,031
    #4

    Re: Do you think grammar organizes thoughts?

    I'm not sure how much the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis says about structure. (I take it that's what you mean by 'grammar', right?) Not a lot, I don't think.

    Also, what do you mean by using the verb organizes here? How do you suppose grammar could organize thought?

    Your question is not at all clear to me. Are you just wondering about how language may influence thought? Or is this a question about how the structure of language relates to the structure of thought? These are very different questions, as far as I see.

    Remember that thought is prior to language, not vice versa. We are (and were) thinking creatures before we are (or were ever) speaking creatures. It is my view that if there is a deep, universal structure to the language we use, it must bear some resemblance to the structure of the thoughts it has evolved to express. Hence, thought 'organizes' grammar, not the other way around. How it might do this has been one of the main questions in linguistics since the middle of last century.
    Last edited by jutfrank; 03-Jun-2019 at 20:59.

  5. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Japan

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 66,219
    #5

    Re: Do you think grammar organizes thoughts?

    Word is a virus, William Burroughs and Gus Van Sant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqukFWVCt04

  6. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Japan

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 66,219
    #6

    Re: Do you think grammar organizes thoughts?

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    How do you suppose grammar could organize thought?
    Whorf does talk about Native American languages that use things like physical distance in the way that tense is used to reflect time in some European languages. There has been criticism of some of his interpretations of languages like Hopi, but he does suggest that the grammar we acquire colours our worldview, though I must confess it is thirty years since I read his work and apologise if I have misoversimplified his ideas.

  7. Senior Member
    Academic
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • Poland

    • Join Date: Apr 2019
    • Posts: 614
    #7

    Re: Do you think grammar organizes thoughts?

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    It is my view that if there is a deep, universal structure to the language we use, it must bear some resemblance to the structure of the thoughts it has evolved to express. Hence, thought 'organizes' grammar, not the other way around. How it might do this has been one of the main questions in linguistics since the middle of last century.
    If language evolves from thought, and thought is expressed via language, does this mean that it's thought that organizes itself through language?

    Last edited by Glizdka; 05-Jun-2019 at 11:56.

  8. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Japan

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 66,219
    #8

    Re: Do you think grammar organizes thoughts?

    To some, though Whorf would question that.

  9. jutfrank's Avatar
    VIP Member
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Mar 2014
    • Posts: 8,031
    #9

    Re: Do you think grammar organizes thoughts?

    Quote Originally Posted by Glizdka View Post
    If language evolves from thought, and thought is expressed via language, does this mean that it's thought that organizes itself through language?


    Just to be clear—I'm merely speculating wildly here, based on my own amateur ideas of what currently makes most sense to me.

    I want to resist using the word organise. I suppose that in our prelinguistic ancestors there was structured thought. Then came language, whose structure in some very fundamental way related to the structure of this prelinguistic thought. As the structure of language gradually complexified, so did the structure of thought.

    The nature of the interface between structure and meaning largely remains a mystery to us, but it does seem reasonable to think that language and thought affect each other mutually. It may even turn out that they are one day considered as one and the same thing.

    So I think the answer to your question is yes. I think we are all familiar with how much talking or writing about things can help us focus our thoughts.

  10. probus's Avatar
    Moderator
    Retired English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Canada
      • Current Location:
      • Canada

    • Join Date: Jan 2011
    • Posts: 4,223
    #10

    Re: Do you think grammar organizes thoughts?

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Remember that thought is prior to language, not vice versa. We are (and were) thinking creatures before we are (or were ever) speaking
    The priority of thought over language has been conclusively proven by experiment. For example it has been shown that a monkey

    1) knows things,

    2) knows that a human experimenter knows things,

    3) knows that those two sets of things may differ, and

    4) keeps track of what an experimenter does not know at least to some extent.

    Monkeys think, and know all of that while lacking language. Or in technical terms monkeys have both a theory of self and a theory of mind without possessing language.
    Last edited by probus; 05-Jun-2019 at 22:48. Reason: Typo

Page 1 of 2 1 2 Last

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •