How the languages we speak shape the ways we think
Do people who speak different languages think differently? Do languages merely express thoughts, or do they secretly shape the very thoughts we wish to express? Are some thoughts unthinkable without language? Why do we think the way we do? Why does the world appear to us the way it does? Humans communicate with one another using 7,000 or so different languages, and each language differs from the next in innumerable ways. At stake are basic questions all of us have about ourselves, human nature, and reality. I will discuss research conducted around the world and focus on how language shapes the way we think about color, space, time, causality, and agency.
Lera Boroditsky is an Associate Professor of Cognitive Science at UCSD. She previously served on the faculty at MIT and at Stanford and was Founding Editor in Chief of Frontiers in Cultural Psychology. Her research is on the relationships between mind, world, and language (or how humans get so smart).
She has been named one of 25 Visionaries changing the world by the Utne Reader, and is also a Searle Scholar, a McDonnell scholar, recipient of an NSF Career award, and an APA Distinguished Scientist lecturer. She once used the Indonesian exclusive "we" correctly before breakfast, and was proud of herself about it all day.