How language can affect the way we think
Keith Chen (TED Talk: Could your language affect your ability to save money?) might be an economist, but he wants to talk about language. For instance, he points out, in Chinese, saying “this is my uncle” is not as straightforward as you might think. In Chinese, you have no choice but to encode more information about said uncle. The language requires that you denote the side the uncle is on, whether he’s related by marriage or birth and, if it’s your father’s brother, whether he’s older or younger. “All of this information is obligatory. This got Chen wondering: Is there a connection between language and how we think and behave? While “futured languages,” like English, distinguish between the past, present and future, “futureless languages” like Chinese use the same phrasing to describe the events of yesterday, today and tomorrow. But that’s only the beginning. Featured illustration via iStock.
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