LIN 350 • 2-Language and Thought
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
There is more than one way to approach a problem. But could it be that the language we speak influences how we do this? This upper-division course examines the relationship between language, culture, and thought, bringing together aspects of linguistics, anthropology, cognitive science, and social theory. We will look at questions about the words people use and the way they think, and whether the structure of our language and grammar influences the way we attend to things in our daily lives - such as the shapes of objects, the materials they are made of, their position in the landscape, or the genders of people and animals. Within this investigation, we will gain insight into the ways in which languages are structured, and in what major ways these structures can differ from each other cross-linguistically. The course will examine in detail the linguistic relativity principle of Benjamin Whorf and the ways this idea has been interpreted since its conception, including recent efforts to test correlations between cultural practices, linguistic structures, and cognition through carefully designed experiments. These studies often involve radically different languages, and address conceptual similarities and differences relating to time, space, color, and taxonomies of the natural world. We will consider the ways people use words to affect (consciously or unconsciously) others thinking in social arenas such as war and politics, and in interactions involving women. We will also look briefly at cases of abnormal development, including feral children who are not exposed to language at a young age, and consider the question of whether language and cognitive can develop must proceed together or can be disassociated.
Dedre Gentner and Susan Goldin-Meadow (eds.) 2003. Language in Mind: Advances in the Study of Language and Thought. Cambridge, MA/London: MIT Press. Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson. 1980. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: U. Chicago Press. Other readings (to be available on Blackboard)