photo credit: professor-virtual.blogspot.com
Does language influence thought? Over the last century, there has been a lot of debate on this question. Current researchers, however, take it for granted that language and thought are related and that they interact with each other in complex ways. The question they ask now is what does this relationship imply?
19th century German Philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt claimed that language was directly connected to thinking. In the 1920s linguist Edward Sapir and later, his student Benjamin Lee Whorf theorised that thoughts are controlled or influenced by the language we speak. This thesis, also widely known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, is called linguistic determinism.
However, in 1994, psychologist Steven Pinker and other linguistic relativists countered the deterministic claims made by the Whorfians. The relativists believed that language and thought were not as intrinsically connected as previously thought.
We now take for granted that language shapes our perception of our world with researchers like Lera Borodotsky proving that the languages we speak in fact do shape our perception of the world around us. Current experiments and research have proved conclusively that peoples' relations with time, space, colour as well as the objects around them are certainly affected by language.
The structures, vocabularies and boundaries of the language(s) we know have indisputable influence on how we think. On the other hand, the structures, vocabularies and boundaries of the language(s) we know are also influenced by the histories, geographies, memories, values, attitudes--the realities--of a particular people.
Language is thus, both the begetter of our cultural thought-processes and our collective personalities and the result of our cultural thought-process and our collective personalities.