The Instigator
InVinoVeritas
Pro (for)
Winning
26 Points
The Contender
Brian_M
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

One's native language structure affects one's world view (Linguistic Relativity)

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 6 votes the winner is...
InVinoVeritas
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/14/2012 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,725 times Debate No: 26189
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (8)
Votes (6)

 

InVinoVeritas

Pro

Definitions:

Language: Complex system of communication used within a group of people. [1] To simplify this debate and avoid the introduction of irrelevant exceptions, we will only be talking about one's native language, or first acquired language.
And to clarify further, structure of language: The rules that govern a language (e.g., its grammar.)
World view/Conceptualization of world: fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society's knowledge and point of view. [2]

Resolution: The structure of a language affects the ways in which its native speakers are able to conceptualize their world.

(Pro will attempt to affirm the resolution. Con will attempt to negate the resolution.)

The first round of this debate will be strictly reserved for discussion of terms of debate, definitions, and acceptance.

This is my fourth attempt at having this debate... Hopefully I will eventually6 find an opponent who can handle this topic.
Thank you.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org...
Brian_M

Con

I am fine with this resolution and definitions you provided. This is the way I understand it: One's language determines how they understand the world around them. Is that more or less the argument you are trying to get at?

If so, let's go!!
Debate Round No. 1
InVinoVeritas

Pro

I will pose three arguments to support my case regarding linguistic relativity and its validity:

A Cognitive Approach: Conceptual metaphors

The way that we categorize and metaphorically represent our thoughts is influenced by characteristics of our native language. According to conceptual metaphor theory [1], upheld by linguist George Lakoff and philosopher Mark Johnson, we understand many of our ideas in terms of others. A good example is debating (as we are doing now), and the hidden metaphorical connotations used in our language:

He won the argument.
Your claims are indefensible.
He shot down all my arguments.
His criticisms were right on target.
If you use that strategy, he'll wipe you out.

Here we see a trend in which arguing is a "war," or perhaps, to be more precise, a "struggle." Through this metaphor, we lose sight of the cooperative and "creative" aspects of argument, one could argue, among numerous other facets of argumentation that could be metaphorically represented. In this way, our culture's metaphorical categorization of topics affects the way we perceive them.

Another example is the difference between metaphors regarding the topic of marriage within the English and Chinese languages. Although there are congruent metaphors within the two systems, there are also substantial disparities. Both English and Chinese have metaphors to describe marriage as a taste, but different tastes are used, and Chinese has a tendency to use multiple tastes to describe marriage (e.g., "In fact, marriage is like life, which has all sorts of joys and sorrows like the five tastes [translated].", as opposed to English, which tends to only use a single taste (e.g, "But the marriage turned sour and they divorced.") [2]

This phenomen depicted in these two examples is, indeed, a result of cultural influence. But let us remember that the interaction between language and culture is back-and-forth; in other words, both influence each other. If this were not the case, language would not be a dynamic sociocultural system and would therefore remain static. Culture sets the traits of our language and thereby restricts our world view, and through our restricted world view, our language evolves and shapes our culture.

Swearing study

A study [3] shows "autonomic responses to swear words [are] larger than to euphemisms and neutral stimuli." We are "verbal[ly] condition[ed]," as explained by the study, to have a greater emotional response to these words over others; in other words, it is more stressful to say them than it is to say other words. Of course, nothing inherent about these words makes them more emotionally alarming than others. Indeed, we are conditioned by our linguistic system to shape our world view around the idea that these words are more stressful. Therefore, our physiological systems (and neurological/cognitive system) react differently to them than to other, less culturally "harmful" words.

And, finally, as the study states: "Such an outcome [denoted in the study] satisfies the definition of linguistic relatively: Word forms, in and of themselves, exerting some control on affect and cognition in turn."

Guugu Yimithirr Directionality

Guugu Yimthirr (GY, for short) is an Australian aboriginal language. Other than being the origin language of the word "kangaroo," it also has a peculiar aspect to it that has perplexed and amazed linguists for decades: its system of position and direction. In the English language, we use the system of "left," "right," "down," "up," etc. In GY, however, they strictly use the cardinal direction system ("north," "south," "east," and "west") to indicate position and direction. [4] For example, if we see a good-looking foxy mama in the vicinity of our friend, we may say (if we are English speakers), "Look at that hottie behind you to the right!" In GY, though, we would say, "Look at that hottie to the west!"

Let us contrast English and GY for a moment. In English, our system is relative; the right of an object, for example, can change depending on the position of the objection. In GY, on the other hand, the directions are fixed, so someone's west will always be the same. This requires the GY speaker to have an excellent sense of cardinal direction, which is typically absent in those who speak languages that do not depend on it. This difference in reference point regarding position and direction; it is an example of how much of an effect language can have on our world view.

Imagine you live in a hotel room and that there is a hotel room across the hall from yours that looks identical to yours. As an English speaker, if you walk into the hotel room opposite from yours, you will think that it is your room. A GY speaker, however, having a keen sense of cardinal direction, would walk into the room across the hall and inherently know that it is another room due to the different cardinal direction he would be facing as he enters the room. Cool stuff, right?

---

In conclusion, based on the evidence presented, the "linguistic relativity principle," as coined by Benjamin Lee Whorf [5], is valid.

Thank you.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://www.english.hku.hk...
[3] http://www.plosone.org...
[4] http://www.anthro.ucsd.edu...
[5] http://www.anthro.ucsd.edu...
Brian_M

Con

Well, according to your definition, language is a means of communicating how a person conceptualizes the world. Therefore, they come to their conclusions as to how the world around them functions by using their senses. According to thefreedictionary.com, senses can be defined as a. Any of the faculties by which stimuli from outside or inside the body are received and felt, as the faculties of hearing, sight, smell, touch, or taste, and
b. A perception or feeling produced by a stimulus; sensation. Let me give a few fairly simple examples. If a child touches a hot stove, their sense of touch will tell them that when the stove is hot, it hurts to touch it and therefore they come to the conclusion that they should not touch hot things. If someone says, "He will wipe you out" (one of the quotes you gave), that is simply that persons observations of the situation. Communication comes in when that person tells another person how they"ve come to understand what whatever it is that they"re preaching. But even then, that person can be told over and over how someone else sees a situation, but they never truly gain an understanding of the world around them with out experiencing it for themselves.
The structure of how one communicates does not affect their world understanding. According to an interviewee in the Zeitgeist movie (available on youtube), studies from reputable science institutions have shown that an unborn fetus in the mother"s womb can actually learn from the environment surrounding it. During the Dutch hunger strike, pregnant mothers in the second and third trimester were eating minimally if at all. The fetus was therefore getting such a small amount of nutrients that biologically, his body adapted and became stingier of the nutrients it would receive. The fetus will be destined for a life in which its body will store just about every calorie that goes unused because, as a fetus, unable of knowing any language at all, it understood that in its environment, food and nutrients are scarce. Also in the movie, another study showed how an infant is treated, affects their perceptions of life and self as an adult. If they are neglected, they will live a life of feeling as if no one is there to help them. This subconscious feeling has come about with absolutely no means of communication.

Another point, there are ways for humans to communicate their perceptions of the world around them by not using any form of language. If someone gives another person an option between a red pill and blue pill (matrix reference haha) and when offered the blue pill, he turns away, the other person can easily assume he would rather have the red pill. Some one can frantically point to right or west or whatever not saying a world at all and people would understand what they mean and turn that way. Not quite sure those are the best example but I"m sure you can understand my point.

So what have we learned here? A person perceives the world around them due to their senses. Communication is simple a tool that man uses to share their perceptions. Sure, words like "sour" and "right or west" mean different things in different languages, but they are used to convey an understanding by the user and are subject to that person"s interpretation. A hottie to the west could not be a hottie at all to someone else. They must use their sense of vision to determine whether or not he perceives her as good looking.

Sources:

Zeitgeist movie:
Senses Def: http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
Debate Round No. 2
InVinoVeritas

Pro

-sigh-

"Well, according to your definition, language is a means of communicating how a person conceptualizes the world. Therefore, they come to their conclusions as to how the world around them functions by using their senses."

From Round 1: "Language: Complex system of communication used within a group of people." I have no idea how you derived that meaning from the definition I provided. And I have no idea where the "senses" thing is derived from, since it doesn't even follow your first premise.

"If a child touches a hot stove, their sense of touch will tell them that when the stove is hot, it hurts to touch it and therefore they come to the conclusion that they should not touch hot things. If someone says, "He will wipe you out" (one of the quotes you gave), that is simply that persons observations of the situation."

The "child touching a stove" thing misses the point. And one person can refer to winning an argument as "wiping someone out," while in another language, it can be called "shaking someone's hand." The qualities of the words used to depict concepts artifically relate them to other concepts in our minds.

"Communication comes in when that person tells another person how they"ve come to understand what whatever it is that they"re preaching. But even then, that person can be told over and over how someone else sees a situation, but they never truly gain an understanding of the world around them with out experiencing it for themselves."

Indeed, someone who has not experienced "A" usually has a different perception of "A" than someone who experienced "A". I am arguing that someone who experienced "A" through English can experience "A" differently from someone who experienced "A" through a different language. (As an aside, "communication" does not necessarily entail "preaching.")

"The structure of how one communicates does not affect their world understanding. According to an interviewee in the Zeitgeist movie (available on youtube), studies from reputable science institutions have shown that an unborn fetus in the mother"s womb can actually learn from the environment surrounding it."

I am not arguing that one's native language is the sole factor in world view development. I am arguing that it is a factor in world view development. Indeed, cognitive development is affected by environmental factors other than language. I concede that point.

"Another point, there are ways for humans to communicate their perceptions of the world around them by not using any form of language. If someone gives another person an option between a red pill and blue pill (matrix reference haha) and when offered the blue pill, he turns away, the other person can easily assume he would rather have the red pill."

That's called "body language."

"Some one [sic] can frantically point to right or west or whatever not saying a world at all and people would understand what they mean and turn that way. Not quite sure those are the best example but I"m sure you can understand my point."

What if there is a culture, hypothetically, whose language system does not include pointing to indicate directionality? I would call these poor examples, but I have yet to even see the precise point you are trying to make.

"A person perceives the world around them due to their senses. Communication is simple [sic] a tool that man uses to share their perceptions. Sure, words like "sour" and "right or west" mean different things in different languages, but they are used to convey an understanding by the user and are subject to that person"s interpretation. A hottie to the west could not be a hottie at all to someone else. They must use their sense of vision to determine whether or not he perceives her as good looking."

This misses the point. You're right that language is subjective, but it just doesn't attack my case or uphold yours... whatever your case happens to be.

"So what have we learned here?"

We've learned that I need to be more selective about who takes up my debate challenges.
Brian_M

Con

Brian_M forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
Brian_M

Con

Brian_M forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by innomen 4 years ago
innomen
Interesting idea/debate.
Posted by InVinoVeritas 4 years ago
InVinoVeritas
Correction: It makes very close to no sense.
Posted by InVinoVeritas 4 years ago
InVinoVeritas
Your argument doesn't really make much sense. :P
Posted by InVinoVeritas 4 years ago
InVinoVeritas
Guardian, I'm pretty much defending the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis here.
Posted by Brian_M 4 years ago
Brian_M
I accept this debate.
Posted by Guardian 4 years ago
Guardian
Are you proposing that the differences in conceptualizing are radical, in a Benjamin Whorf kind of way, or are you just proposing that our native tongue naturally leads us to think of things slightly differently?
Posted by RationalMadman 4 years ago
RationalMadman
I swear this is de ja vu...
Posted by philochristos 4 years ago
philochristos
Maybe you're just so persuasive that as soon as your opponents read your opening comments, they immediately change their minds and agree with you.
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Vote Placed by Torvald 4 years ago
Torvald
InVinoVeritasBrian_MTied
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Vote Placed by famer 4 years ago
famer
InVinoVeritasBrian_MTied
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Vote Placed by GenesisCreation 4 years ago
GenesisCreation
InVinoVeritasBrian_MTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Zetigeist....man, when will that thing go away and die?
Vote Placed by RyuuKyuzo 4 years ago
RyuuKyuzo
InVinoVeritasBrian_MTied
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Reasons for voting decision: -sigh-
Vote Placed by wiploc 4 years ago
wiploc
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Smithereens
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