How does language shape our knowledge?
Project Background: Language is a way we all communicate with each other. It can be spoken or written. It is words structured together in a structural and conventional way in order to for humans to interact with each other. There are roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world today. However, about 2,000 of those languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers. The knowledge question that we have chosen to explore is how does language affect our knowledge. Can the language itself, the way it is structured, have an effect on our thoughts and what we know? Our experiment will test the correlation between language and knowledge. Our hypothesis states that the language that you speak can have an influence on what you know. We tested this hypothesis by asking teachers and students to identify whether two words from a selected language were masculine or feminine. We then provided the subject with the pronunciation of the words and asked if their opinions change. Finally, we provided the subject with the meaning of the word, and asked if it changed their answers. After each question, the subjects were asked to explain why they think their answers are what they are. This allowed us to see the effect of the language on the subject’s thoughts. We tested this hypothesis in 5 different languages. Those languages are Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, and Hindi. Our first subject was presented with two words in Spanish. Those words are “arte” and “mano”. Our second subject was presented with two words in French. Those words are “livre” meaning book and “poubelle” meaning trash. Our third subject was presented with two words in Russian. Those words are “stul” meaning chair and “kravat” meaning bed. Our fourth subject was presented with two words in Arabic. Those words are “al-bab” meaning bed and “al-shajara” meaning tree. Our fifth subject was presented with two words in Hindi. Those words are “kapra” meaning cloth and “angrezi” meaning English.
Presentation/Findings: Through our experiment, we were able to find a direct correlation between language and knowledge. Yes, the way a language is structured can have an effect on our knowledge. When subjects were visually shown the word, they looked for endings and factors such as the word looking “girly” to determine whether the word was masculine or feminine. When subjects were allowed to hear the pronunciation, they also looked for the ending, but also whether the word was short and direct, hence being masculine, or elongated, hence being feminine. In terms of meaning, we found that majority of subjects used their prior knowledge of languages that they speak or have been exposed to, to determine the gender of the word. This shows that language can have an effect on our knowledge, especially our knowledge of other languages. In conclusion, our hypothesis was correct, the language that you speak can have can influence on what you know.
- Sarah Sharf-Aldin
- Katya Herbert, Navi Chawla, and Harry Le
- Date: February 22nd - March 2nd
- Badge Title: WOK Badge
- 5000 Languages
2/22/2017: Today, we learned about the way of knowing of language. I realized that is is a way of knowing that we encounter almost everyday in our lives. Language is a way we all communicate with each other. It can be spoken or written. We are exposed to many different languages on a daily basis. It can be connected to many other ways of knowledge very easily. This is a very interesting way of knowing and I am very excited to explore it.
2/24/2017: Today, we were given an opportunity to explore project ideas. We decided that we want to explore how language can shape our knowledge. There are so many ways that this knowledge can be explored and it is up to our group to choose how we want to portray it. We know that we want to make a documentary. We have come up with two ideas so far. We want to ask people to whether if you speak more than one language, does it cause you to think in a specific language. Also, we came up with the idea to explore if gender agreement within a language creates gender stereotypes.
2/28/2017: For the project, we have already begun filming our video. We decided to explore what causes one to identify whether a word is masculine or feminine. In order to do this, we decided to ask teachers and students to identify whether two words from a selected language were masculine or feminine. We then would provide the subject with the pronunciation of the words and asked if their opinions change. Finally, we would provide the subject with the meaning of the word, and asked if it changed their answers. After each question, we would ask the subjects to explain why they think their answers are what they are. This will allow us to see the effect of the language on the subject’s thoughts. We decided to test this hypothesis in 5 different languages. Those languages are Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, and Hindi. Our first subject would be presented with two words in Spanish. Those words are “arte” and “mano”. Our second subject would be presented with two words in French. Those words are “livre” meaning book and “poubelle” meaning trash. Our third subject would be presented with two words in Russian. Those words are “stul” meaning chair and “kravat” meaning bed. Our fourth subject would be presented with two words in Arabic. Those words are “al-bab” meaning bed and “al-shajara” meaning tree. Our fifth subject would be presented with two words in Hindi. Those words are “kapra” meaning cloth and “angrezi” meaning English.
Summary and Reflective Journal: Overall, I think that this was a great project that was a great learning experience. The project was very beneficial to trying to learn and understand the way of knowledge of language. We started off reading a chapter and trying to understand vocabulary terms to ending with an amazing documentary that we are very satisfied with. It provided a great insight on our knowledge question and the concept of language. At the beginning of this project, there was a lot of independence as one had to read and understand the chapter. Your group members were always there for support or any questions, but I felt as if you got out as much as you put in trying to understand the chapter. After taking the quiz, the project became very revolved around working as a group. We had so many ideas in how we wanted to portray language. We decided on the knowledge question, which was "how does language shape our knowledge?", that we wanted to represent from the beginning. It became a matter of formulating an experiment that provides us with the data that we are looking for. The biggest problem that I think was making the project apply to the knowledge question. We really wanted to explore how does our "mother tongue" form a basis of knowledge of other languages. We decided to ask people to identify the gender of words in a language that they have never been exposed to in order to test this hypothesis. Once we formulated this idea, we were able to begin recording and putting our video together. I feel as if everyone in the group made a great contribution and that the project was very successful. Our hypothesis stated that language can shape what you know. This project made me realize how much we depend on our prior knowledges of other languages in order to explore a new language. Also, we learned that we subconsciously look for something to connect to a language we already know in order to understand a language we have never been exposed to.. In conclusion, our hypothesis was correct, language can shape what you know. This project was a lot of fun and I learned a lot, not only about language, but also about planning and working within a group.
Through this except, George Orwell mentions the various mistakes that are most commonly made in modern English Throughout Orwell’s essay Politics and the English Language, Orwell believes that dying metaphors, operators or verbal false limbs, pretentious diction, and meaningless words are the most commonly made mistakes throughout modern English. Orwell also talks about meaningless words. Some examples that suffice the definition of Orwell’s meaningless words are plastic, values, human, dead and natural. Pretentious diction is using the correct words to provide the most detailed and vivid description. Meaningless words are words that are located throughout a passage that are almost completely lacking in meaning. This excerpt analyzes the importance of using the English language correctly. Language can convey so much with very little. Not only that, but language can be misleading. If it is not used correctly, it can portray something that writer did not intend to portray. I think that is exactly what Orwell was trying to explain.
I chose this resource as an external resource because I felt as it relative and would be a great source to add to the existing elective reading list. Within the sources provided, there is no source that really talks about how ones "mother tongue" can have an affect on their knowledge of languages that they are to be exposed to. This source is related to one of the essential questions of this way of knowing, "How does knowledge shape our knowledge?" Within this article, we are presented with information trying to persuade us of many ways that language can shape the way we think. It provides the findings of research that states that people who speak different languages do indeed think differently and that even flukes of grammar can profoundly affect how we see the world. Language is a uniquely human gift, central to our experience of being human. Appreciating its role in constructing our mental lives brings us one step closer to understanding the very nature of humanity.This was a very interesting approach towards the way of knowing of language.