WOK: LANGUAGE Valeria Espinosa

Valeria Espinosa

Cayal Amparan, Divya Rath, and Zoe Grout

February 24-March 2

Language and Its Limitations

Question: How does language limit our ability to express ourselves?

planning journal

February 24, 2017

What's your plan for your project?

The initial essential question we picked for the language WOK was "How does language shape knowledge?". From this question, we derived our knowledge question which is "How does language limit our ability to express ourselves?" At first we personally did not know how we would conduct an experiment that would answer our question, but then we came across a quote by Gustave Flaubert from Madame Bovary. The quote was "Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the starts." We thought analyzing this quote would be extremely interesting and informational. So we decided to make this quote our experiment. We decided that we would make a quick presentation so that we would have something visual, while we present our analysis. Once we decided what we would do for our presentation, our next task was to figure out other WOK that we have studied would relate to this WOK. This is when we concluded that we would talk about emotions. Through emotion we would highlight an limitation of language which is that we cannot clearly describe feelings and emotions through words. There is no way for us to known for a fact that whomever we are talking to has the same understanding of every word we use because as we have learned everyone perceives the world differently. One emotion that we would focus on is love because it is something that carries a large depth of underatding and it would be impossible to pinpoint a few words to define it. I personally think that this presentation will be unique as no one in our class has analyzed a quote in order to portray one large idea.

What is the main point about your WOK that you want to make in your Badge Project ?

My main point in my WOK is to further inform people about language and how it limits our knowledge. We want to show people that language does limit our ability to express ourselves because it does not describe all of the emotions that we as humans feel.I feel like people don't even realize this idea, until they find themselves not being able to express how they feel and why they are feeling that certain emotion. I also want to inform people how emotion and language overlap and how you can't really have one without the other. One can only express their feelings through words. I think the difficulty of language is that we don't have all the words to express what we think and how we feel. We have to in a way play with words in order to communicate what we are thinking in the most precise manner. I think that this quote will show people the difficulty of communication because we know what we feel and we know what we want to say, but language prevents us from expressing ourselves.

End of the day

What did you learn about your WOK?

During this class period we decided to read for on our WOK which is language. One thing that I learned today is that language is for a fact built on uncertainty; everyone who communicates with others assume that the other communicates also has ben understanding of the words you are using, but as we have learned through Gustave Flaubert's quotes that is not the case. We are so sure that what we say is extremely understandable to the point that the world around us will 'melt.' However we can see that it's not the case, because what we say turns out to be a mess that only we can comprehend. This is because we all perceive the world differently. What I am trying to say can mean something utterly different to another person. This in a way relates to another thing that I have learned about my WOK. What we visually perceive is the same for almost everyone, but the way we rationalize is completely different. I personally think that reality is what influences our language, which in a way contradicts the Sapir-Whorf Theory. I think that it's our surroundings that shapes our language, and not the other way around. I personally want to research this even though it doesn't relate to our essential question.

How prepared are you for your Badge Project? What's left to do?

Today we planned our whole presentation. I personally think that this presentation will be simple, but in a way also abstract. Although we are not actually performing an experiment, I feel like analyzing a quote will be extremely difficult. I think that we are extremely prepared for the presentation. All we have to do is prepare a short powerpoint so that we can have some thing visual. We have discussed what we are going to write in our presentation and we also know which WOK we will relate it to. This weekend we just need to get together to write our parts in a word document so that we can have something to work on in our presentation. I personally believe that thiss presentation can be done under 7 minutes and it would still cover what necesssry. This is by far my favorite group.I feel like we all worked extremely well together and we were all extremely efficient with our time. I honestly can't wait to present our presentation.

Reflection Journal

March 2, 2017


What are your goals and aims for today's presentation/project? (discuss at least one personal goal)

My goal for today's presentation is to further inform our class about language and to also introduce to them the quote said by Gustave Flaubert. I personally feel like this quote is not only beautifully written, but it is also extremely informative. I think that it's beautiful how he says that language limits our ability to express ourselves and he does this through language. He is in a way contradicting himself which is what makes thes quote extremely abstract. I think that one of my main goals is to make sure that people do understand the message that Flaubert is trying to portray. Through this quote I want to show that language does for a fact limit our knowledge and our ability to express what we think and what we feel. I also want to show that communication is difficult and that we tend to devalue it. One personal goal that I have is that I really want to try to not use my script for the presentation. The thing is that I know that I know the information but at times I just don't feel comfortable presenting it. I really hope that I don't have to refer to my notes as much as I have in my past presentations.


In my opinion we were extremely prepared for our presentation. We did not go over the time limit and we were simply not hesitant about anything. Like my past WOKs I took the time to ask mu peers for feedback and they said that it right to the point and extremely interesting even though we didn't actually perform an experiment. I think that we were able to get our message cross about language in a simple but informative way. I think that our presentation did in fact help with visuals even though it was fairly simple. All of my group members were prepared and were extremely enthusiastic during the presentation. This was probably the only WOK in which I felt I was extremely prepared for. Going back to my persoanl goal, I feel like I didn't refer to my notes as much as my previous presentation, which really makes me happy. I feel like I want to do this format with my final WOK. Although this quote was extremely short it still answered our knowledge question. I personally think that the extra class really did help. This made me realize that I think it would be externally beneficial if we were to get a bit more time on preparing for our presentation because not only was able to prepare more for my presentation but I was also able to learn more on my WOK. I really enjoyed presenting this WOK and I also enjoyed working with my group members. All of the hard work really did payoff.

3 knowledge questions

These are some knowledge questions we came across while trying to decide our main question.

  1. How does language shape knowledge or what is it possible to know?
  2. How do the words we use to describe an idea affect our understanding of the world?
  3. How does back translation hinder knowledge?


Most of our documentation was done in a word document which I will put the link to. Our knowledge question is "how does language limit our ability to express ourselves?" We derived this question from "how doe language shape knowledge?"Like stated in my planning journal, we spent most of our time in class talking about language and how it relates to our knowledge question. We each jotted down information on language so that when it came to making our script it would fairly simple. We concluded that we simply write a script so that we can extremely prepared and we also concludes that we would be making a quick powerpoint. We want our presentation to be a simple a possible so that our quote those not get overshadowed by everything else. I think that our group worked extremely well together and we were efficient with our time in and out of class. Like said before our experiment would be analyzing a quote said by Gustave Flaubert and seeing how it would relate to our knowledge question. We all worked on our script over the weekend and also made a quick presentation. The link to the presentation is also shown bellow.

Elective Readings

Millions Have Dyslexia, Few Understand It

Dyslexia can be classified as a language-based learning disability. Language-based learning disabilities "are neurologically-based processing problems." This basically means that people diagnosed with this disability have problems or difficulties with reading, spelling, or writing that is age-appropriate. This article discusses the problems in which dyslexics face in a daily basis. It discusses how Dyslexia is at times known as "word blindness", because those that are diagnosed with this disability don't naturally process the written word. A word that can be familiar to then if spoken can be utterly unfamiliar if it's on paper. The article says that dyslexics "don't easily break it (the word) into smaller units that can be turned into sounds and stitched together." I personally think dyslexics do in fact have it hard for themselves. Language, especially written language does indeed comminicate factual, interesting, and beautiful information. Having this disability in a way can distort there reality as they don't have access to that written information. One thing that is important for me to clarify is that most people diagnosed with learning disabilities, in this case dyslexia, have average to superior intelligence. To me this article was extremely informational. I personally thought that a dyslexic those indeed get his/her b's and d's messed up, but after reading this article I learned that it wasn't the case. I really feel empathy for those that have dyslexia. It must be hard knowing that a word means, but not having the ability to read it.

Extension proposal

“Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.”

Give reasons for adding a resource to the existing elective reading list.

Our whole presentation centered around this quote by Gustave Flaubert. Although this is not a video or an article, I feel like language is beautifully definined in just on sentence. This quote is essentially saying that we know what we want to say and we know what we feel, but language prevents us from expressing it. I think that if we were to break down this quote apart we would most definielty learn more than watching a 20 minute video. I love how this quote is basically talking about the difficulty of communication and like most of us know, language is a form of communication. Flaubert is essentially saying that when we speak we think that we are going to say will be beautiful and understandable. However it turns out to be a mess, proving that language doesn't always do out knowledge justice. I think it's beautiful and abstract that Gustave uses words in order convoy his message on language, when he saying that language is what limits us. I really think that this quote should be added to our reading list because it further educates on how language can limit our knowledge.

Exploring Sapir-whorf hypothesis

"We all perceive the same visual reality, but may have different ways of rationalizing it."

In my opinion this video was extremely informational. From the moment I started reading this chapter, I was intrigued with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. One sentence that stood out for me in this video is, "We all perceive the same visual reality, but may have different ways of rationalizing it." This is essentially saying that what we see is the same for everyone, but the way we analyze it and perceive it is different. The way we see it is based on the language we speak. Professor Jackendoff shows this when he discusses how different language have different ways of classifying colors. For examples in Japan they would most likely group blue and green together, but in the U.S. they would group them separately. The Sapir-Whorf Theory is a claim that the language you speak influence the way we perceive the world. This video also discusses how your surrounding affects your language and vocabulary, which in a way contradicts the Sapir-Whorf Theory. Language does not determine our reality, but it's reality that determines our language. This is evident in the video when Professor Ray Jackendoff says that "language follows culture." He then shows this when he discusses how Eskimos have more words for snow compared to others. This is because they are constantly surrounded by snow. This shows the importance of words. We need the appropriate vocabulary in order to be able to express our thoughts about a specific situation, object, person, etc. This video has further educated me about the Sapir-Whorf Theory. I think this was an amazing video, because in a way it followed the section of this theory in the TOK textbook, but it expanded more on the essential points. I would most definitely suggest that my classmates watch this video.

the end.


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