• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

A study of language, regarding possible influences on thought?

Extracts from this document...


A study of language, regarding possible influences on thought? There is an undeniable connection between thought and language. And as thought is so crucial to our knowledge, a study of our language itself is necessary. This essay examines how our language might affect our thought. In doing so, I shall examine the question, 'what is language?'. So, what is language? Etymologists, those who study language (in how it develops and changes), generally agree that language first started developing thirty thousand to a hundred and fifty thousand years ago. It began when, by an evolutionary chance, the oesophagus moved in human beings. This did two things: firstly it made them very prone to choking (this is often taken as proof that the ability to speak is innate in human beings - for if benefits of speech were not developed quickly this should have died out almost immediately in accordance with the theory of evolution) and secondly it dramatically increased the range of sounds they could produce orally. ...read more.


Language is very vague and words can have myriads of meanings. In the English language, the word 'set' has fifty eight non-obsolete uses as a noun, one hundred and twenty eight as a verb and ten as a participial adjective. The Oxford English Dictionary uses sixty thousand words, including abbreviations and symbols, to define it - and 'set' is by no means alone. The fact that language reflects its environment means that when someone has an original thought they often have to come up with an entirely new vocabulary to explain it. An example of this would be the concept of the 'big bang'. When the idea originated, the language used to describe it was completely new and very few understood it. As the theory grew in popularity, its language was accepted into common usage. However, when the majority of the populace does not concern itself with that idea, the vocabulary become jargon, to be known only by experts. Language reflects or needs of it. ...read more.


Look, they say, at when we are 'lost for words' or the words are on the 'tip of our tongue': we know what we're thinking but can't say it. Another example would be that we can often imagine in our heads as an image something - for example, the beginning of the universe - but can't describe it. This theory states language is created by thought, although language may later by used as a means through which to think. Many etymologists would agree with this theory as it complies with their theory on how language develops: you see something, you think about it and then you develop language to convey these thoughts and to clarify them. So, our language is shaped by the world around us, and our thoughts are shaped by our language. So our thoughts are influenced, not just out of practicality, but empirically by our surroundings. For if we are not familiar with a concept or object or person then we are unlikely to have the language to describe it: and if we don't have the language then we are unlikely to be able to think about something properly, even if we wished to. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge essays

  1. Does Language Determine or Limit Thought?

    quote, 'The limits of my language mean the limits of my world', supports this theory in saying thoughts are determined in language so our thoughts are limited to the frame that language provides us.10 If the Sapir-Whorf theory states that language determines thought, then how come sometimes we have a

  2. Does language determine or limit thought?

    On the other hand, a counter argument for linguistic determinism might be that thought could bring about the creation of a word; for instance, during a theory of knowledge lesson we were asked to come up with a word for the feeling you get when sitting on a chair that is still warm from someone's bottom.

  1. Does language affect thought

    This leads us to further evidence that thinking without language is possible; when people fail to find appropriate words for any thought, it proves they their not able to put their thought into language. The thought is not put into language by its owner because it is not fully expressible

  2. TOK essay: The vocabulary we have does more than communicate our language, it shapes ...

    life, has developed their vocabulary to have several words for describing different kinds of snow. Hence the claim could be made that what we know shapes our vocabulary. The claim of what we know and experience developing our vocabulary can also however be flipped around.

  1. Is it possible to think without language? How does language facilitate, extend, direct or ...

    If Korean and English men saw a spoon and a towel touching the Koreans will notice if they are holding each other tightly or loosely while the English will see if the spoon is on the towel or not.

  2. To what extent is language necessary for thought?

    We call it a car instead of "an engine driving the wheels with a body attached to carry passengers", to make it easier for us to transfer the thought within our mind and to others. Also, by calling it a car, we have differentiated the object from a train or a bike, both being other types of transportation.

  1. TOK essay- Can language be said to hinder thought?

    Some common stereotypes are: Asians have high IQs. They are smarter than most in Math and Science. These people are more likely to succeed in school, French are romantic, Irish are alcoholics, Russians are violent, African Americans play basketball, and Immigrants have poor English etc.

  2. To what extent is it possible to have thought without language?

    Thought is the product of mental activity or mental activity in itself and language is a form of visual and auditory communication considered to be intimately human.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work