Im not sure if a baby does see differences in hues but without a word label, is not compelled to attend to the subtle differences. Perhaps the label punctuates the sense of the difference, highlighting it as a something worthy of placing greater attention on it. Also, language is a social event in that it is given from one person, on some form of communication to another. When we are given a word, it is from another, and the use of that word, in addition to directing our attention to highlight objects, may involve the motivation to participate in, and belong to another or group. Perhaps language doesn’t so much create the perception as much as it ampligies our expand the difference’s dimensions and importance as it facilitates our entry into the social world.
Are you sure you don’t mean 想象/想象力 or 幻想 or 设想 or 构想 ?
If those concepts are still not equal to “imagination”, I would like to know how they aren’t.
Please enlighten me.
I remember teaching a class in China when English was being implemented into education there and I realised there was no equivalent word for imagination. Not even as a concept. Needless to say I spent the rest of the class trying to teach the concept. From that day onward my class changed. It was like I had imparted a secret. Everyday I used to get pages of writing from all my students ( my night reading their words). The opposite is also true. When I learnt the word for cup in chinese my view changed instantly and my ability to understand Chinese was forever changed too. I agree how we conceptualize language and understand semantics affects our cognitive ability to derive meaning, understanding, and order in our world.
I remember teaching a class in China when English was being implemented into education there and I realised there was no equivalent word for imagination. Not even as a concept. a form necessary for creativity. Needless to say I spent the rest of the class trying to teach the concept. From that day onward my class changed. It was like I had imparted a secret. Everyday I used to get pages of writing from all my students ( my night reading their words). The opposite is also true. When I learnt the word for cup in chinese my view changed instantly and my ability to understand Chinese was forever changed too. I agree how we conceptualize language affects our cognitive ability to derive meaning understanding, and order in our world.
I’m reminded of the story of Hellen Keller describing how, when she first ‘got’ the word Water, as her teacher signed in her hand under the pump flow “It was as if the whole world occured” in that instant, in a space that was previously dark and undefined. Her teacher described it as if a light had turned on in Helen’s face.
When you realize that not everyone defines words, especially subjective words, such as JOY, FUN, etc., the same way, it can be liberating. I struggled with clinical depression all my life. Questions designed to pinpoint the depths of one’s depression typically use these subjective words – How frequently did you experience JOY or FUN today (this week/month/etc.)? The answer always depressed me – never or rarely. As a member of MENSA and a college professor, I’m generally considered to be somewhat bright, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I thought to question the meaning of these subjective words. For whatever reason, I have always ascribed the meaning of FUN or JOY to include adrenaline-producing events: skiing, rides at amusement parks, etc. So, no, I don’t experience these particular feelings frequently (I’m in my 60s). But that doesn’t mean I’m feeling depressed!
I spent an afternoon painting a picture, and my sister asked me if I’d had fun. No, I don’t consider painting “fun.” It’s like writing – it’s immersive and can provide feelings of accomplishment, of frustration, of pride. But FUN? NO!
Once I realized that there was a major difference in my definition of these subjective words and that of psychologists and others of their ilk, I (and my doc) found that I was far healthier (mentally) than I’d thought.
So, I’d say that YES, language can affect perception!
The development of language and thought is iterative( Vygotsky; Piaget),and culturally/ socially influenced. This can be observed in young toddlers as they make successive approximations toward the adult demonstrations of both in their environment.If the demonstrations are rich and varied the ability to conceptualizer and express will be enhanced and expanded. This is a critical underpinning for schooling curricula and practice.
& what about not just need language compared to another but thinking & remembering in language compared to passing into deeper layers of consciousness to the language-free depths of meditation? That’s where the big difference is, that language itself, in the surface layers of consciousness mediates, filters, prismatically splits our perception, from the free space of Awareness Itself, Consciousness Itself, rather that contracting around the contents of consciousness, as objects, things including the very identification of “I” with the body, which is another object in Consciousness…this is what non-dual Realization is all about whether in Hinduism, Zen or Tibetan Buddhism, or in Christian mystics such as Meister Eckart, gnosticism, of Sufi mystics, or Jewish Kabbalah, all of which say that at the deepest level the ultimate Reality is imageless!
The problem with translating from one language to another is the difference in conceptual possibilities. A concept has to be put into words to be understood. Different languages offer different possibilities, sometimes making it very hard to explain a concept in another language. Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander explain that quite well in “Surfaces and Essences”.
“When the only tool you have is a hammer every problem looks like a nail. The same can be said about language.”
I totally disagree with this :-( If the only tool you have is a hammer, you will need to work out some other option for dealing with your problem. Same with language -if you don’t have a ‘word’ for what you want to say, either use a sentence or borrow a word from another language
I suspect that it is totally the other way around. That our perception shapes our language.
And that because I am often frustrated when I can find no word in English that adequately describes what I want to say.
Often this lack of one’s own language leads to ‘borrowings’ from other languages.
A quick end note…..
When the only tool you have is a hammer every problem looks like a nail. The same can be said about language.
Very interesting subject. You do a very good job at presenting the objective aspects of languages (in terms of colors) but I think you would find more information by studying subjective elements of language and vocabulary. I spend time with son reading French and we have to go through linguistic gymnastics to translate text for intended meeting as opposed to literal translation. To speak French you have to think French. Communicating in French is not the same as communicating in English. The subjective content of what is being communicated in not the same even though the point being expressed is similar. The translation is not linear.
Concepts like Schadenfreude could have just been coincidental or they could have cultural in origin based on perception. Here are list of unique and interesting words spawned by different perceptions:
My wife is a teacher and before a new unit they learn vocabulary for the unit. This is required as it creates the reference frame for the students to examine and report findings (their perceptions). Without this vocabulary their perceptions would be imprecise. As a scientist I wrote my thesis and and had it edited by my an arts major. He continually pointed out that I was making up words (and grammar) to express my observations and results that made no linguistic sense in language context but accurately reflected what I was trying to express which the thesis review board had no issues with.
I would also recommend a review of subject/object relations. Objectively things are the same (in terms of physical properties) but subjectively (values and importance assigned to objects) things are viewed differently by people and cultures. This varying balance can affect perceptions.
A recent article by Starre Vartan about findings by researchers of the Lund University notes: “The people who speak Jedek are settled hunter-gatherers, and their language may influence — or reflect — other aspects of their culture. (You can hear the language in the video above.) As detailed by the linguists, “There are no indigenous verbs to denote ownership such as borrow, steal, buy or sell, but there is a rich vocabulary of words to describe exchanging and sharing.”
If culture shapes language – is this not quite likely then that language will shape perception as well?
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