How language shapes the way we think | Lera Boroditsky



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There are about 7,000 languages spoken around the world -- and they all have different sounds, vocabularies and structures. But do they shape the way we think? Cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky shares examples of language -- from an Aboriginal community in Australia that uses cardinal directions instead of left and right to the multiple words for blue in Russian -- that suggest the answer is a resounding yes. "The beauty of linguistic diversity is that it reveals to us just how ingenious and how flexible the human mind is," Boroditsky says. "Human minds have invented not one cognitive universe, but 7,000."Check out more TED Talks:



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A A
A small counterpoint: I am a Russian speaker and having a separate word for light blue always bothered me as arbitrary and unnecessary since the moment I learned it as a kid. Never saw them as different colors.
Adina Budacov
Very very interesting, universitary lesson to listen with mouth open...and btw the dress is to die for...
Alex LG
30 seconds in and i don't like where this seems to be going. I would say I'm communicating with you using language because i have to.... because that is what we've all come to know and expect. However in truth there are far greater ways to communicate aside from verbally. Far greater. \
Ali Aborez
Im a native Venezuelan who learned arabic in Syria and had to migrate to T&T where i improved my horrible english skills.\n\nWhen i talk in spanish i tend to be open minded or atleast thats the most noticeable thing for me?\n\nWhen i talk arabic i feel like im being too specific but thats actually helpfull sometimes when i want to think and concentrate at specific things.\n\nNow the english language is not that bad, it cuts corners and takes the most shortcuts of them all to get to an idea.\nSimple yet so many details are lost but it really does it job when you have a long and complex idea that you want to explain to someone in the least amount of time while keeping the point intact.\n\nYou can actually see it on street signs if you google the ones with long messages you will find that english ones have the least amount of words.\n\nI want more people to learn multiple languages because it really makes you look at your self in a thirdperson kinda way.\n\nNow let me go back and try getting better at english because i know im still horrible at it...(sry 4 mi bad english joke 2018!!!)
Angel Racing Motocross Wear
i Always think to myself, that a new language for us, is much like a new software version for a high end PC... broadening horizons and possibilities...
AngelLestat2
The movie Arrival is all about this.. amazing movie and concept.. \nThis girl remind me the main character, amazing presentation.\nMe hubiera gustado que haya aclarado mejor que para los aborígenes el tiempo pasaba de este a oeste porque así es como se mueve el sol.
Asami S
I can’t get used to Japanese counting system for large numbers. We say six hundred thirty-seven thousand\nfour hundred twenty-three(637,423) in English, but Japanese people say 63万7423. Because they use 「万」(10,000) as one unit
B CC
8:12 it's funny that in our mother tongue - Vietnamese, both the sun and the moon are masculine.
BGFutureBG
How is she 42???
Bhava Tharini
I'm in love with Anthropology, especially Linguistic anthropology ❤️
Bob Aldo
Everyday language exerts a tyranny over us. It affects the thinking even of those we might assume immune from being easily tricked, like theoretical physicists, and most especially philosophers. If you are not sufficiently skeptical of the concepts you casually use, as if they were somehow a \
Carina Mantovani
I absolutely loved her speech. So professionaly, accurately, meaningfully, interestingly and sweetly constructed and delivered. Simply brilliant!
Catherine Armant
Oh lovely. And it is such an important subject.
Chris Hannan
She's pretty much entirely wrong about everything. If she were a 50 year old man she wouldn't get any airtime for this nonsense.
DALU WANG
In chinese. the word \
DJ NatLi
I am a native Cantonese speaker living near Hongkong , I speak Chiese fluently and English in advance level. I can communicate in Italian and studied Russian for my university major. I reallly understand what it said in the video. I also loved the movie \u003cArrival\u003e. How brains will be changed by the languages we spoke.
Daria Romanenko
All this exemples, all this stuff, is was already discovered by different antropologist many years ago... She has just read an anthropology book and make a summary.
David Gould
She's a cognitive scientist, not a linguist, so I suspect we should forgive her clichéd use of \
Deepak Chughani
Do languages shape the way we think, or does the way we think shape our languages?
Dejan Markovic
My brain hurts from disagreement...she makes a lot of erroneous assumptions to serve her argument. Yes, she's right about half the thing, but the other half is just wrong. Our progressive view of time has nothing to do with our proprioception...we actually respect reality with our speech. Also, she used phrases like dark blue and light blue to argue that there is only blue, which is itself ironic, especially given that there are also words like turquoise, teal, navy...seems to me that as soon as someone mentions using fmri, they're immediately given credit for everything they say afterwards...no; you used the frmi to reinforce your assumption...it's not that simple..
Dudi
Tractacus Logico-Philosophicus
Edwin Swezey
I have studied several languages: My native tongue is US English but I have been living in France for a long time. French and English are not that different; but when I participate in a blog (thus written language), people actually hear an \
Evo Immorales
The concept of siniy (dark blue) is also found in Mandaean though they do not have a specific word for it other than 'blue'.
Faiza
This is very interesting. As someone who speaks a few languages I've become aware of my personality differences every time I switch, it's incredibly amusing really. Great talk!
Fuvity
She's so smart. This is a great talk. The dress is very cool
Gardencat
Arrival
Garrick Nehls
As a linguist, I have so many more questions! Like:\n1. Does language affect intellect and intelligence? Are multi-lingual societies smarter than those who only speak one language? Is a person’s cognitive ability more developed if his/her language contains a richer selection of vocabulary? \n2. Does language affect feelings and emotions? If a language doesn’t have words for “love”, can a person still feel it? Or if “I like you” is more acceptable than “I love you” because of their linguistic connotations, how does this affect relationships?
General G. S. Patton
There is this Australian Aboriginal tribe who due to their language (which is dying) are able to pinpoint their direction anywhere . \n\nAnd another indigenous SA tribe perceive time not as linear but as the future being behind and the past being ahead. The future is suppose to be behind you because it is the unknown \n\nBTW I am paraphrasing from this game show called “QI” \n\nhttps://youtu.be/QTOXmgHjlQw o
Greenred Productions - Relaxing Music
Very interesting... and what a dress!
H DONG
7 penguins, regardless of how your languages count, such as 1*7, 2+2+2+1, 3+4, 1+1+1+1+1+1+1 all yield 7. I don't see why a language has the word 'seven' should be seen as the benchmark compared to a language where only, for instance, two and one are available. All in all, you don't need a word seven to count 7 objects!
Hanane Ben belaid
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Hoàng Kim Việt
Control the language = Control the culture :-0
Idontknow WhoIam
as someone who adores Wittgenstein, this was something ive been waiting for tedx to create for a looooooong time
Ike Moon
7:50\nAnother example of this is that English has the color pink whereas some other languages don't
Jed Maegraith
80%of comments are on her dress😂
Jen Buiswalelo
I'm multilingual and I'm always looking to learn new languages... It's kind of way to experience other cultures and places and it's always fun to read in other languages. \nThat dress though 👌
Jo Pao
And then there's the contexts in which you learnt a language... I've learnt English through movies and speaking via internet... which ends me with swearing a lot more in English than I do in French.
Joey Ky
I can speak 5 languages. but the mother tongue is the foundation. no matter what other language you speak, you always refer the structure and way of your mother tongue.
John De León
The fact that half the comments point out how nice is her dress makes me think about the kind of people who watch TED talks.
Julio Cesar Polo
Native spanish speaker here. Sorry but we also say he broke the vase. Just saying =)
Kim Thomas
I am native Korean. I began to learn English when I was 11 or 12 years old. Back then, the very first impression of a Korean boy over English is that... English is very inefficient language and is really really primitive. \n\nIn the Korean language, we rarely use the subect of a sentence in spoken Korean, if the subject is apparent to both parties. We omit anything in a Korean sentence as long as that missing part is known to both speaker and listener. We do not have gender in Korean nouns. We do not tell singular from plural, if that is not important in the given context. Also, most Korean words have a single meaning... One word means one thing, not 10s of widely different meanings. \n\nAs the lady pointed out... \
Leonar T
nobody comment her beautiful crystal clear eyes ?
Lina Bnz
So basically she's talking about the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis?
Link Chen
Since I am a Chinese, Japanese and English speaker, I understand what Professor Boroditsky said. \nEven my Chinese is kind of the Japanese style now. Language really can change the way you think.
Louvie
English is a very straight language, very direct.\nI know it's easier for me to express in english than it is in my native language, and I really appreciate that.\nI also appreciate the complexity and the beauty of my language, especially in poetry and medieval fictions.\nIt's amazing how perception change from one language to another, and I've bearly scratched the surface.
Luis Cantero
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Marcus Vachon
I love intelligent people. This intelligent woman exuded an inner and outer beauty.
Marketing Department
I find this teasingly provocative. I hope the speaker has written or is writing an in depth book about this subject. Its highly relevent to thought processes and cognitive expansion.
Matthieu Ahmed
ohh,, she looks like Sandra Bullock!
Maxwell Smart_086
Goethe was a grand master of words. Reading is much more important than watching TV - which makes us stupid. BUT (there is always a Bud (-weiser)). IF you are having kids - talking is VERY important. And being a great role model. THINK.
Mo Green
Comments about the dress. She could have worn a very plain dress but she must have worn this for a reason. I think that dress opened the way for us to start thinking about what she is saying.
Mon P.
When I speak my tone of voice changes in different languages. When I speak English, I'm more high pitched, Spanish is my mother language so that'd be neutral and French my voice lowers. I studied Japanese in college and my way of thinking had to \
Morten Nielsen
7000 languages in the world. She thinks it's sad that they are disappearing. I think the opposite. I think mankind should work towards speaking only english and maybe also spanish. I am currently learning my 5th language (spanish), not out of interest but out of need. Learning a language is hard and borring. Imagine how much better the communication in the world would be if there were only one language! And imagine how much time and energy would be releashed to learn other more interesting and useful things.
Mr. Handsome
My mind is the shape of a tesseract. can language change it to a penteract?
Nick Bouvy
Funny that I see it the other way around. The way we think effects our language. I’m sure it has to work both ways
Nordeen Abdellah
Beautiful scientist. As beautiful as her presentation about language. I think she is Ph. D. in linguistics.
One Who Loves Venison
French people, when stating their age, say “J’ai ___ ans”, which directly translates to “I have ___ years”. Age is something you possess, not something you are.
Ornela Šapina
But is it the language that predicts our cognitive abilities, or is the culture? And what is the relation between culture and language? I've been thinking a lot about the way cultures shapes our way of thinking, never how the language does it, though. I could imagine that it is the culture in the first place, especially our environment, practices and our moral concepts, that shapes our language, and not the other way around. From this point of view, it would make more sense to talk about the effects of culture on our cognitive abilities.
Ozbakar Marc
culture ==\u003e cognition ==\u003e language ==\u003e culture ==\u003e language ==\u003e cognition ==\u003e culture ==\u003e cognition ==\u003e language = ... \n\nYou know, it is like the story of the egg and the chicken, who came first ? \n\nWithout the study of paradoxes, you can't understand the complexity of intercorrelation between language, culture and cognition.
Reef
this woman is elegant and beautiful :)
Remo Rickli
Watch Arrival (2016)
Renegade the Rapper
She's smart but she could have gone into much more detail. I learned very little at all, and most of it was common sense. Sorry, not impressed. Although I'm less and less impressed with Ted talks over the years.
Sentient
Similar nuances can also be found in music, especially jazz.
SuicideBunny6
The Sapir-Whorf theory is indeed fascinating! I love learning (about) languages!
Sunny shah
If you can walk the talk, why can't you talk the walk .
TheLeadersTeacher
I am from East Africa Now I know why I thought All Americas are crazy. Knowledge is a power. Thank You very much
TheLegend 27
So i have this thought what if everybody has their own language, like what if i say \
Thiago Melo Idiomas
In other words: The more languages you speak, the broader are the experiences you can feel and notice.
Tim Greenstein
Leras voice is so soothing and I love her work and dry humor. Great stuff
Tina S
we used to think that humans were worse than other creatures. Who is we??????????What is the essence of your theories because I do not get it. How is this supposed to enlighten people??????HUmans are very powerful and very intelligent by their true nature. When some people started to tell lies to other people many people lost their human abilities especially those who tell lies. People are not supposed to lie.
Tristan Möller
If one culture couldn’t discover algebra because of their language missing number words, I wonder what our language misses and what we have yet to discover due to that.
Ultima Thule
There is one important thing she didn't mention: the gender of gramar constructs. For example in English a man and a woman will say exactly the same phrase: \
Valeria
As a native Spanish speaker, I disagree with what she said about describing a bridge (and other masculine nouns) with stereotypically masculine adjectives and not blaming people. I would describe a bridge (puente) as beautiful (bonito) and elegant (elegante) with no problem, and it is not uncommon at all. Furthermore, I would also say \
Valeriable
Very thought-provoking, especially for a multilingual as me (I'm trilingual, - swedish, russian and english).
Vitor Oliveira
I disagre.
Vulvotron Tremblay
a while ago i was stuck using a broken keyboard with one crucial key(s or e) missing for two weeks and a different keyboard with yet a another different key missing for an extra week and i remember noticing subtle but increasingly frequent \
Yusuf
This is so damn interesting, love learning languages!
ajay kumar
I badly want to learn that language from the Arrival movie.
angus0580
Language doesn't create the way we think, it reveals it.
anirudh sharma
I speak 4 languages. Well isn't this how the langauges were developed under the influence of people and land that gave rise to them? You end up saying what you feel, no wait! rather how you *were taught* to feel. What she is explaining can only be experienced by multilingual speakers. I am not sure if Language shapes the way we think rather its a code stored over generations that teaches us on how to think or feel about a particular thing, event etc. Point here is not to take everything for granted and be open to other cultures and outlooks ;))
daywalkerin
She is so precise, so sharp, makes it so easy to follow her and I am simply amazed. This is one of the best TED talks I have ever heard and you can clearly tell she's smart af.\nAnd at the same time I am shocked by how many people are refering to her dress, that she's pretty or cute. Damn, if you are that badass and give a brilliant talk and these are the things that stick with the people... I wish people would understand how frustrating this can be.
dimercury
Очень примитивный и дилетантский взгляд на лингвистику, на мой взгляд. Лектор чуть свысока, с позиций \
dzsende
It shapes a lot.\nMy native language is hungarian.\nEvery time I want to speak in english, I have to downgrade my thoughts, and try to walk around what I exactly want to tell.\nEvery time I can hear english speaking, I have to upgrade those thoughts for a more clearer understanding.\nHungarian is an agglutinative language and it has thousands of years ahead the todays known assimilated languages like english.\nThe difference is huge between the agglutinated and the assimilated languages.\nSimply just because the possibilities are almost endless when you can use tags and affixes before and after a word. You can create millions of different words from thousands of words.\nLike the word:\nelmosolyodik\nmosoly: smile\nel-: starting (to smile)\n-ik(odik): he or she\nThe whole word means about: He or she is starting to smile a kind of a - lovely, cute - different way. When you can notice he or she likes you.
em diar
Fascinating, as I have said exactly the same thing when comparing English (my mother tongue) and Dutch (in which I am fluent and speak every day).\nIn English we might say \
fmdxua
Hi! My native language is Ukrainian. I liked this speech of Lera Boroditsky. It's very interesting topic. But in my opinion this phenomenon was described not enough deep. It was said nothing about feeling yourself when you speak in non-native language. The reason is in your native language you think using templates and associations which you have got since your childhood. But when you teach some foreign language being an adult you are free and you can get absolutely another exepience using this new language. Even your temperament could be changed when you are thinking and speaking in some non-native language.
genesis bustamante
2:02 That room needs a little bit of Patriarchy in there.
holy shit
that made me realize how powerful language can be
kbjjdan
At least she's doesn't seem to be a feminazi like 90% of the women who do a speech on TED.
kelly Johnson
I speak both English and sign language. A sign language uses 3D space so it causes the brain to think in pictures and story boards. Therefore I've noticed that signers who even use huge varieties of completely unrelated sign languages tend to communicate in stories. If you ask someone a question about what happened it has become a sort of joke that they often start with \
mV Castel
I’m an interpreter (and multilingual anyway) and the content from this video blew my mind and made my day. You speak well and I want to research this topic more. Thank you 😊
mtwo mthree
the MALTESE Language is a winner as it's made up of approximately 7 languages and we get to understand so many other languages because of the foundation of the maltese language! thank you for this very in depth understanding of what languages also stand for, apart from communication, as we really do need to understand the origins of each countries language origin! VISIT MALTA-it's AMAZING
onee
3:42 This, this exact reasoning! I hate all these pseudo biologist explanations. \
ren
I'm a native Indonesian speaker. When I speak in english in an argument I usually win, because maybe I know how to shift the blame from myself. When I speak in Bahasa, I usually forget what am I trying to defend and lose focus on the topic.\n\n\nWhen I get mad I am more calm when speaking english. Yet when I am speaking my own language I am more tend to use curse words and abandon logic.
sutil Al
it is exageration .. except the number absance which may influence their thought, though I doubt that they have no numbers at all
vaanan navin
East or west tamil is best....
wolseyn
On a slightly different but possibly connected note: I live in Germany and watch many English- and German-language news broadcasts and talk shows etc. \n\nThe grammatical structure of spoken German sentences is more formal than that of English, making English more flexible.\n\nI have noticed that, in English-speaking broadcasts, many speakers (who do not read their lines from a script) incessantly stutter with \
Легенда 1960х
То чувство когда говорит твоя одноязычница...
सार्थक कुमार
हिन्दी भाषा / Hindi Language\n\n१२३४५६७८९०\nअ आ इ ई उ ऊ ऋ\nए ऐ ओ औ अं अः\nक ख ग घ ङ\nच छ ज झ ञ\nट ठ ड ढ ण\nत थ द ध न\nप फ ब भ म\nय र ल व\nश ष स ह\nक्ष त्र ज्ञ\n\nक्या हिन्दी एक सुंदर भाषा है? / Is Hindi a beautiful Language?
天皇
I am a native Japanese speaker, I truly agree with this idea!! When I think in English, I feel more reasonable and more computational. And in the case of French, more accurate and more abstract than them. I think it is very difficult to guarantee the equality of all language speakers at the same time as preserving the language. English has gained status as a global language as an established fact. The use of my poor english is one example.
갱미몬
Her speech is so interesting. I love her confidence :)