Ling Essay - Narayan 1 Greg Narayan Ling 109 Wayne Harbert...

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Narayan 1 Greg Narayan Ling 109 Wayne Harbert Homework #3 3/19/05 Sapir vs. Pinker: Does Language Dictate Thought? One can attempt to explain the relationship between the language of a society and the thoughts of those in that society in a variety of ways. No two situations in which our thoughts lead directly to our actions are the same, and it can be argued that certain thoughts of ours are a direct result of our language, while others are more innate and due to natural instincts. The grey area that exists when trying to determine exactly how much our thoughts and the thoughts of societies throughout the world are affected by the standard vernacular can be made clearer by the theories of men such as Edward Sapir and Steven Pinker, however certain questions still exist. Can the attitudes of a society truly be manipulated by the language at its disposal, or are we all simply the same form of animal whose range of thoughts and feelings are universal? In my opinion, the answer to this question incorporates aspects of both Sapir and Pinker’s theories. Situations which require our basic instincts and a quicker form of analysis involve thoughts and decisions which are independent of our particular language, however in nearly all other cases it is our language which introduces, guides, and solidifies the concepts that occupy our minds and dictate our actions through everyday life. Pinker’s theory applies best to instances in which our thoughts are the result of raw desires, needs, or feelings. To summarize his argument, Pinker states that humans do not think in individual languages, but rather in a universal form of thought, called
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Narayan 2 “mentalese”. Say for example that a man has been starving for nearly two days, and is then presented with a hot, delicious, meal.
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