Language and Mind: How the Languages We Speak Shape the Ways We Think

Language and Mind: How the Languages We Speak Shape the Ways We Think


Humans communicate with one another using 7,000 or so different languages, and each language differs from the next in innumerable ways. Do people who speak different languages think differently? Do languages merely express thoughts, or do they secretly shape the very thoughts we wish to express? Are some thoughts unthinkable without language? The question of whether the languages we speak shape the ways we think has been at the center of controversy for centuries, and with good reason. At stake are basic questions all of us have about ourselves, human nature, and reality. Why do we think the way we do? Why does the world appear to us the way it does? Are we able to directly perceive reality? I will discuss research conducted around the world and focus on how language shapes the way we think about color, space, time, causality, and agency. Language is a uniquely human gift. The study of language provides a peek at the very nature of human nature. As we understand how languages and their speakers differ from one another, we discover how we ourselves think, why we think that way, and why the world appears to us the way it does. Coming to understand linguistic and cognitive diversity reveals to us the ingenuity of the human mind, invites us to consider the perspectives of others and dares us to imagine how we ourselves could think differently.

  • Dialogue 30
    19 sessions
  • December 15, 2015
    Sera Monastery, Bylakuppe, India
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Lera Boroditsky

Lera Boroditsky, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of California-San Diego and Editor in Chief of Frontiers in Cultural Psychology. She previously served on the faculty at MIT and at Stanford. Her research investigates the relationships between mind, world, and language. She has been named one of 25 Visionaries changing the world by the Utne Reader, and is also a Searle Scholar, a McDonnell scholar, recipient of an NSF Career award, and an APA Distinguished Scientist lecturer.