View Full Version : Language shapes the brain

07-13-2007, 07:20 AM
Depending upon our politics, we can laugh at Politically-Correct-Speak, Fox-News-Speak, Bush-Speak, or Orwellian New Speak, but a Yale psychiatry professor argues in a recent book, Brain and Culture (http://www.americanscientist.org/template/BookReviewTypeDetail/assetid/54425;jsessionid=aaaaygoKyn3yU-), that speech really matters because words actually shape our brains. He says the words we use when we are young, by which he means up to the age of twenty or so, actively modulate our brains by participating in the laying down of neural networks. Once these networks are established they become increasingly difficult to change. So what? After all, we all know you can’t teach an old dog a new tricks. The interesting point to me is that he presents evidence that learning to say things one way and not another has permanent effects on the brain, allowing language to shape culture, as well as the other way around.

07-13-2007, 03:31 PM
I could kill you with one finger.

07-13-2007, 04:43 PM
Con una dedo, puedo matar a ti.

07-16-2007, 02:05 AM
Jason Lubyk: You state in Sex, Drugs, Einstein and Elves that “if certain computer languages are more suited for modularity, size, speed or ease of use, could certain human languages be optimized for human growth potential, creativity, memorability, or for communicating one thoughts and emotions.” Have you ever speculated what forms these languages would take, what would differentiate them from our existing languages?

Clifford Pickover: If language and words do shape our thoughts and tickle our neuronal circuits in interesting ways, I sometimes wonder how a child would develop if reared using an “invented” language that was somehow optimized for mind-expansion, emotion, logic, or some other attribute. Perhaps our current language, which evolved chaotically through the millennia, may not be the most “optimal” language for thinking big thoughts or reasoning beyond the limits of our own intuition.

I am not certain what form these special languages would take. However, such languages would probably be most effective if introduced when a child is young – at a time when language acquisition seems to take place more efficiently and effectively. This is a fascinating area of contemplation, given that debates still take place as to whether the biological contribution to our language abilities includes language-specific capacities, such as a universal grammar, which may constrain us. I also wonder if we would need different languages for the differing purposes of memorabilty, creativity, empathy and so forth. Incidentally, we already know that mathematical “languages” can help us reason more clearly – at least for some kinds of mathematical contemplations — than traditional languages.

Because adults will not be fluent in this new language, they might not be good teachers of the language to children. Perhaps artificial entities will be required for the teaching task.

From an interview (http://www.alterati.com/blog/?p=869) linked on BoingBoing a whiles back. —I have not the first idea in the world how one might “optimize” a language, for mind-expansion, emotion, logic, or any other attribute. (The most I’ll allow is how Japanese always sounds like a great language in which to be angry.) —At least Mr. Pickover is himself not laboring under that particular delusion.

(Then, I should have checked his site (http://sprott.physics.wisc.edu/pickover/pc/realitycarnival.html) first; prominently linked up near the top is that godawful list (http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/2007_07_01_archive.html#2846602295158944466) of “Ten Politically Incorrect Truths about Human Nature (http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/pto-20070622-000002.xml)” that Psychology Today ran a few days ago. Shibboleth, shibboleth, tekel, upharsin.)

07-16-2007, 02:42 AM
I've often enjoyed books written in the 1800's. There are longer words, longer sentences and longer paragraphs. I simply delighted to read these types of books. By no means have I the makings of a linguist of any sort, I simply enjoyed that type of writing.

I was born in the '50's and it seems that with the advent of television and computers, language became more concise and "small" ideologically. It made language kind of yucky to me. I don't have a very impressive vocabulary, however, people often ask me why do I use such big words. I don't consciously know that I even do that. And, trust me, they are not really that "big" of words, just sometimes different. To me, those words that they refer to are just normal words. Progressively, we are losing our ability to be expressive, I think.

I have a theory. Whether we humans acknowledge it or not, human capabilities are progressively having to compete with machine capabilities. A previous post referenced the fact that machine languages are more efficient in several, if not many, ways. I believe the day is here, and will soon be dominant, when our languages will all be threatened and machine language will be the modus operandi.

just my 2

10-19-2007, 07:28 AM
Machine language may not allow for the more inferential aspect of writing in a non-definitive way, e.g., (1) "The satin taste of pure ecstasy lasted until the morrow."

Within (1) there was no clear solid object defined because "ecstasy is neither an identifier, nor an object. Satin describes taste, but then there is no real subject noun.

By machine language, an object in existence would had to have been present to make the statement true and not imagined and false in its definition. Machine Language to me would elliminate the expressiveness of speech by leaning towards factual sentences and put a halt to creativity.

(I'm rather new to the study of language so you'll have to excuse my attempt Kdnxdr, but am finding, in the course of learning and analyzing the concept, that my thoughts expand into new areas. It's really fun!) :D