In this article, we discuss four obstacles that stand in the way for a productive investigation into the kind of influence that language may have on thinking. The first is that it is impossible to distinguish language from thought, so that the question of possible “influence” is mute. The second is that it is impossible to disentangle language from culture in general, and from social interaction in particular, so that it is impossible to attribute any differences in the thought patterns of the members of different cultures to language per se. The third objection argues that language may affect thinking by expressing new information, but that thesis is either trivial or untenable because of methodological and empirical problems. The fourth is the assumption that since language can potentially influence thought from “not at all” to “completely”, the possible forms of verbal influence can be arranged on a cline, and competing theories can be seen as debating their actual position on this cline. We present counter-arguments to all these claims, and show that the first three do not constitute in principle objections against the project of investigating verbal influence on thought, and the last one is not the best way to frame the empirical challenge at hand. Thus, while we do not argue for any specific type of verbal influence on thought, we claim that it is possible, and thereby intend to clear the way for further investigations into the topic.
|Translated title of the contribution||The Possibility of linguistic Influences on the Thinking|
|Journal||Zeitschrift für Semiotik|
|Publication status||Published - 2013|
Subject classification (UKÄ)
- Languages and Literature