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  1. #1
    Queen hunter Virtual ghost's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Languages and psychology

    For sometime I am thinking about opening this thread.
    I don't want this to be a rant it is just that it could sound like it to some people. I would not be suprised that only people who know more languages will post here, but I am also interested in opinions of people who speak only English.



    I am interested in how language effects our picture of the world and thinking process and what people think about the idea that some languges are better in saying certain things.



    Here I am writting on English but my thinking process is quite different then the process of most people on this forum since many are from English speaking countries. I what I am interested in is how much difference there is and how nuch we are not aware of it.


    My native language is Croatian which is quite different from English in many aspects. The real translation is actually impossible so all the time I am actually gambling when I type posts since order of words must change.
    Many words have more meanings in both languages so I am not always sure that I am hiting the point. People understand it but it looks to me that they are not getting it 100% (and this is not their fault).
    Also I think that when I post in English I am actually hidding large piece of me and I am not showing myself for what I really am.


    Here are some examlpes of the differences.

    On English ocean is rated as it, but on Croatian it is rated as he.
    On English apple is rated as it, but on Croatian it is rated as she.

    And there are countless examples of this. This works for almost all nouns.


    I have said that some languages are better for saying something. Here is what I mean by this.

    On this forum many times it happened that people are not aware of other peoples gender. Like in the case of Nolla.

    But in Croatian this can't happen since words are modified for genders so you are always aware of the gender of a person about who you are hearing about. (if the person is posting/saying correct information)


    More theoretical example of this would be the word "friend" since in Croatian there are different words one for a female friend and one for a male friend.
    Same is with word "uncle" since there are two words for it one for a fathers side of a family one for mothers side of a family.


    Even the alphabet is not the same. In Croatian there is no X,Y,W or Q but there are other letters, like ?,?,Š,?,Ž . There are even letters made of two symbols like Lj, Nj or Dž .


    The main thing about Croatian is that words are not so "static" as in Englsh.
    English is more like playing with pieces of a puzzle while in Croatian words morph on many different ways. This is the main reason why translation is such a gamble. In a way this is only a tip of the iceberg but it enough that people understand actual topic.


    For people who don't know Croatian is similar to Russian.


    So my question for all people whose native language is English:
    Do you sometime notice that English is somewhat too simple to state your thoughts in a right way without saying large number of words,
    or do you not know for anything else and use what you have/know?
    (if you don't know any other language)

    What would point in a direction that our thinking process is quite different.
    If you think that there is a difference in this how would you deffine it?

    On the other hand English is much easier to learn then Croatian.


    This was when you compare English and Croatian in short and it would be interesting to compare other languages as well.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Gauche's Avatar
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    Well, you know, I'm from central Europe as well, so I know what are you talking about. Slavic language here too.

    But actually to the topic - I don't think so much in language, instead I think more on a conceptual basis (one could name it "visually" - so not so related to language). You know, I have some basic idea in my mind, and if I want to express it, I must somehow translate it to language. What I find to be a possible difficulty is to convey exact meaning of what I have in my mind through words. In that point I find english somehow appealing. Maybe even more than my native language. You know, our slavic languages are more complex, and what I have to say - more literal. Like you said, a friend is not like a friend in our languages. We can very accurately define if it is male or female (actually there are 2 expressions). English is more vague. But actually it is what I like about english. There is bigger tolerancy to match your thoughts. In my case, you know, my thoughts are pretty vague; or to say it differently - it's somehow more easy for me to translate thoughts into english than into my slavic language. Maybe because english is simpler and somehow more intuitive, and hence easier to asseble into sentences.
    Like I said, my basic understanding of things is not given by language, but it's conceptual, so language is not so important in my thinking processes, and thus it won't influence the way I think so much. I would say then, that english fits better my conceptually based thinking, maybe because it's more vague and intuitive, the same as conceptual thinking is.

    To sum it up simply - For me, languages are only tools to encode my thougths into expressable form. Though english is not my first language, It is more comfortable for me to encode my thoughts into english, than into my primary - slavic - language. (Though some thoughts are more easily expressable in my slavic language for me of course. It's not only black and white)

  3. #3
    Senior Member aufs klo's Avatar
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    The two thing I've always wondered are how a language's vocabulary, and grammatical structure effect creative thought. English has a huge variety of words to choose from in every situation, each conveying a slightly different meaning or feel to the sign it's modifying; some languages only have small reserve of words. Would a larger vocabulary lead to a more creative thought process? more specific? more emotional?
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    Senior Member Leysing's Avatar
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    Hey, this is an interesting topic! I have studied some grammatical things as I am very interested in languages.

    My first language is Finnish.

    Regarding genders, Finnish seems to be something like the opposite of Croatian, because we don't have grammatical genders (neither has English, but German, French, Swedish etc have) and we have only one people-referring 3rd singular personal pronoun that is used for both genders ("hän"). (It has been argued that this would have contributed to the equality of genders here.) This sometimes causes problems in translation when the gender is unknown in Finnish, as most languages have different pronouns for the two genders. I've seen that it is also confusing to Finnish people to start studying these languages, because some of us see this kind of "separation" unnecessary and sometimes even annoying. (No, I'm not talking about myself - this doesn't really bug me. However, genders of personal pronouns have caused many fiery debates during my foreign language classes.)

    Another thing that makes translation difficult is that Finnish uses word order to imply different things in sentences. When translating from Finnish to English we have to add new words and use different expressions to convey the original message.
    From Wikipedia:
    "'minulla on rahaa' = 'I have money' (a bald statement of fact)
    'rahaa minulla on' = 'money is something I do have' (although I may not have something else)
    'rahaa on minulla' = 'The money is with me' (I am telling you where the money is)
    'minulla rahaa on' = 'I've definitely got (the) money' (I am confirming that I do have (the) money)
    'on minulla rahaa' = 'Yes, I do have (the) money' (if having money has been questioned)"

    Finnish words also morph a lot. Finnish uses suffixes (-a, -en, -iin etc) instead of grammatical particles (some, of, to...) and in order to change the actual word meaning. There is this stupid word (that is cut in the middle because the forum has problems with long words) that could be used as an example of the phenomenon:
    "epäjärjestelmällistyttämä ttömyydellänsäkäänköhän" = not even with his/her ability to not to make a thing unsystematic + the talker is doubting

    Regarding words, Finnish is even more vague than English, because it has a quite limited vocabulary compared to several other languages. This, I think, is somehow compensated by the complexity of grammar. (When I speak English, I talk with words. When I speak Finnish, I talk with structures.)
    Last edited by Leysing; 12-13-2008 at 11:25 AM. Reason: Problems with long words

  5. #5
    Queen hunter Virtual ghost's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aufs klo View Post
    The two thing I've always wondered are how a language's vocabulary, and grammatical structure effect creative thought. English has a huge variety of words to choose from in every situation, each conveying a slightly different meaning or feel to the sign it's modifying; some languages only have small reserve of words. Would a larger vocabulary lead to a more creative thought process? more specific? more emotional?
    In the Croatian, there is also a lot of words to chose from. Many word that exist in English exists in Croatian also.

    Because words on english do not morph so much. so the english is the one that need less creativity. (if you ask me)

    For example when you are debating on Croatian you can have much sharper argument and there is much more options to use because language is more complex.

  6. #6
    Kickin' Ass since 1984 GargoylesLegacy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aufs klo View Post
    The two thing I've always wondered are how a language's vocabulary, and grammatical structure effect creative thought. English has a huge variety of words to choose from in every situation, each conveying a slightly different meaning or feel to the sign it's modifying; some languages only have small reserve of words. Would a larger vocabulary lead to a more creative thought process? more specific? more emotional?
    Hm, actually I always kinda feel like German for example has less words than English. I always find I can express myself MUCH better in English than German. that's why I often use English words in the middle of my German sentences.
    Also I think Swissgerman has more variety than German. Or Italian has more than French. Those are some of the languages I can speak. Hm, but English might beat them all. Another reason why I like to write blogs and stuff better in English, actually. So I would definitely say it leads to more creativity etc. =)


    Oh and those facts about Finnish where really interesting, Leysing. I was always pretty interested in that language. ^^
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  7. #7
    Senior Member aufs klo's Avatar
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    I've heard exactly the same thing from many German's I've known! I think German has something like 350,000 words, and English is 600,000 (but growing by thousands of words every year)--I could be waaay off, but I believe I've seen those numbers somewhere.
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  8. #8
    Protocol Droid Athenian200's Avatar
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    My take on English is that it's mostly geared for presenting facts and opinions, and piecing them together to make a picture.

    I've never really spoken other languages, but I have a few guesses.

    I think Latin is geared towards giving you a picture first, and then using the word's connections and relationships to one another to indicate facts and opinions (backwards from how English works).

    Japanese seems to be built on concepts and metaphors rather than facts and opinions. There's the sense that most of the words indicate the result of juxtaposing two concepts in a particular way, or are simply a basic concept in themselves.

    German... mostly seems to be focused on connections between facts and opinions presented like English, though not as much on the picture made out of them.

    This is a purely subjective impression, mind you, and could be totally wrong. I'm also aware that each language can be used for all these things, I'm just describing what they seem to be geared towards in a broad way.

  9. #9
    Senior Member aufs klo's Avatar
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    Interesting way to think about it... I've alwas thought English was such a free language though. There's no International Governing Body, so it is a little more fluid. You can pretty much say anything however you want it (i.e. You can say what you want any way you want). Manipulating even the smallest little part of a sentence, or presenting one idea in a different place, can give you a totally different effect.
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  10. #10
    Member Cameigons's Avatar
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    Interesting thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Antisocial one View Post
    For sometime I am thinking about opening this thread.
    I don't want this to be a rant it is just that it could sound like it to some people. I would not be suprised that only people who know more languages will post here, but I am also interested in opinions of people who speak only English.



    I am interested in how language effects our picture of the world and thinking process and what people think about the idea that some languges are better in saying certain things.



    Here I am writting on English but my thinking process is quite different then the process of most people on this forum since many are from English speaking countries. I what I am interested in is how much difference there is and how nuch we are not aware of it.


    My native language is Croatian which is quite different from English in many aspects. The real translation is actually impossible so all the time I am actually gambling when I type posts since order of words must change.
    Many words have more meanings in both languages so I am not always sure that I am hiting the point. People understand it but it looks to me that they are not getting it 100% (and this is not their fault).
    Also I think that when I post in English I am actually hidding large piece of me and I am not showing myself for what I really am.
    An uncomfortable feeling that I have all the time while expressing myself in written english, is that I'm unable to 'fine-tune' with the language. I tiptoe all the time trying to "tame" the subtleties so I can better express, but sometimes I just don't know how to pass the message. I don't know enough slangs, idiomatic expressions, subtle ironies, and other things which are hard to put in words themselves. I'm sure that if I lived in an english speaking country for a while I would learn that...


    Here are some examlpes of the differences.

    On English ocean is rated as it, but on Croatian it is rated as he.
    On English apple is rated as it, but on Croatian it is rated as she.

    And there are countless examples of this. This works for almost all nouns.


    I have said that some languages are better for saying something. Here is what I mean by this.

    On this forum many times it happened that people are not aware of other peoples gender. Like in the case of Nolla.

    But in Croatian this can't happen since words are modified for genders so you are always aware of the gender of a person about who you are hearing about. (if the person is posting/saying correct information)

    My native language is portuguese, and I speak french much better than english. Both languages have gender for words, like your native tongue.
    Interesting you citing Nolla, I haven't thought about it I guess, but now that you pointed it out, I can totally see why many people could be confused. maybe that's because I have a little knowledge of finnish/estonian and their names, so as soon I as saw "Location: Finland" as a reflex I contextualized his nick.

    More theoretical example of this would be the word "friend" since in Croatian there are different words one for a female friend and one for a male friend.
    Same is with word "uncle" since there are two words for it one for a fathers side of a family one for mothers side of a family.


    Even the alphabet is not the same. In Croatian there is no X,Y,W or Q but there are other letters, like ?,?,Š,?,Ž . There are even letters made of two symbols like Lj, Nj or Dž .


    The main thing about Croatian is that words are not so "static" as in Englsh.
    English is more like playing with pieces of a puzzle while in Croatian words morph on many different ways. This is the main reason why translation is such a gamble. In a way this is only a tip of the iceberg but it enough that people understand actual topic.


    For people who don't know Croatian is similar to Russian.


    So my question for all people whose native language is English:
    Do you sometime notice that English is somewhat too simple to state your thoughts in a right way without saying large number of words,
    or do you not know for anything else and use what you have/know?
    (if you don't know any other language)

    What would point in a direction that our thinking process is quite different.
    If you think that there is a difference in this how would you deffine it?

    On the other hand English is much easier to learn then Croatian.


    This was when you compare English and Croatian in short and it would be interesting to compare other languages as well.
    Well, I'm not native a english speaker.
    I think English has somewhat simpler grammar rules. And for some ideas you need more words, for others less. Definitely our thinking process is affected by the language we use... I'm gonna organize my specific thoughts about that, and I'll post something later.

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