Linguistic relativity, language games, universal grammar

We understand what linguistic relativity is and what languages confirm its existence.

In the 30s and 20s. In the last century, Edward Sapir and Benjamin Wharf put forward the fascinating hypothesis of linguistic relativity, according to which language and its ways of expressing different categories (gender, time, space) affect the way we think about the world. For example, if a language does not have words for time, the person who speaks it will not be able to understand the idea of time, or if the language does not have words for yellow, then a native speaker of such a language will have difficulty differentiating this color from others.

The scientific community then reacted to the hypothesis of Sapir and Wharf is very skeptical. The comparison of the linguistic worldview of the American Indians (Hopi, Paute, Shawnee, Navajo, etc.) with the linguistic worldview of native speakers of European languages, which was undertaken by Wharf (1), seemed unconvincing to scientists, and the examples from the category “in Eskimo languages there are dozens of different words for snow, while in English there is only one — snow” were treated with irony at all.

However, it is precisely because of the Sapir-Wharf hypothesis that a huge interest has emerged in the study of exotic dialects and the study of the relations that develop between the thinking, language and culture of a particular people.

How do our thoughts affect our lifestyle, quality of life, and personal growth? How much does the meaning of words change depending on the social context? Why can the same word be perceived differently by different people and can this barrier of misunderstanding be overcome? Sandy Grant, a Cambridge professor of philosophy, gives a brief introduction to Wittgenstein’s philosophy and explains what language games are, how they work, and what we can do to break out of the rules of the language game and expand the boundaries of thinking.

By” language games ” Wittgenstein means a whole system of communication, including language and actions with which it is closely intertwined. Based on simple games, we can build new and more complex games by learning new rules, thereby increasing the practice and activity of the language. The game implies following a certain rule, which a person cannot accurately formulate, since each game requires its own rules. For different games, different “combinations” are set, moves that allow the game to function as such and distinguish it from another. A game without rules is not a game. It should also have an element of creativity and imagination.

That is why he used the term “language game” to draw attention not only to the features of the language itself, but also to the actions with which it is directly related. For example, such exclamations as: “Help!”, ” Fire!”, “No!” – they all call for certain actions: quick response to danger, carry a warning or ban. However, Wittgenstein wanted to go further and reveal the process itself, describe exactly how words turn into actions.

Robert Sapolsky, a professor of biology and neuroscience at Stanford University, explains how humans developed metaphorical language, why figures of speech, similes, and parables have such power over us, and how the brain’s poor ability to distinguish between metaphorical and literal helped us create art, learn to experience other people’s pain, and feel tainted when we commit immoral acts.

Our shaky, symbol-dependent brains are shaped by personal ideologies and cultures that influence our perceptions, emotions, and beliefs. We use symbols to demonize our enemies and wage war. Hutus from Rwanda depicted the Tutsi enemy as cockroaches. In Nazi propaganda posters, Jews were rats that carried dangerous diseases. Many cultures inoculate their members – creating conditions for them to acquire repulsive symbols that sharpen and strengthen specific neural pathways – from the bark to the insula-that you will never find in other species. Depending on who you are, these paths can be activated when you see a swastika or two men kissing. Or perhaps at the thought of an abortion or a 10-year-old Yemeni girl being forced to marry an old man. Our stomachs start to clench, we biologically feel certain that this is wrong, and we succumb to this feeling.

The same brain mechanism works with symbols that help us sympathize, engage in the situation of another, embrace him. Most powerfully, this feature of ours is embodied in art. We see the skill of a skilled photojournalist-a photo of a child whose home was destroyed by a natural disaster – and we reach for our wallets.

We are used to the fact that language is the leading means of transmitting thoughts. But what role does language play today, when artificial intelligence penetrates all spheres of life and offers us ready-made solutions, and scientists are working on implementing a direct brain-computer connection that allows people to transmit thoughts directly, without using written or spoken language? What features of the language remain indispensable and become particularly important in the digital age? This problem was investigated in his dissertation by a graduate student of the University of Cambridge Pavel Shopin. We offer you a translation of a fragment of his work.

In an aptly titled essay, “Science has Outgrown the human mind and its limited Abilities,” Ahmed Alkhatib, a molecular biologist at Harvard Medical School, says that in the age of big data, the human mind simply cannot perform the number of operations that a machine can easily perform. But the problem is that it is language that is the tool that society uses to accumulate knowledge and affirm beauty.

The rejection of language isolates art and science. They become inaccessible to the entire human community. Without language, art and science lose their cultural significance and political influence: art does not touch people’s hearts, and it is more difficult for science to enlighten society. When art and science are on the periphery, society becomes defenseless in the face of complex challenges and undermines its cultural guarantors. Today’s dominant narrative is the progress of science and the democratization of art, but global challenges require even greater human involvement in solving scientific, moral, and aesthetic dilemmas. Language is one of the key tools that can achieve this goal.

The “syndrome of public dumbness”, the inability to speak publicly and the lack of public discussion — a legacy that we inherited from the Soviet past. In his lecture, Nikolai Vakhtin explains how the Soviet language was formed, what role ritualized speech played in totalitarian discourse, and what problems 70 years of propaganda cliches and meaning distortion have led to in modern society.

Describing what “ritualized speech” is and how it differs from a normal utterance, the scientist notes that in such speech the opposition “true-false” is lost and the opposition “right-wrong” is strengthened, which completely determines its isolation from reality, and the information function turns out to be unimportant. When ritualized speech becomes an instrument of totalitarian discourse, it has clear tasks, the main one of which is to create a “correct” and predictable picture of the world.

Is language a space for creativity, a mathematically precise system built into our brains from birth, or both? We look at how Noam Chomsky influenced the modern understanding of language, why the language is more complex than the developers of artificial intelligence say, and what are the disadvantages of the theory of universal grammar.

The study of universal grammar is the study of the nature of human intellectual abilities. It tries to formulate the necessary and sufficient conditions that a certain system must satisfy in order to be considered a potential human language-conditions that are not just accidentally applicable to existing human languages, but that are rooted in the human “language capacity”and thus form an innate organization that determines what is considered language experience and what knowledge of language arises from this experience.

In his lectures, Wittgenstein said that, being an unbeliever, he cannot argue with what a religious person believes. Such statements of the philosopher became a tool of some religious thinkers to prove the position that atheists not only cannot contradict what religious people believe, but also cannot refute their beliefs, because they do not understand them or understand them in their own way. Stephen Lowe, editor of the philosophical journal THINK at the Royal Institute of Philosophy in London, examines what is wrong with this idea, how Wittgenstein’s statements relate to his concept of “language games”, why they are not suitable in an argument with atheists, and finally, what is non-cognitivism and why even he cannot resolve this dispute.

Our language games are intertwined with a network of non-linguistic activities and cannot be understood outside the context set by life.

Do we think the same way in our native and foreign languages? How are our moral values formed and what factors influence our moral judgments? How stable and permanent are they? Cognitive scientist and author of Language in Mind: An Introduction to Psycholinguistics, Julia Sedivi explains how thought experiments help scientists analyze the strength of our moral beliefs, what incredible ethical shifts occur when we think and communicate in a different language, and why we feel more strongly when speaking in a language we learned in childhood.

Why is it so important – whether we talk about morality in our native language or in a foreign one? One explanation is that such judgments are based on two separate competing modes of thinking — one involving rapid, animal — like “feeling” and the other involving careful consideration of the greatest good for the greatest number of people. When we use a foreign language, we automatically fall into a more conscious mode, simply because the effort involved in processing a non-native language signals our cognitive system that it needs to prepare for strenuous activities. These conclusions may seem paradoxical, but they are on a par with the findings of studies that show that reading math problems in an inconvenient font reduces the likelihood of careless errors (although these results were difficult to repeat).

From the subtleties of meaning to the aesthetics of speech: we understand what etymology can give an ordinary person, how the meaning of some common words has changed over time, and why it is so important to know the history of abstract concepts if we read Plato, Kant, or the Upanishads.

And cost is not a new word at all. The meaning of the word 200 years ago is to stand together, from “constant” — the unshakable value of an object. Today, value is a very unstable and fluctuating value.

Etymology in Russian: Proto-Slavic stojati, stoj? connected by alternating vowels with-become -, corresponds to the ancient Indian sthit?s “standing”, Greek ?????? and Latin status. Borrowed in the 18th century from Polish, where is sta? “to stand”, stoi “to stand” — semantic tracing paper from the German kosten “to stand”, then from the Latin constare “to stand”, “to stand constantly”.

Etymology in English: Constant. Late XIV century, “steadfast, resolute”, from the Old French constant, then from the Latin constantem (nominative constans)” steady, stable, persistent, faithful “(formed from com” c, together “+ stare” stand “from the proto – Indo-European root sta – “stand, be firm”.

The TED talk, in which anthropologist and National Geographic journalist Wade Davis explains what the “ethnosphere” is, talks about disappearing cultures and languages, and explains why this process is a catastrophe for all of humanity.

All these peoples teach us that it is possible to exist differently, think differently, and navigate the Earth differently. And if you think about it, this idea gives you hope. Taken together, the world’s diverse cultures form the envelope of spiritual and cultural life that encompasses the planet and is just as important to the planet’s well-being as the living envelope of the Earth, known as the biosphere. This living cultural envelope can be considered as a kind of ethnosphere, which can be interpreted as the sum of all the thoughts and dreams, myths, ideas, motivations, intuitive insights that the human imagination has generated since the emergence of reason. The ethnosphere is a great heritage of humanity. It symbolizes all that we are and can become as a species with an amazing curiosity.