Lera Boroditsky: How language shapes the way we think
Lera Boroditsky is trying to figure out how humans get so smart. Full bio
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using language ...
that we humans have.
thoughts to one another.
I'm making sounds with my mouth
air vibrations in the air.
those vibrations from your eardrums
we humans are able to transmit our ideas
knowledge across minds.
in your mind right now.
relatively well in your life so far,
that thought before.
one language in the world,
spoken around the world.
from one another in all kinds of ways.
shape the way we think?
about this question forever.
is to have a second soul" --
that language crafts reality.
Shakespeare has Juliet say,
would smell as sweet."
language doesn't craft reality.
back and forth for thousands of years.
there hasn't been any data
and other labs around the world,
to weigh in on this question.
some of my favorite examples.
from an Aboriginal community in Australia
at the very west edge of Cape York.
words like "left" and "right,"
is in cardinal directions:
I really mean everything.
on your southwest leg."
to the north-northeast a little bit."
in Kuuk Thaayorre is you say,
around your day,
oriented pretty fast, right?
couldn't get past "hello,"
which way you were going.
like this stay oriented really well.
than we used to think humans could.
were worse than other creatures
in our beaks or in our scales."
trains you to do it,
who stay oriented really well.
from the way we do it,
your eyes for a second
there, there, there, there ...
in this room was not very high.
ability across languages, right?
distinguished group like you guys --
and they would know.
in how people think about time.
of my grandfather at different ages.
to organize time,
in the opposite direction,
told you about, do it?
like "left" and "right."
get locked on the body at all,
then time goes this way.
the direction of time chase me around
time is locked on the landscape.
of thinking about time.
how many penguins are there.
that problem if you solved it.
four, five, six, seven, eight."
was the number of penguins.
that you're taught to use as kids.
and you learn how to apply it.
don't have exact number words.
a word like "seven"
these languages don't count,
keeping track of exact quantities.
to match this number of penguins
that linguistic trait can't do that.
they divide up the color spectrum --
lots of words for colors,
"light" and "dark."
boundaries between colors.
there's a world for blue
that you can see on the screen,
have to differentiate
of experience of, in language,
to perceptually discriminate these colors,
Russian speakers are faster
to tell the difference
as they're looking at colors --
from light to dark blue --
different words for light and dark blue
as the colors shift from light to dark,
has categorically changed,"
of English speakers, for example,
this categorical distinction,
of structural quirks.
often masculine or feminine.
in German but masculine in Spanish,
consequence for how people think?
as somehow more female-like,
to, say, describe a bridge,
feminine in German,
to say bridges are "beautiful," "elegant"
will be more likely to say
they describe events, right?
"He broke the vase."
to say, "The vase broke,"
that someone did it.
we can even say things like,
unless you are a lunatic
looking to break your arm --
you would use a different construction.
will pay attention to different things,
usually requires them to do.
to English speakers and Spanish speakers,
to say, "He did it; he broke the vase."
less likely to remember who did it
that it was an accident.
to remember the intention.
different things about that event.
for eyewitness testimony.
for blame and punishment.
someone breaking a vase,
as opposed to "The vase broke,"
if I just said, "He broke it,"
our reasoning about events.
shape the way we think,
coordinate frames from each other.
really deep effects --
with the case of number.
you can't do algebra,
to build a room like this
gives you a stepping stone
really early effects,
basic, perceptual decisions.
perceptual decisions that we make.
may be a little silly,
grammatical gender applies to all nouns.
how you're thinking
named by a noun.
of how language can shape things
or eyewitness memory.
in our daily lives.
is that it reveals to us
the human mind is.
not one cognitive universe, but 7,000 --
spoken around the world.
and change to suit our needs.
so much of this linguistic diversity
will be gone in the next hundred years.
the human mind and human brain
is actually incredibly narrow and biased,
with this final thought.
of different languages think differently,
how people elsewhere think.
shapes the way that you think.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERLera Boroditsky - Cognitive scientist
Lera Boroditsky is trying to figure out how humans get so smart.
Why you should listen
Lera Boroditsky is an associate professor of cognitive science at 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 is on the relationships between mind, world and language (or how humans get so smart).
Boroditsky 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. She once used the Indonesian exclusive "we" correctly before breakfast and was proud of herself about it all day.
Lera Boroditsky | Speaker | TED.com