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To achieve this, the paper aims to evaluate five major aspects; whether language dictates thinking, whether language organize thinking, whether people speaking different languages also think differently, whether multilingual individuals have broader thinking as compared to monolinguals and evaluating whether thought can exist without language.

The paper is organized in two major sections; an evaluation of the various existing theories and concepts and subsequent section that specifically addresses the above specified questions of research. One of the major philosophers of Ancient Greek on language and thought was Gorgias of the Sophist tradition. In both his works of Palamedes and On Not-Being, Gorgias presents his thoughts that among other issues touch on his conception of language and thought.

His argument was that language captures neither human thought nor what human beings perceive. Gorgias suggests that every utterance is an action and every meaningful action lies within the horizon of language.

Panos Athanasopoulos | Linguistics and English Language | Lancaster University

His world is very linguistic with every gesture, posture, and action — including inaction is meaningful. He considers words to acquire meaning from their role. Tothesis has two major aspects; linguistic relativism and linguistic determination. Linguistic relativism considers the structural differences between languages, paralleled by non-linguistic cognitive differences in languages that manifest through the thinking of the speakers. The theory puts weight on the unconscious influence that language has on habitual thoughts Skotko, highlighting that language comes first, and influences thought.

Recent decades have witnessed research and demonstrations indicating that language affects cognition. A mae theory related thinkithought considering the two as dynamically related. He argued that there is an emergence of vague thought, which is then completed in language. He argued that thought is originally non-verbal and language is non-intellectual and only come meet at around age two when thought turns verbal and speech turns rational.

The concepts of thinking and cognitive are a result from the specific culture that an individual grows in. His works have had substantial influence in study of mind and language. This approach perceives cognition and languages as existing side by side. It argues that human interaction with each other generates thoughts. To interact however, language is a vital element thus the theory suggests that language and thought are integrated and can therefore not be perceived separately.

In thought, ideas possess various orientations in such aspects as; time, space, epistemology, social interaction and context. For instance, English pays particular emphasis to tenses but the choice of particular tenses may vary from one telling to the next. Thus, this aspect is a choice taken in the actual act of producing the sound and not an underlying thought.

Other language may pay particle attention to other orientations such as epistemology distinctions. Specific orientations express variable semantic choices and not necessarily, elements of thought may not directly influence consciousness of thought rather on semantic, linguistically imposed organization of thought. Although much about the brain is unknown, it has been noticed that damage to different regions of the brain develops specific types of aphasias or language disorders.

Damage for example to the left frontal lobe results to speech impairments including slowness, needs effort, and poor words of sentence structures and although comprehension is retained, complex sentences in structure may not be clearly understood. Damage to left temporal lobe impairs fluency with such disorders as Wernickes aphasia where comprehension is undermined; speech may be fluent but may have errors in sound and word selection. Damage to superior lobes in the two hemispheres may result to the affected individual being unable to comprehend words word deafness thus being deaf for speech.

The affected individual lacks comprehension of the words although they may hear the sounds, judge the emotional aspect and even identify gender of the source. BBC reports on a study done in UK where patients suffering from severe aphasia in that they did not understand or generate grammatically proper language. Although they could not comprehend differences in simple sentences when the order of words was interchanged, they nevertheless identified reversibility in simple sums.

The findings that mathematical reasoning can be active without language is a strong indication that thought might not be dependent on language. Whereas there is agreement that animals use their brains, there have been discussions on whether they possess thought. In this context, thought is more than mere mental images, memories, and experiences and refers to the process of activating schemata to acquire new meaning, to reason, analyze and make decisions. When a dog buries a bone, or skips when its handler mentions some words, can this be considered as thought? Consciously, does a cat think to go hunting in a specific direction or is it led by instincts and memory?

Some argue that animals are capable of language. A view expressed by Crist on prior investigation of the scientific controversy on if the honeybee dance is language concludes that it is a language — a dance language. Various authors however do not agree and express different views on the relationship of animals, thought and language.

Descartes denied that animals have thought supporting his stand with the assertion that animals only communicate bodily movements and natural impulses and none has expressed using speech that is, word of sign that indicates thought alone and not natural impulse.


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Human beings are able to respond in a distinct way to various circumstances — an aspect that is distinct from machines and other animals. Descartes came close to considering language as a criterion for thought as he considered it as necessary and sufficient for thought. It would seem plausible that genuine language is a sufficient indication for thought but his consideration that it is necessary for presence of thought may be questioned. The determination of whether animals such as dogs or cats can be considered to have thought may be considered a factor of whether their output can finitely be defined of is a mechanical response.

A dog demanding to be fed may be considered too thin based on Descartes view to decide if they constitute genuine thought Preston, Although Condillac Coski, does not argue that animals are automata without thought or reasoned speech, he however does not consider animals to be at the same level with human beings.

Animals have various limitations including; only animals that live close to man acquire human communication systems, the capacity of understanding the human language is highly limited, animals acquire this language out of need, they acquire this language through long habit and only then can they understand human speech without gestures, and they are passive receivers. The Whorfian theory was subjected to various criticisms from psychology. First, as argued by Steven Pinker, Wason and Jorhnson Laird is the lack of evidence that a language influences a particular way of thinking towards the world for its speakers Skotko, ; Leva, By the s, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis had lost favor with most scientists with most adopting theories that considered language and thought as universal Leva, The critics agreed that language expresses thought but criticized the idea that language can influence content and thought.

The theory has been criticized for its extremist view that people who use a language cannot understand a concept if it is lacking in their language. Another example is the Mandarin Chinese who although do not have words describing present, past, and future tenses, they nevertheless understand this concept. Language influences and enforces our thought process. Lev Vygotsky argued that thought is not only expressed in words but comes into existence through them as cited in Perkins, Research by Stephen Levinson shows for example that people who speak languages that rely on absolute directions perform better in keeping track of their locations even in unfamiliar grounds when place in the same locations with local folks although they may not speak the same language Leva, In languages which preserve a three-way gender division in the plural, the rules for determining the gender and sometimes number of a coordinated noun phrase " Czech is an example of such a language, with a division in the plural between masculine animate, masculine inanimate, feminine, and neuter.

Nouns which have the same meanings in different languages need not have the same gender. This is particularly so in the case of things with no natural gender, such as sexless objects.

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For example, there is, by all appearances, nothing about a table that should cause it to be associated with any particular gender, and different languages' words for "table" are found to have various genders: feminine, as with the French table ; masculine, as with German Tisch ; or neuter, as with Norwegian bord. Even within a given language, nouns that denote the same concept may differ in gender — for example, of two German words for "car", Wagen is masculine whereas Auto is neuter. Cognate nouns in closely related languages are likely to have the same gender, because they tend to inherit the gender of the original word in the parent language.

For instance, in the Romance languages , the words for "sun" are masculine, being derived from the Latin masculine noun sol , whereas the words for "moon" are feminine, being derived from the Latin feminine luna.

English Grammar Gender (English) Part 1: Masculine and Feminine Gender

This contrasts with the genders found in German, where Sonne "sun" is feminine, and Mond "moon" is masculine. However, there are exceptions to this principle. For instance, arte "art" is feminine in Italian, like the Latin word ars from which it stems, but in French, the corresponding word art is masculine. Some more examples of the above phenomena are given below.

These come mostly from the Slavic languages, where gender largely correlates with the noun ending. Ibrahim identifies several processes by which a language assigns a gender to a newly borrowed word; these processes follow patterns by which even children, through their subconscious recognition of patterns, can often correctly predict a noun's gender. Sometimes the gender of a word switches with time. Ibrahim identified three possible useful roles of grammatical gender: [37]. Among these, role 2 is probably the most important in everyday usage.

In the English phrase " a flowerbed in the garden which I maintain " only context tells us whether the relative clause which I maintain refers to the whole garden or just the flowerbed. In German, gender distinction prevents such ambiguity. The word for " flower bed" Beet is neuter, whereas that for "garden" Garten is masculine. Hence, if a neuter relative pronoun is used, the relative clause refers to "bed", and if a masculine pronoun is used, the relative clause refers to "garden". Because of this, languages with gender distinction can often use pronouns where in English a noun would have to be repeated in order to avoid confusion.

It does not, however, help in cases where the words are of the same grammatical gender. There are often several synonymous nouns of different grammatical gender to pick from to avoid this, however. Moreover, grammatical gender may serve to distinguish homophones.

It is a quite common phenomenon in language development for two phonemes to merge, thereby making etymologically distinct words sound alike. In languages with gender distinction, however, these word pairs may still be distinguishable by their gender. Although the idea that language can constrain or significantly impact thought has been largely disregarded by modern linguistics, a number of minor cognitive effects of features including grammatical gender have been consistently demonstrated.

This has been observed for speakers of Spanish, French, and German, among others. Caveats of this research include the possibility of subjects "using grammatical gender as a strategy for performing the task", [41] and the fact that even for inanimate objects the gender of nouns is not always random. For example, in Spanish, female gender is often attributed to objects that are "used by women, natural, round, or light" and male gender to objects "used by men, artificial, angular, or heavy. Another kind of test asks people to describe a noun, and attempts to measure whether it takes on gender-specific connotations depending on the speaker's native language.


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  8. Grammatical gender is a common phenomenon in the world's languages. Gender and noun class systems are usually found in fusional or agglutinating languages, whereas classifiers are more typical of isolating languages. Many Indo-European languages , but not English, provide archetypical examples of grammatical gender. Research indicates that the earliest stages of Proto-Indo-European had two genders animate and inanimate , as did Hittite , the earliest attested Indo-European language.

    Grammatical gender

    The classification of nouns based on animacy and inanimacy and the lack of gender are today characteristic of Armenian. According to the theory, the animate gender, which unlike the inanimate had independent vocative and accusative forms, later split into masculine and feminine, thus originating the three-way classification into masculine, feminine and neuter. In them, there is a high but not absolute correlation between grammatical gender and declensional class. Many linguists believe that to be true of the middle and late stages of Proto-Indo-European.

    However, many languages reduced the number of genders to two. A few traces of the neuter remain, such as the distinct Spanish pronoun ello and Italian nouns with so-called "mobile gender" , as well as Hindustani and the Celtic languages. Others merged feminine and masculine into a common gender but retained the neuter, as in Swedish and Danish and, to some extent, Dutch ; see Gender in Danish and Swedish and Gender in Dutch grammar.

    Finally, some languages, such as English and Afrikaans , have nearly completely lost grammatical gender retaining only some traces, such as the English pronouns he , she , they , and it — Afrikaans hy , sy , hulle , and dit ; Bengali , Persian , Assamese , Ossetic , Odia , Khowar , and Kalasha have lost it entirely. On the other hand, some Slavic languages can be argued to have added new genders to the classical three see below.

    Although grammatical gender was a fully productive inflectional category in Old English , Modern English has a much less pervasive gender system, primarily based on natural gender and reflected essentially in pronouns only. However, these are relatively insignificant features compared with a typical language with full grammatical gender. English nouns are not generally considered to belong to gender classes in the way that French, German or Russian nouns are. Gender agreement applies in effect only to pronouns, and the choice of pronoun is determined based on semantics perceived qualities of the thing being referred to rather than on any conventional assignment of particular nouns to particular genders.

    Only a relatively small number of English nouns have distinct male and female forms; many of them are loanwords from non- Germanic languages the suffixes -ress and -rix in words such as actress and aviatrix , for instance, derive from Latin -rix , in the first case via the French -rice. English has no live productive gender markers. An example of such a marker might be the suffix -ette of French provenance , but this is seldom used today, surviving mostly in either historical contexts or with disparaging or humorous intent.

    The gender of an English pronoun typically coincides with the natural gender of its referent, rather than with the grammatical gender of its antecedent. The choice between she , he , they , and it comes down to whether the pronoun is intended to designate a woman, a man, or someone or something else. There are certain exceptions, however:. In the past and to some degree still in the present, the masculine has been used as the "default" gender in English. The use of the plural pronoun they with singular reference is common in practice.

    The neuter it may be used for a baby but not normally for an older child or adult. Other genderless pronouns exist, such as the impersonal pronoun one , but they are not generally substitutable for a personal pronoun. For more information see Gender-neutral language and Singular they. The Slavic languages mostly continue the Proto-Indo-European system of three genders, masculine, feminine and neuter.

    Gender correlates largely with noun endings masculine nouns typically end in a consonant, feminines in -a and neuters in -o or -e but there are many exceptions, particularly in the case of nouns whose stems end in a soft consonant. However, some of the languages, including Russian , Czech , Slovak and Polish , also make certain additional grammatical distinctions between animate and inanimate nouns: Polish in the plural, and Russian in the accusative case, differentiate between human and non-human nouns.

    In Russian, the different treatment of animate nouns involves their accusative case and that of adjectives qualifying them being formed identically to the genitive rather than to the nominative. In the singular that applies to masculine nouns only, but in the plural it applies in all genders. See Russian declension. A similar system applies in Czech, but the situation is somewhat different in the plural: Only masculine nouns are affected, and the distinctive feature is a distinct inflective ending for masculine animate nouns in the nominative plural and for adjectives and verbs agreeing with those nouns.

    See Czech declension. Polish might be said to distinguish five genders: personal masculine referring to male humans , animate non-personal masculine, inanimate masculine, feminine, and neuter. The animate—inanimate opposition for the masculine gender applies in the singular, and the personal—impersonal opposition, which classes animals along with inanimate objects, applies in the plural. A few nouns denoting inanimate things are treated grammatically as animate and vice versa. The manifestations of the differences are as follows:.

    A few nouns have both personal and impersonal forms, depending on meaning for example, klient may behave as an impersonal noun when it refers to a client in the computing sense. For more information on the above inflection patterns, see Polish morphology. In the Dravidian languages , nouns are classified primarily on the basis of their semantic properties. The highest-level classification of nouns is often described as being between "rational" and "nonrational". Within the rational class there are further subdivisions into masculine, feminine and collective nouns.

    For further information, see Tamil grammar. Many constructed languages have natural gender systems similar to that of English. Animate nouns can have distinct forms reflecting natural gender, and personal pronouns are selected according to natural gender. Some constructed languages have no gender agreement on modifiers. See also Gender-neutrality in languages with grammatical gender: International auxiliary languages and Gender-specific pronoun: Constructed languages. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about grammatical rules of agreement with nouns.

    For uses of language associated with men and women, see Language and gender. For methods of minimizing the use of gendered forms, see Gender-neutral language. For other uses, see Gender disambiguation. Main article: Noun classes. Main article: Noun classifier. See also: List of languages by type of grammatical genders. Main article: Gender in English. The Duden Duden Grammatik , 8.

    A course in modern linguistics PDF. And Why It Matters ". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2 July Retrieved Noun Classes. Learn Welsh. Retrieved 15 March Merriam-Webster Inc. Test Yourself: Spanish Grammar 1 ed. McWhorter 1 April The Language Hoax. Oxford University Press. James Cook University.

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    Retrieved 20 December Social Psychology of Culture. Psychology Press. Wuvulu Grammar and Vocabulary. The Klingon Dictionary Star Trek. Bradley, Peter Spanish: An Essential Grammar 1 ed. Craig, Colette G. Noun classes and categorization: Proceedings of a symposium on categorization and noun classification, Eugene, Oregon, October Amsterdam: J. Corbett, Greville G. Cambridge University Press. Most of us approach human communications as content seen through a window. Many courses are discussion-centered, and all are interdisciplinary, so that students become agile thinkers who can move beyond static thinking and restrictive boundaries.

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