I will discuss language and how it can affect our representation of external stimuli and how we perceive the world around us. The history of language is an amazing subject; and many researchers still debate about when organized language actually came into existence. Nevertheless, language is a tool consisting of syntactic and semantic rules which enable us to communicate clearly and express our deepest emotions, feelings, thoughts, and ideas. Furthermore, from the excess of communication that takes place as a result of social media and the common accessibility of cell-phones, it is very apparent that human beings are addicted to social communication through the various forms in which we express our language.
Yet, how does language affect our perception of the world? This link http://www.boreme.com/posting.php?id=30670#.U1Na7_ldWSo to a BBC documentary describes how a tribe in Africa only uses approximately 5 words to categorize color, opposed to 11 words used in the English language. For example, they will use one word to describe dark colors like green, blue, red, and purples; and another for colors like white and yellow. This tribe also uses words that describe different shades of greens, blues, and reds depending on the shade of the color. They see differences in the colors they are observing based on their use of language. When shown a circle of green dots, they are asked to point-out the one dot that is a different color. To most westerners this would be very hard because the dots all look green to us; however, due the tribe having separate words for different shades of green, they have a relative easy time pin-pointing the correct dot. On the other hand, when they are asked to pick out the blue dot amongst the green dots they show difficulty choosing the right dot. In contrast, a westerner can clearly see what dot is blue and what dots are green. This experiment shows that we perceive environmental stimuli faster when we have words for the object we are observing.
Julian Jaynes, a renowned author and psychologist even argued in his acclaimed book “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” that language and consciousness are linked together. In fact, Jaynes states that the origin of consciousness was only able to evolve after the development of language. He describes how many of the original meanings of Greek words had different meanings in a time he suggest humans were not conscious (Jaynes, 1976). These words took on different meanings as time progressed and writers, poets, and storytellers began to re-write or tell these stories in a time when the conscious awareness in humans was becoming stronger. In his book, he gives examples of how an unconscious person and a conscious person would use the same word in a different context.
Jaynes, J. (1976). The Origin of Consciounsness in the Break-Down of the Bicameral Mind. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston, MA.