Human beings stand apart from animals by way of their communication skills. Yes, animals do have a means of communing, but it is usually limited to the language of its own species. Cats can meow to their kittens but a bunch of puppies won’t grasp the meaning. A bluebird can call a message to its young but only her nestlings will hear it.
Although monkeys and dolphins have demonstrated their ability to “talk”, their day-to-day social interaction stems mostly from their innate abilities and instincts. There have been instants where animals of different kin have formed close emotional relationships but these are rare. And despite these examples, true communication through verbal and written language remains a strictly human ability. Without language, where would you be? Your social life would be considerably different. With a limited number of associates, you would find yourself much less occupied with family events and shared functions. Finding a job or getting an education would be extremely restricted and meeting your soul mate would be a most difficult undertaking.
Language, verbal or through sign language, is an elemental part of our lives. We can’t even consider life without it. Imagine finding yourself in a foreign country without any knowledge whatsoever of the native dialect. What a challenge it is to ask for even the simplest of directions. How are you able to get your idea across without a common means of interchange? Languages are the keys. But are languages merely tools for conveying our thoughts, or do they actually influence our thoughts in a distinctive manner? In other words, is it our brainwaves that affect our language or does our speech impact on our linguistic abilities?
Many studies have been conducted over the years in an attempt to resolve this query. Until recently, the theory accepted by most communication experts and linguists was that languages are influenced by our thinking and not the other way around. The variances in the way people express different languages does not necessarily mean that their cognition was different to begin with but that people may be thinking along the same lines and facing similar experiences but expressing them in a singular way.
Recently, several new studies have been reported that tend to prove the opposite theory, i.e. that our thoughts are indeed influenced by our dialectal capabilities. The results of these studies indicate that the way something is expressed may have built-in cultural and societal variations that make it unique. By thoroughly examining several languages, researchers concluded that the languages themselves reflect varying concepts of time, direction and colors. Also embedded within a language is how people interpret specific events, experience various emotions and determine certain risks. The assumption deduced from these examinations was that linguistic processes unconsciously shape our lives in a significant manner when it comes to matters of cognition and acuity as well as abstract concepts and major life decisions.
So which came first—the chicken or the egg?
Cina Coren is a contributing editor at DailyForex. She writes freelance for many publications and tries to find the humor in life’s challenges.