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Re: [xmca] Language May Help Create, Not Just Convey, Thoughts and Feelings

Dear Robert Lake:
In the absence of any conclusive information on the meaning of any thing, we humans rely on the effects of our words, (as sounds), to inform us of how we are affected by that which makes up our environment. This informing seems to take place subliminally and to provide us with a sensesence of the isness of, (the nature of), any thing for which we have a name. I suppose that spoken language can be thought of as regulated singing. Singing could be likened to free- form dancing while talking could be likened to square dancing or to some other form of dance with rules.

		Joseph Gilbert

On Nov 20, 2010, at 6:24 AM, Robert Lake wrote:

Serpel and Joseph,

I appreciate your dialogue on this.

Have you read Jesperson's thought on this.

*Men sang out their feelings long before they were able to speak their
thoughts. But of course we must not imagine that "singing" means exactly the
same thing here as in a modern concert hall. When we say that speech
originated in song, what we mean is merely that our comparatively monotonous spoken language and our highly developed vocal music are differentiations of
primitive utterances, which had more in them of the latter than of the
former. These utterances were at first, like the singing of birds and the roaring of many animals and the crying and crooning of babies, exclamative, not communicative -- that is, they came forth from an inner craving of the
individual… *

* They little suspected that in singing as nature prompted them they were paving the way for a language capable of rendering minute shades of thought; just as they could not suspect that out of their coarse pictures of men and animals there should one day grow an art enabling men of distant
countries to speak to one another.*

* * 0. Jesperson, *Language: Its Nature, Development and Origin* ( London:
Allen & Unwin,1922), pp.436-437.

On Sat, Nov 20, 2010 at 12:04 AM, Joseph Gilbert <joeg4us@roadrunner.com>wrote:

I suggest you explore your own emotional/somatic reactions to the vocal sounds of whatever language you wish. If you do not feel any reaction, then
look for what emotional states the sounds suggest? Spoken language is
founded upon sounds of the body, sounds that convey states of the body's emotions. The use of these sounds as words, to refer to things, is based upon their being expressive emotionally. Scientists have been distracted by the referential function of spoken language and have neglected to study the primal function of vocal body language, the conveyance of what's going on
with the moment-by-moment emotional process.

               Joseph Gilbert

On Nov 19, 2010, at 10:18 AM, Serpil S Sonmez wrote:

 I thought this is a very timely article after
Vygotsky/Sapir/Whorf/Saussure discussions.

Serpil S. Fox


The paper appears in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
"Charlemagne is reputed to have said that to speak another language is to possess another soul," says co-author Oludamini Ogunnaike, a graduate student at Harvard. "This study suggests that language is much more than a medium for expressing thoughts and feelings. Our work hints that language
creates and shapes our thoughts and feelings as well."

Implicit attitudes, positive or negative associations people may be
unaware they possess, have been shown to predict behavior towards members of social groups. Recent research has shown that these attitudes are quite malleable, susceptible to factors such as the weather, popular culture --
or, now, by the language people speak.

"Can we shift something as fundamental as what we like and dislike by changing the language in which our preferences are elicited?" asks co-author Mahzarin R. Banaji, the Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard. "If the answer is yes, that gives more support to the idea that
language is an important shaper of attitudes."

Ogunnaike, Banaji, and Yarrow Dunham, now at the University of California,
Merced, used the well-known Implicit Association Test (IAT), where
participants rapidly categorize words that flash on a computer screen or are played through headphones. The test gives participants only a fraction of a
second to categorize words, not enough to think about their answers.
"The IAT bypasses a large part of conscious cognition and taps into
something we're not aware of and can't easily control," Banaji says.

The researchers administered the IAT in two different settings: once in Morocco, with bilinguals in Arabic and French, and again in the U.S. with
Latinos who speak both English and Spanish.
In Morocco, participants who took the IAT in Arabic showed greater
preference for other Moroccans. When they took the test in French, that difference disappeared. Similarly, in the U.S., participants who took the test in Spanish showed a greater preference for other Hispanics. But again,
in English, that preference disappeared.

"It was quite shocking to see that a person could take the same test, within a brief period of time, and show such different results," Ogunnaike says. "It's like asking your friend if he likes ice cream in English, and then turning around and asking him again in French and getting a different

In the Moroccan test, participants saw "Moroccan" names (such as Hassan or Fatimah) or "French" names (such as Jean or Marie) flash on a monitor, along with words that are "good" (such as happy or nice) or "bad" (such as hate or mean). Participants might press one key when they see a Moroccan name or a good word, and press another when they see a French name or a bad word. Then the key assignments are switched so that "Moroccan" and "bad" share the same
key and "French" and "good" share the other.

Linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf first posited in the 1930s that language is so powerful that it can determine thought. Mainstream psychology has taken the more skeptical view that while language may affect thought processes, it doesn't influence thought itself. This new study suggests that Whorf's idea, when not caricatured, may generate interesting hypotheses that researchers
can continue to test.

"These results challenge our views of attitudes as stable," Banaji says. "There still remain big questions about just how fixed or flexible they are, and language may provide a window through which we will learn about their

Ogunnaike, Dunham, and Banaji's work was supported by Harvard's
Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Mellon Mays Foundation.

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*Robert Lake  Ed.D.
*Assistant Professor
Social Foundations of Education
Dept. of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading
Georgia Southern University
P. O. Box 8144
Phone: (912) 478-5125
Fax: (912) 478-5382
Statesboro, GA  30460

*Democracy must be born anew in every generation, and education is its
*-*John Dewey.
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