5 Languages That Could Change the Way You See the World

via Nautilus: ‘…The way that different languages convey information has fascinated linguists, anthropologists, and psychologists for decades. In the 1940s, a chemical engineer called Benjamin Lee Whorf published a wildly popular paper in the MIT Technology Review (pdf) that claimed the way languages express different concepts—like gender, time, and space—influenced the way its speakers thought about the world. For example, if a language didn’t have terms to denote specific times, speakers wouldn’t understand the concept of time flowing.

This argument was later discredited, as researchers concluded that it overstated language’s constraints on our minds. But researchers later found more nuanced ways that these habits of speech can affect our thinking. Linguist Roman Jakobson described this line of investigation thus: “Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey.” In other words, the primary way language influences our minds is through what it forces us to think about—not what it prevents us from thinking about.

These five languages reveal how information can be expressed in extremely different ways, and how these habits of thinking can affect us:

  • A Language Where You’re Not the Center of the World
  • A Language Where Time Flows East to West
  • A Language Where Colors Are Metaphors
  • A Language That Makes You Provide Evidence
  • A Language That Has No Word for “Two” ‘