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Language and Communication - Introdution Vol.3 - Language and Mind

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Language and Communication

Contents

1. Quote

Lnaguage and Mind

  Communicating is not only a social activity, it is a mental activity and we can learn a great deal about how we organize our knowledge of the world by examining how our language classify the things that we talk about.  Also, we can learn much about human reasoning by examiniing how we reason with language.
  When we speak about people's linguistic abilities, we normally say that this or that person knows such-and-such language.  We might that I know English, and that you know Japanese.  And the American linguist, Noam Chomsky, argued that linguists should study what the native speakers of the language know about their language.  Such a study will tell us a great deal about the nature of the human mind.  We discuss this issue in chapters two through four.

(Michael L. Geis, Language and Communication, Oxford, OUP, 2001, p.3, ll.1-15)

2. Analysis

2-1. Language and Mental Activity

Communicating is not only a social activity, it is a mental activity and we can learn a great deal about how we organize our knowledge of the world by examining how our language classify the things that we talk about.  Also, we can learn much about human reasoning by examiniing how we reason with language.

We human beings has named a lot of not only visible things but invisible ones.
For example, we call a tool for eating soup or dessert SPOON and classify it as catlery. Also, we refer to a subject that thinks, feels and reasons as MIND, which enables us to treat something invisible.
Language has the history of this "labeling".
Watermelon is a vegetable, English is a Germanic language, whale is a mammal, paper is combustible, plastic is inconbustible etc.
These examples of naming and classification imply the way we organise our knowledge of the world with language.

The fact that we logically reason and express somehting proves that communication is a mental activity.

2-2. Lnaguage and the Nature of the Human Mind

And the American linguist, Noam Chomsky, argued that linguists should study what the native speakers of the language know about their language.  Such a study will tell us a great deal about the nature of the human mind.

Each country has it own unique history and culture, and language has them in its vocabulary.
The invisible varies from language to language in terms of the labeling, but they can be directly translated into another language(e.g. dog is 犬 whose pronunciation is /inu/ in Japanese).

On the other hand, somehting conceptional can exist only in a specific culture or it can be present but interpreted in diffetent ways.
As an example of the former, SIN exists in English-speaking countries but does not in Japan(intead, SHAME culture is dominant).
This is because most Japanese do not believe in any religion, so few of us understand that we will be punished by the God(Japanese often use "It serves you right", so it might not be totally correct that most Japanese do not know SIN).
Instances of the latter can be observed in greetings.
"Good morning.", "Well done!", "Nice to meet you."
These English greetings basically have positive adjectives such as good, great, wonderful, well etc.
In contradiction to them, Japanese greetings include negative adjectives(e.g. お疲れ様 can be translated into "I'm sorry that you're tired." / つまらないものですがどうぞ can be interpreted as "I'm afraid thatThis is boring stuff, but it's my gift for you.").
Probably, this comes from the difference between the virtue of assetion VS humidity.
Anyway, these phrases we are familiar with suggests the nature of the human kind of the language.

The chances are that the answer may exist in the study of the essence of the language, Norm Chomsky may have meant.

3. Reference

Michal L. Geis, Language and Communication, Oxford, OUP, 2001