Language and Thought

I like to spend my lunch hours learning new things. I tend to do this by semi-randomly finding videos on topics I wouldn’t normally take in, and just seeing what they have to say. A few days back I stumbled upon an hour and a half long video of a talk made by linguist Lera Boroditsky that was titled “How Language Shapes Thought. Given its duration and my schedule, I spread the watch over several days. Very interesting. Including the Q&A session that followed, which was interesting both for her responses as well as for how she handled the likely well-meaning but still boorish attitude of one of the questioners.

As I watched it each day, then returned to my writing, I found myself thinking about things differently. How does this character assemble thoughts? How do they consider spatial events and chronological events, and how does that reflect in their dialog? And gender. How does that work for them? Where have they been? How do they think?

Knowing these things is different from understanding them.

Sitting here today, I can’t say explicitly what impact Boroditsky’s thoughts had on my work, but I’m certain it’s done something to it.

Given that, I figure I’ll drop this here in case it helps someone else.

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