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Recently, we came across two very interesting pieces of research that spoke about languages around the world and their influence on our lives and our thinking. It made us, at Urduwallahs, reflect upon the effect that a mixed-bred language like Urdu, having derived its phonetics, grammar and alphabets from 7 other languages and the effect it could have on cognitive abilities and on the history of the language, the culture and its people.

Here is a very insightful article by Lera Boroditsky (assistant professor of cognitive psychology at Stanford University and editor in chief of Frontiers in Cultural Psychology) on her research focusing on mental representation and the effects of language on cognition. The article says that “People rely on language even when doing simple things like distin¬guishing patches of color, counting dots on a screen or orienting in a small room: my colleagues and I have found that limiting people’s ability to access their language faculties fluently—by giving them a competing demanding verbal task such as repeat¬ing a news report, for instance—impairs their ability to perform these tasks. This means that the catego¬ries and distinctions that exist in particular languag¬es are meddling in our mental lives very broadly. What researchers have been calling “thinking” this whole time actually appears to be a collection of both linguistic and nonlinguistic processes. As a result, there may not be a lot of adult human thinking where language does not play a role.”

Click here for the entire article – How language shapes thought

languageAnd here is an amazingly insightful TED Talk by behavioral economist Keith Chen, on language and how it could affect the way you think about the future and even your ability to save money. He talks about ‘futured languages’ and ‘futureless languages’ – that languages without a concept for the future — “It rain tomorrow,” instead of “It will rain tomorrow” — correlate strongly with high savings rates.
An excerpt : “…languages that oblige speakers to grammatically separate the future from the present lead them to invest less in the future. Speakers of such languages save less, retire with less wealth, smoke more, practice more unsafe sex and are more obese. Surprisingly, this effect persists even after controlling for a speaker’s education, income, family structure and religion.”

Click on the link below for the entire talk: TED Talk by Keith Chen