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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Different Languages, Different Personalities

It's not a new debate, though it still comes up quite frequently among linguists and language teachers. This recent article in The Economist poses the question yet again. Does each language encode a specific worldview that influences the way in which its speakers communicate? The obvious answer seems to be a resounding yes, but what of bilinguals? Or second language learners? Do languages rather than emotions shape thought?

The article posits that a single person's personality and behavior can drastically change from language to language for a variety of reasons. Of course, there's language ability and comfort level as well as emotions associated with a language. If a particular language reminds someone of friends or home, surely they behave differently than in the language that represents work or studies. But perhaps there are certain inherent properties in languages that cause their speakers to behave in certain way? Is it possible that grammar and syntax can push us to think differently?

The article offers some examples of this, but no concrete proof. For example, a language like Greek, in which the verb comes first and is loaded with information based on its conjugation, might allow for its speakers to interrupt more easily than in a language where the verb comes at the end of the sentence.

So, I pose the question to you- Do you notice a change in personality when you speak Italian? Why do you think this is?

Sentieri Blog Contributor

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