How Language Shapes Thought:…

How Language Shapes Thought: The languages we speak affect our perceptions of the world by Lera Boroditsky.

From the article:

I am standing next to a five-year old girl in pormpuraaw, a small Aboriginal community on the western edge of Cape York in northern Australia. When I ask her to point north, she points precisely and without hesitation. My compass says she is right. Later, back in a lecture hall at Stanford University, I make the same request of an audience of distinguished scholars—winners of science medals and genius prizes. Some of them have come to this very room to hear lectures for more than 40 years. I ask them to close their eyes (so they don’t cheat) and point north. Many refuse; they do not know the answer. Those who do point take a while to think about it and then aim in all possible directions. I have repeated this exercise at Harvard and Princeton and in Moscow, London and Beijing, always with the same results.

A five-year-old in one culture can do something with ease that eminent scientists in other cultures struggle with. This is a big difference in cognitive ability. What could explain it? The surprising answer, it turns out, may be language.

Michael Nielson mentioned this article in a tweet about a new book due out from Lera in the Fall of 2015.

Looking further I found: 7,000 Universes: How the Language We Speak Shapes the Way We Think [Kindle Edition] by Lera Boroditsky. (September, 2015, available for pre-order now)

As Michael says, looking forward to seeing this book! Sounds like a good title to forward to Steve Newcomb. Steve would argue, correctly I might add, any natural language may contain an infinite number of possible universes of discourse.

I assume some of this issue will be caught by your testing topic map UIs with actual users in whatever subject domain and language you are offering information. That is rather than consider the influence of language in the abstract, you will be silently taking it into account in user feedback. You are testing your topic map deliverables with live users before delivery. Yes?

There are other papers by Lera available for your leisure reading.

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