Does Language Shape the Way We Think? Evaluate Theoretical and Empirical Evidence

In order to address this question this essay will be looking at whether and to what extent there exists a relationship between language and thought.   Empirical and theoretical evidence will be evaluated that has explored whether language shapes the way we think.   Although historically this subject has been a matter of debate for centuries (Plato), theorists writing in the 20th Century Whorf,(1956) set out what is now known as the ‘Whorfian debate’, this will be discussed in detail along with empirical research evidence and studies carried out to test the relationship between language and thought.   This essay will firstly look at what is meant by the term language and the functions of language.   This will be followed by a discussion of the Whorfian hypothesis and finally recent studies that have evaluated the influence of language on cognition will be discussed.

Define and functions of language
What is Language? Chambers Dictionary defines it as “the speech of a particular group or nation” or “any other way of communicating”. To a Psycholinguist, it has a much more profound meaning. It is a system of signs and symbols which are arbitrary, until the user assigns them a meaning. Language is used to communicate; it provides prompts to the listener, whom, with the aid of inferences will then interpret the words. These signs and symbols are not biologically inherited, but learned from birth. (Ref   ) Humans are by no means unique in this ability to communicate, as animals and some plants species also communicate with one another. However, Human Language is infinitely flexible and has elements of creativity that are not shared amongst primates. There are four main aspects of language:
Semantics – the study of the meaning of language.
Pragmatics – the study of the use of language and the intentions behind the words.
Phonology – the study of the sounds in a language.
Syntax –...