Language, in simplified thought, is communication of any kind between living matters. The world is like an Amazon of languages. So rich and diverse in detail each language being unique and one of a kind. The hypothesis of linguistic relativity which says, ‘It has been suggested that the particular language we speak causes us to think in a certain way’1 is a clear indicator that there are implications of language on knowledge. Furthermore, ‘speakers of different languages consequently perceive the world quite differently’2.
There is profound belief (even though the hypothesis of linguistic relativity should be seen critically due to little research) that if one speaks a different language (whatever form it may be) one perceives a different world. There are several and diversifying implications of this for knowledge because knowledge varies with language. Language is a broad topic and therefore requires a broad spectrum of investigation. What is a different language? Is it sufficient to answer this by saying that English and French are different languages? No, because language is also connotation, expression, mathematics, culture and much more.
Language is spread broadly across a broad spectrum of ideas and themes but nevertheless how ever different language may be it will affect the way one perceives the world and the knowledge one gains. To start with the simplicity of different verbal languages we can say that all human languages such as English, Spanish, Russian and the many others have key words which do not translate to other languages. This key words, or expressions, have been used as part of a language to suit the environment, culture and religion of those who speak it.
For example countries in the Northern Hemisphere have many precise words for describing snow because it is part of their living environment whereas languages spoken in Tropical countries where coconuts grow will have various terms associated with coconuts and their uses because the coconut is a part of their environment and culture. In a similar way, Muslims will have a number of terms which are unique to their religion Islam because it is a vital part of their life whereas “baptism” would not be a term used by Muslims but by other religions because it is part of their religion and not part of Muslim religion.
Many languages are also different in nature because some have a more serious connotation and others a more colloquial. I say this from my experience of speaking two languages, namely English and German. In my perception, English has a colloquial but concise connotation and German has a more serious undertone because of many technical terms and the sound of words. The connotation and sound of words of languages are closely linked with their origins.
Languages such as Portuguese, Spanish and Italian all have a fluent passionate sound and this similar denotation of these languages can be related to the fact that they all originate from the same region. Languages are not only suited to the culture, environment and religions of people but also to the areas of knowledge. As a student this is seen day after day, in Geography class “work” is related to terms such as labour and employment but going into Physics class “work” depicts a totally different meaning which has been suited to Physics.
In Physics terms “work” is related to words such as displacement, energy and force and used in a totally different context. In a similar way Maths, Information Technology and Music use language which is unique to their cause. So depending on the context of language use, different perception is made in relation to it. A Physicist and a Geographer would certainly have difficulty conversing if they were to convert following the perceptions gained from their area of knowledge.
Language though is not always verbal and sometimes the amount of information that body language and expression can convey is underestimated. Body language often occurs subconsciously and therefore it is often taken for granted. Certain body language, just like verbal language, is unique to certain cultures. For example, in Fiji body language is uniquely used as raising the eyebrows to someone simply represents “Yes” but imagine raising the eyebrows to someone in a European country especially say a man to a woman.
The woman is likely to think that the man had not the best intentions when doing so. This form of body language represents two contrasting meanings in these two different cultures and therefore they are perceived differently depending on the culture. Sign language is similar to body language. It is a more concise and clear way of expressing ideas without words, that is why it is used by deaf people. Certain signs represent different meanings again depending on culture, religion and environment.
When a Christian prays he bows his head in prayer, when a Muslim prays he kneels down on the floor so religions have their unique signs for prayer and having different signs for prayer will make them perceive prayer differently from one another. In my opinion, language can be classified into different categories which give a different perception of meaning. Domestic languages are unique to a certain country or certain group. This gives a different perception of the world to that group because the language used is unique to them and only used by them. Universal Language is used and understood by everyone around the world.
For example, Maths and Sports would count to Universal language because they are understood and perceived in common ways by everyone around the world. A great example is a Football team nowadays which often comprises of players of different cultures and ethnicities who have gathered different perceptions about things. But they all have common perception about what Football is and how it is played despite their other differences. Timeless languages also consist and these are basically universal languages which have since the beginning of existence been existent in any form.
Examples are Music and Art because ever since beginning of existence these languages or at least perceptions about the use of language with them have been the same until now. Until this day a low pitched tune or a darkly painted portray will trigger certain emotion in people because certain sounds and sights have always received similar perception from people. Semantics is another very interesting dimension of language. Language is all good and well but it in actual fact it is the meaning behind words, signs, reactions that makes language effective.
It is true that no two people are alike because ‘every individuals experience is unique. ‘3 Therefore, no two people will have the same perception of words since they have built up their perceptions from varying experiences and will perceive language differently. The famous Odgen and Richards Triangle, which has the Symbol and Referent at the bottom corners and the Reference as the apex, shows how easily miscommunication can take place because of two people carrying different perceptions of words.
By speaking different languages in all kinds of forms one perceives a different world because of the diverse denotations associated with different languages and the link of a language, spoken by a group, to their culture, environment and religion. There are broader aspects of language which cause one to perceive the world different because of the different context and usage of language in some areas of knowledge whereas other areas of knowledge have a language of their own in a way. Ultimately it is the reference in language that is the key to finding the same perception to things and perceiving the world in a similar way.