I am in my final year of my BSc, with a double major in Psychology and French.
Blog Entry #1 - January 16, 2011
So far I am thoroughly enjoying the psycholinguistics class. I had some initial concerns, knowing that it would be focusing a lot on the brain, but I have been pleasantly surprised. Dr. Newman has captivated my attention, and I am eager to navigate my way through the creation of a wikiversity site; this is completely new to me and I am ready to make the leap! Having such a unique approach to an undergraduate class is sure to keep us all focused in a new way. I really appreciate the way that Dr. Newman is acknowledging the way in which education needs to change to meet the new needs of society. It is truly refreshing!
This week I was especially fascinated by the question of whether we need language to think. My initial reaction was that while we certainly use language for a large portion of our thinking, it isn't necessary. But this notion has stayed with me since that lecture, and I am becoming more and more aware of the realities of it all. I'm beginning to think now that having the use of language prohibits us from thinking without language. That language is ever-present, and even as we attempt to think without it, it manages to seep into our consciousness. While the truth that a description of certain smells and tastes can't be made with language, we can't help but consider those notions in a linguistic manner. I think that the simple development of language among our cognitive abilities is so all-encompassing, and so ingrained in our consciousness, that we cannot get rid of it. I must admit that this question has kept me thinking all week, and I would truly be fascinated to see some research on the subject. Is it possible, without taking drastic measures that involve harming the brain in some way, to get rid of language, even for a moment?
This topic expands even further when we examined the Whorfian hypothesis, and how our use of language shapes the world that we live in. It was interesting to hear of Toki Pona, and to look at the ways that language can actually be used to alter our consciousness. This notion isn't new to me, and we hear frequently in clinical psychology that treatment of various psychological illnesses often begins with a shift in the language that the patient uses. Certainly, we see frequently among people suffering from mood disorders that not only do they lack an understanding of their emotions, but that they lack the language necessary to describe those emotions. Often, this is one of the first steps in treatment. It is widely thought that without the language, the understanding will not be there.