Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How Learned Language May Shape Personality

While we already knew that bilinguals may have respective sides to their tendencies, researchers have recently released solid evidence that each language plays a role in their different personality traits. 

When a person learns a new language, the culture associated with that language is innate. For example, in 1930 linguist Benjamin Whorf introduced a theory claiming that since the Hopi language had no indication of tense or person, the speakers of this language had a "wishy-washy" system of time management.

This is like how people living on mountainsides are more likely to say uphill and downhill, rather than describe locations as in front or behind. 

Any bilingual person will agree that no two languages are even comparable in both structure and system. There are languages in which several definitions and connotations can spawn off of a single grammatical system. This blurs the boundaries of an accurate world view, and can leave people choosing what may be important to the function of this new culture which they have only recently been introduced to.

"There is something thrilling in speaking (Spanish) with the nostalgia of spicy foods on my tongue and the vision of me standing in (clothing unique to Hispanic culture)," said one student.

So what about moral judgement? 

One study zeroed in on bilingual subjects from Korea, France, and Israel, asking them to choose between saving five guilty people from a stray train or one innocent person from a deadly fall, with each choice having the alternative inverse as a consequence. When asked in their secondary language, most of their responses were in sync with that culture instead of within their own. When faced with a similar dilemma in their own tongue, their responses were suddenly  aligned with the popular opinion of their own countries. The language most overwhelmingly willing to salvage the five lives was Hebrew, whether represented in southeast Asia or in Israel.

These studies have successfully concluded one thing that has been reiterated by brilliant linguists since the beginning of time - that language expands perception and perspicacity immensely. 

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