Language is one of our most astounding abilities. Presumably, I can think about my favorite place and by exhaling and making particular sounds with my mouth, I can get someone else to think about what I am thinking. I can make any number of gestures that can communicate whole thoughts. In some cases so clearly that it could result in a fight. I can make marks on a piece of paper and be declared a sensitive genius, branded a liar, or be lock away and tortured because those in power fear my 'dangerous ideas' getting into other peoples minds. This is incredible!


Read the following quotations. As you do so, try to understand exactly what was meant by the quotation and what the implications are if such claims are true. Do agree with the the quote?

  1. Speech is but broken light upon the depths of the unspoken. (George Eliot)

  2. Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun. (Clifford Geertz)

  3. The word is half his that speaks, and half his that hears it. (Michel de Montaigne)

  4. Language was given to man to disguise his thoughts. (Talleyrand)

  5. Almost all education is language education. (Neil Postman)

  6. Who does not know another language does not know his own. (Goethe)

  7. Language is not merely a reproducing instrument for voicing ideas but rather is the shaper of ideas. (Benjamin Whorf)

  8. We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages. (Benjamin Whorf)

  9. Language was the real innovation in our biological evolution; everything since has just made our words travel faster or last longer. (Steven Pinker)

  10. Philosophy is the battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language. (Ludwig Wittgenstein)

  11. If your language is confused, your intellect, if not your whole character, will almost certainly correspond . (Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch)

  12. Thought is not merely expressed in words; it comes into existence through them. (L.Vygotsky)

Read! short definition of language

Discussion Posting Option

  1. Write a thoughtful response (around 250-300 words) to the task below in your class discussion page in the toolbar on the left.
  2. Comment on at least two other responses. One of your comments must be to a response without any comments. Make this something more substantial than, "Great Response!"

  • Choose one of the quotes above (from our class discussion) and explain what you think the author intended to say. To what extent do you agree with this?

Optional Reading: van de Lagemaat p.p. 47-50

Lesson 1: Words, Language and Thinking

Lesson 2: Is Language a Neutral Medium?

Lesson 3: What do words mean?

Lesson 4: How Effective is Spoken Language?

Lesson 5: Language and Thought

Assessment: Language Essays

Assessment: Language Mini-Essays

Language WOK Vocabulary:

Ambiguity, Back translation, Body language, Classification, Communication, Connotation, Denotation, Emotive meaning, Euphemism, Grammar, Idiom, Irony, Linguistic determinism, Metaphor, Sapir-Worf hypothesis, Stereotype, Weasel words

TOK Lexicon of all our vocabulary.