Dreaming in Different Tongues
Does your language shape how you think and dream? Since there is no evidence that any language forbids its speakers to think anything, we must look in an entirely different direction to discover how our mother tongue really does shape our experience of the world.
Some 50 years ago, the renowned linguist Roman Jakobson pointed out a crucial fact about differences between languages in a pithy maxim: Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey.
This maxim offers us the key to unlocking the real force of the mother tongue: if different languages influence our minds in different ways, this is not because of what our language allows us to think but rather because of what it habitually obliges us to think about.
The area where the most striking evidence for the influence of language on thought has come to light is the language of space – how we describe the orientation of the world around us.
In what other ways might the language we speak influence our experience of the world? Recently, it has been demonstrated in a series of ingenious experiments that we even perceive colors through the lens of our mother tongue.