Language is thought of by many people to be a spoken form of communication. Although that is a reasonable definition or explanation, Language is actually any form of communication. It affects all of life in many ways and has been the building block for society since the beginning of mankind. Without language, life cannot go on. Without being able to understand your environment’s aspects, approaches, teachings, or rules in life, you cannot be a part of society. Without society, life does not exist; especially when you are particularly talking about humans.
Language is such a big part of life that it subconsciously affects our thinking as individuals and also as a society. When you study habits of a certain cultures or areas in the world, you get excellent examples at how language impacts people.
From households to neighborhoods, towns, countries, and continents, people learn to develop distinct, everyday habits because of the communication or language portrayed to them from that particular environment. Through language, an American was taught to live in a world of democracy when a Chinese person was taught to live in a world of communism. Language has also made a New Yorker talk with a totally different accent then a Texan talks with. Language has even taught a kid from one household to behave in a particular way totally opposite from the ways of his friend who obviously lives in another household. So as you can see, the language in which you are taught totally depends on the type of environment you are around. There are so many ways you can relate language to life and the book Language in Thought and Action breaks a tremendous amount of these perspectives for you.
One thing the book talked about that I found quite interesting is taking a look at the way we classify people and objects. One example of classifying things is by giving objects names. The book says, “ what we call things and where we draw the line between one class of things and another depend upon the interests we have and the purposes of the classification.” That statement is a hundred percent true and we, as humans, never really look at it that way. Think about three different coaches, for three different sports, analyzing one kids athletic ability. Things such as speed, agility, strength, and confidence all play major roles in the coaches analyzing process. Because each coach is from one sport and their interests are focused on that particular sport, they are each going to have a different position (label) for that particular athlete. If all three coaches were from the same sport, then there is a good possibility that they would all classify the athlete as a player for the same position. So, each coach was taught through the specific language of their game to place certain types of athletes in certain positions.
You can also take a look at something as simple as a drinking glass in the same way. To me a regular crystal, cylinder shaped object is a drinking glass. Other cultures have different ways of drinking things then the way I do. So to a Japanese person who drinks out of clay cups my drinking glass may be looked at as a vase. Or maybe even a kid in a third world country in Africa who lives with a poor tribe and uses his hands to drink out of buckets would mot even have a clue to what my drinking glass is. So it is just an insignificant object to him.
Another topic the book reflected on that I found quite interesting is how we automatically assume things about people based on their passed experiences. We are this way with people because society has taught us to be that way through language. Society has taught us this mainly through media such as TV, newspapers, magazines, and all other informative objects. Think about an ex-convict who just got out of jail for robbery. We have been taught to believe that when he gets out, it is only a matter of time before he commits the same crime again. Movies always portray these people and when newspapers and magazines refer to convicts, it is never about how that person changed their life around; it is always how they have just committed another crime. This is not saying that it is wrong to have that outlook about convicts, it’s only stating the way it is.
Language can also be very persuasive to the human mind. Sometimes it is almost mind-boggling how people come up with some ways of life and believe that it is okay to be that way. The Nazi party in Germany was a great example of this. Adolf Hitler persuaded his people to believe that the elimination of Jews was a duty and needed to be done. He, in a sense, brainwashed millions of people through the use of language.
It’s unrealistic to say that every Nazi believed one hundred percent in Hitler’s beliefs. But it is realistic to say that for those people who did not believe in Hitler but followed him were still persuaded but in different ways. Some were probably convinced that the Nazi community would eventually rule so they might as well have joined him. Others may have just been flat out scared of opposing the party so they joined out of fear. No matter what took place, Hitler was a master at using language as a persuasive tool, that is why he even had a taste at victory the way he did.
In conclusion, language affects us in numerous ways in life. It develops the way we think and talk. It also keeps life rolling along. It has been said to be the most important aspect in life. After reading Language in Thought and Action, you can begin to realize just how important language can be in life.