Title of Presentation or Performance

Linguistic Relativity: Language and Cognition of Chinese-English Bilinguals

Presenter and Advisor Information

Viana Chau, Illinois Wesleyan UniversityFollow

Type of Submission (Archival)

Pre-recorded Research Talk

Area of Study or Work

International Studies, Literature and Culture Studies in English Translation

Faculty Advisor

Chuck Springwood

Expected Graduation Date

2021

Start Date

4-10-2021 8:00 AM

End Date

4-11-2021 5:00 PM

Abstract

Researchers have long studied how language may affect, or perhaps even determine, the cognitive processes of its speakers--a theory known as linguistic relativity, introduced by Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf. In contrast, Noam Chomsky's theory of universal grammar took the linguistic world by storm. It proposes that all languages are fundamentally the same, and that everyone has a language capability hardwired into their DNA. Proponents of a universal grammar are skeptical that speakers of different languages have different ways of thinking or perceiving reality. In this research project, I will investigate these hypotheses, as well as other linguistic theories of linguistic acquisition, by assessing their strengths and weaknesses. Building upon a renewed confidence in linguistic relativity from Boroditsky's research with Mandarin and English speakers, I will interview four Chinese-English bilinguals about their personal experiences and observations of the impact of Chinese and English on their various thought processes and ways of perceiving the world. Ultimately, this review of the literature and the results of the interviews will allow me to offer an integrated model for how language affects thought.

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Apr 10th, 8:00 AM Apr 11th, 5:00 PM

Linguistic Relativity: Language and Cognition of Chinese-English Bilinguals

Researchers have long studied how language may affect, or perhaps even determine, the cognitive processes of its speakers--a theory known as linguistic relativity, introduced by Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf. In contrast, Noam Chomsky's theory of universal grammar took the linguistic world by storm. It proposes that all languages are fundamentally the same, and that everyone has a language capability hardwired into their DNA. Proponents of a universal grammar are skeptical that speakers of different languages have different ways of thinking or perceiving reality. In this research project, I will investigate these hypotheses, as well as other linguistic theories of linguistic acquisition, by assessing their strengths and weaknesses. Building upon a renewed confidence in linguistic relativity from Boroditsky's research with Mandarin and English speakers, I will interview four Chinese-English bilinguals about their personal experiences and observations of the impact of Chinese and English on their various thought processes and ways of perceiving the world. Ultimately, this review of the literature and the results of the interviews will allow me to offer an integrated model for how language affects thought.