The Effects of Language on Perception

By Deborah Adeoye-davids


We cannot change the thoughts behind our words to encourage the best outcome in life if we do not first try to understand that ways of thinking and observing life are passed down through language by past speakers.

A common topic of Christian gospel discourse is that what we speak out into the world about our lives can often physically affect said situations. We believe that what you say affects the changes you see; however, it can get much more complicated than this. The intentions behind the words matter more than the words spoken themselves. We cannot change the thoughts behind our words to encourage the best outcome in life if we do not first try to understand that ways of thinking and observing life are passed down through language by past speakers.




Without the knowledge that specific terminology was taken out or added into the language you speak by the society that passed it down, affecting our perceptions of certain situations; it becomes much harder to change the intentions behind the words we speak.


"A language, however, has its own internal logic, its own grammar… There is no key you can plug in to unlock the exact meaning. At best, you can get a close approximation" (Samuel R. Delany, Babel-17). The word 'language' is rightly and most commonly thought of as synonymous with communication. This is especially true within the context of the law, as its interpretations require precise and explicit language.





Even so, one of the most apparent challenges to this legal precision and clarity is the fact that there are almost 7,000 different languages that exist today. A universal language promotes more intercultural communication and fewer linguistic misunderstandings. However, it is challenging to decide on a global language to use within the law context because each language affects the perceptions, values, and judgments of those who use it.


It is challenging to decide on a global language to use within the law context because each language affects the perceptions, values, and judgments of those who use it.

It is put best within an article titled "The Concept and Functions of a Universal Language of Law." by Katarzyna Doliwa, when she says, "In law, translation consists in transposing a message present in a given legal system into a message within another system. The language of law evolves and reflects the values of the society where it originated." (Doliwa 214).





Having established the importance of Universal language to law and its possible issues, it is relevant to understand the advantages of exploring the concept further in any case. This is because merely exploring a universal language would lead to a better understanding of the diversity in language and ease within the field of law concerning globalization.


Psychologically speaking, the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is the term for this connection between a speaker's language and their worldview. It had always been a known phenomenon but was later expanded upon by Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf. They concluded that language structures affect the cognitive abilities of native speakers of a language.


They concluded that language structures affect the cognitive abilities of native speakers of a language.

Dr Leonid Perlovsky, a Research Professor at Northeastern University and author of "Language and Emotions: Emotional Sapir–Whorf Hypothesis.", considers the emotional version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. He proposes that differences in the component of emotion within language, a definite norm of different social groups, lead to differences in the perception of information. To expand upon this, the author refers to other studies, such as the results of D. G. Gutfreund's study, which showed how Spanish-English bilinguals could portray stronger emotions in Spanish. Other references used to help understand this was the mathematical models that clarify the link between language and emotion.

He proposes that differences in the component of emotion within language, a definite norm of different social groups, lead to differences in the perception of information.

"So, two people watch the same event, witness the same crime, but end up remembering different things about that event. This has implications, of course, for eyewitness testimony" (Boroditsky 10:18 - 10:22). The speaker, Dr Lera Boroditsky, is an assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University and the Chief of Frontiers in Cultural Psychology. Within the TED Talk, Dr Boroditsky compared and contrasted significant deviations in speech or grammar between different languages.


The inclusion and exclusion of different forms of information within a language are one of the main reasons universal communication is not advocated today. Still, there are more chances of it being solved if this avenue is continually pursued. This would allow for more legal connections based on the distinctions in how people reason, specifically within the constraints of each ingrained language.


It is difficult to separate language and perception, to attempt to fix one without considering the other. If language affects how people express emotion, view and describe situations, and even legal linguistics, how about faith? If language affects perception, it definitely affects perception through faith.


If language affects perception, it definitely affects perception through faith.
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