Words limit us! - Linguistic Relativity

Posted by in Other, Philosophy, Thought

I was watching this movie called Arrival recently. The movie made me think a couple of things, while it’s sci-fi but it was built on some facts.

What was the movie about?

[Spoiler Alert!]

The movie starts with the arrival of 12 UFO at 12 different location across the globe. The UFO were just hovering above the ground, no war/or anything. Every day, the ship would open doors for some time, during which a couple of humans could go in and interface with aliens onboard. The govt. tried multiple scientists but couldn’t make out what their intention was. So they decide to bring in a linguist (Dr. Bank) and an astrophysicist (Not Shelden Cooper, I wish they did though 😀 ).

The linguistic tries to say hello for the first initial days, but she had been unsuccessful so far. She tries multiple tricks used in past when tribes speaking a different language from across sea/land would interact for the first time. Finally, she figures a mechanism to say hello. They slowly work with aliens in understanding their language, it’s like teaching a language to Baby.

As they learn more about the alien language, she starts to have these random visions, which she couldn’t understand. Similar advances are made at other sites. As Dr Bank spend more time she is able to make sense of their language…

Some events happen and they finally ask the question for which all this was done?

Dr. Bank: Why are they here?
Aliens: Weapons
Govt.: To they want to give weapon or are they seeking weapon?
Dr. Bank: Giving some examples from her research says, that weapons could refer to “Tools” as well.
Govt.: Don’t care

Other sites decide to advance with the military, Dr Banks decide to go in once again. When she goes in this time, the aliens dump a lot of alien symbols to them. When analysed the astrophysicist realises that it’s only 1/12th. The aliens want all the world to unite to crack what they want to share.

Dr Bank is able to crack what they want to share, it’s their language.

Govt: What? Language, how is that useful?
Dr. Banks: Their language is a tool, if you can understand that language then you can forsee future!

Woh! That’s fascinating. She explains more about this stuff. How words shape our way of thinking and cognition. The fancy thing keeps coming from her.

Some researching on Linguistic relativity!

After watching the movie, I was really curious if the language has anything to do with time? Has there been any research? And the answer was yes! There has been some research on “Linguistic relativity

The hypothesis of linguistic relativity, part of relativism, also known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis /səˌpɪər ˈhwɔːrf/, or Whorfianism is a principle claiming that the structure of a language affects its speakers’ world view or cognition, and thus people’s perceptions are relative to their spoken language.And as I read more, it made me think a lot of things.

If this is true then it explains why Chinese are so advanced 😛 Just kidding!

My thoughts on Linguistic relativity

I do believe that there is some relation b/w language and our ability to think. It’s the same thing as how number system works. A larger base means that same space can carry more information! Isn’t quantum computing about same? All we want to do is use space more efficiently. Because that’s limited. So it’s possible that the language can determine how our brain thinks and processes.

Since I have been reading about some vedic stuff recently. Vedas use Sanskrit and Sanskrit is considered to be mother of all languages. Vedas were never written but passed on through rigorous training from one individual to another. Was that done to preserve knowledge? Because words truly can’t carry the same level of information as sound can?

Even in general when I am thinking, I take more time to articulate my thoughts into the word. We know that our mind can think faster than it can know. This means the language in which I think determines the processing capability of my mind!

Is this the reason that sci-fi can think of concepts which don’t sound feasible through science, and the science thinks that it’s impossible because they are limited by the language it’s using. And art is not bound by the boundaries of language!

In my opinion:

Arts is undiscovered science!


Ashutosh Agrawal