Encapsulated Universes

This  beautiful conversation with Lera Boroditsky on edge.org is precisely why co-creation is not just a crucial strategy for billions of left-out learners, but for the rest of us, too….

I came across Encapsulated Universes via an ILAT listserv post, How Languages Shape Our Understanding of the World , an op-ed piece by Paul Woodward in Eurasia Review.

LERA BORODITSKY is an assistant professor of psychology, neuroscience, and symbolic systems at Stanford University.

Think about it this way. We have 7,000 languages. Each of these languages encompasses a world-view, encompasses the ideas and predispositions and cognitive tools developed by thousands of years of people in that culture. Each one of those languages offers a whole encapsulated universe. So we have 7,000 parallel universes, some of them are quite similar to one another, and others are a lot more different. The fact that there’s this great diversity is a real testament to the flexibility and the ingenuity of the human mind.

I’ve found this to be oh so true!  “The more I focused on language and started looking at cross-linguistic differences, the more it became apparent that systems of meaning exist within systems of language.”  In context, near the end…

I thought the more I studied language the more I’d discover the real truths that language is clouding. And actually exactly the opposite thing happened. I went to college at Northwestern to study cognitive science and started doing research there. I ended up going to graduate school in psychology at Stanford. The more I focused on language and started looking at cross-linguistic differences, the more it became apparent that systems of meaning exist within systems of language. Those interconnections between words are not simply the webbing on top of an otherwise pure logical knowledge system. Rather, in fact, meaning exists in the way that we use words; the patterns of word use create the system of meaning. There’s no getting away from language in getting to complex meanings.