How does language affect our view of the world?

Language forms a structure through which we interpret the world. Without the language, we can actually become blind to the senses. For example, you were taught that we have 4 or 5 tastes such as sweet, sour, bitter, etc. If I give you some wine to drink, you will fall back on those words to describe it. If I give you a second wine to taste, you again use your pre-defined vocabulary to describe the differences as best you can. If the wines are similar, you might well declare them to be the same.

However, give the same wines to someone such as TV’s Oz Clark, and he will start talking about cow dung smells, chocolate,¬†mouldy¬†straw, damp bed sheets, raspberries and such like. You’ll think he’s mad, but this is the language through which he smells. The strange thing is, he doesn’t taste better because he has a better nose than you or I. He tastes things better because he has learned that language. If you tasted wines regularly and discussed them, then you may develop somewhat similar skills.

The same goes for sound. When people talk about their expensive stereo system for music, they often use words like bright, sharp, clear, crisp, soft or wooden. To the lay person they mean nothing but to the person who knows the language it means everything. Someone plays you music through two speakers and asks you which sounds brighter, and you are lost to hear any difference what-so-ever.

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