• Okaya, Nagano


Regarding the Feb. 25 article “The character of a culture resides in its language“: Writer Boye De Mente says native-language “keywords preserve and transmit concepts that are pivotal in shaping the thinking of the people who use them” and that “the beliefs and behavior of people in all societies, especially older ones, are primarily programmed by their native language.”

These two statements seem somewhat contradictory. On the one hand is the statement that language is shaped by the culture, and on the other is a statement that culture and thought are shaped by language.

I am a little worried that Boye may be confusing cause and effect. It is certainly a matter of some debate among linguists whether language is primarily shaped by thought or thought by language. The majority would say that it goes both ways, and De Mente certainly doesn’t show evidence for his second statement that language is the cause, not the effect.

dougal graham

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