Armster cannot think of words while speaking

Language and thinking: how words affect our lives

"The limits of my language are the limits of my world." - Ludwig Wittgenstein. There is a consensus in philosophy and linguistics how important our vocabulary and language are for our lives. For our thinking, our culture and our coexistence. We asked ourselves: "How do words actually affect our daily lives?"

Actions speak louder than words?

"There is nothing good unless you do it!" - Erich Kaestner. The background to this saying is easy to understand: just talking is no good. There is no change in just talking about what you want to change. If you want something new in your life or even want to improve the world, you have to let action speak for itself.

But what are our actions based on? Ultimately, every action has to be preceded by planning and every planning by a thought - and thoughts are made up of words. So if we want to know how words affect our lives, we have to look one level deeper.

Our vocabulary determines our thinking

In the 19th century, the linguist introduced Wilhelm von Humboldt the theory that language is the basis of all thoughts. In other words, we can only think what we have words for.

However, there are Emotions or feelingsthat seem to be independent of words. Often enough one is speechless, cannot find words for what one actually wants to express. We try to paraphrase something or to find comparisons, but it is not always possible to express exactly what one feels with words.

Our vocabulary may not determine our entire thinking and certainly not our feelings, but it undeniably has an influence on it. In any case, it is essential for our communication with other people. There is certainly non-verbal communication as well, but these are also limited in their expressiveness, especially when it comes to complex topics.

So now the assumption is obvious: the larger our vocabulary, the more diverse are the possibilities of what and how we can think. It's not just about the vocabulary of your own mother tongue. Those who learn a foreign language can not only communicate better, they also expand this at the same time Expressiveness himself.

Many words cannot be translated

“The spirit of a language is most clearly revealed in its untranslatable words” - Marie von Ebner Eschenbach.

My favorite example of words that match our Expand thinking, is the English “dare”. In a movie it is used like this: “I dare you to love me”. “Dare” can be translated as follows: “dare”, “challenge” or “dare”.

If you try to translate the meaning of this sentence into German, it will be difficult. If you want to capture all the nuances that can be interpreted into this English sentence, you might have to translate it as follows: “I challenge you to dare to love me because I want you to love me. ” A simple “I want you to love me” would definitely not be enough!

Another example from English is that luck, because in English you can differentiate between “lucky” and “happy”. In German you have to explain this in more detail if you want to make the distinction. Does it make native English speakers happier? Not necessarily. However, they have a different, more varied approach to the concept of “happiness” and thus also completely different possibilities of consciousness.

Words are already actions - a little excursion into pragmatics

So after we have established how important our vocabulary is for our thinking (and possibly also for our feeling), we come back to the deeds and take a little excursion into the Pragmatics. Pragmatics is a sub-discipline of linguistics and deals with the specific language used and its context-dependent context.

Without wanting to go into too much detail, one can summarize a key point from research quite unpragmatically: spoken (or written out) words, i.e. communication, can be understood as actions.

By formulating sentences we carry out an action; under certain circumstances we are already changing something in the world, because we are sending a messagethat can be interpreted in different ways by the interlocutor. A speech act is an action that will evoke some kind of reaction and thus specifically intervene in our life and that of the other person.

One of the best-known examples of this is the phrase “I'm cold”. Actually, this is a simple statement that the speaking person is cold. However, it can subtly convey very different messages in context. In this case something like “close the window” or “bring me a blanket”.

Be careful what you say because words have power

Such Interpretations of simple statements happen quite unconsciously and are - mostly - also unconsciously misunderstood. Nevertheless, they make it clear to us that it makes perfect sense to pay attention to what you say to others. Because we automatically interpret every message we receive in one way or another. And the more often we are given certain messages, the more likely we are to accept them for our lives.

You know that from the field of positive affirmations. Those who repeatedly say something positive about themselves will think more positively and their self-image will change for the better. Our brain can easily be influenced in this area.

Unfortunately, it works the other way too. A child who is constantly being told, “You are clumsy” has no choice but to actually become clumsy. A phrase like “you are just like your mother / father” can be a lot more hurtful than you intended. Especially when arguing, you should avoid you messages as much as possible. There are many things that cannot be easily undone.

How can I use words for my life?

What does this mean for our everyday life? It doesn't mean we should talk instead of act. But the basis for every act and therefore also for every change in life is our thoughts. And thus in our language. Those who use words and their language more consciously can have a positive influence on their life and theirs Improve relationships.

Tips for the correct use of language:

  • Learn foreign languages. You will find that you can suddenly put thoughts into words that were previously closed to you
  • Try to be aware of what you are trying to say before you say it. First think, then talk
  • Always remind yourself that the other person does not have exactly the same vocabulary as you and may interpret statements very differently from what you meant them
  • Use positive affirmations. The more often you make positive statements about yourself, the more likely your mind will accept them as truth
  • Avoid negative you-messages in conversations. Instead, talk about your own feelings and emotions. For example, “When you say X, I feel Y” instead of “You're like your mother because you always say X”