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What role do language and language diversity play in the critical thinking process?

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< Language diversity is essential for critical thinking. Language is logic. A language contains everything its speakers can think about or consider. For example, in Latin the word for friend is amicus, and the Romans took the idea very seriously. My friend is another me (alter ego), they said. But your basic ancient Roman male had no word for a female friend. The idea of having a female friend did not exist in his mind. The feminine form of amicus is amica, and it does not mean friend, but only girlfriend or mistress, because it was illogical for a male to consider any female to be anything like his equal. In Rome, a female did not even have her own name, only a feminine form of her father's name ( and a nickname, often Greek, to tell her apart from her sisters and cousins ), and she was legally the property of the senior male member of her family, who might be a teen-age adopted great-nephew.

But if this hypothetical Roman had to learn the Celtic language of the people he called Germans, whose females enjoyed more-or-less equal standing to the men in their own society, the possibility of a female friend would necessarily be introduced into his speech. What effect would this have on his critical thinking? A profound one, to be sure, and that is but one single word/idea.

The greater part of the Greek vocabulary in English comes through the Latin, where it was introduced because Latin lacked the ideas most of the words stood for, not just the words. When only the word is missing, but some other language's imagery makes sense already, languages often make loan-translations rather than borrowing the foreign words. The English word superman, for example is loan translation from the German ??bermensch.

In either case, by borrowing or through loan translation, the different words do to language and therefore to logic and critical thinking what genetic diversity does to living creatures.

Further reading:

  • The languages of Pao by Jack Vance

  • Babel 17 by Samual Delany

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