Linguistic researchers utilize a substantial body of research study on English and other Western languages to make broad assumptions about patterns in human language, including an apparent universal choice for suffixes (e.g., less, able, ment) over prefixes (e.g., fore, anti, trans). Considering that psychological scientists acknowledge the powerful link in between language and cognition, a propensity for suffixes to dominate human language may reflect a universal characteristic of how we believe and process the world around us.
Nevertheless, new research study released in the journal Mental Science exposes that although lots of populations prefer suffixes in the same method English speakers do, others do not, consisting of speakers of the African Bantu language Kîîtharaka. This unexpected discovery challenges the idea that Western languages are sufficient when studying language and its connection to psychological science.
” The original hypothesis that humans normally choose suffixes makes a great deal of user-friendly sense, a minimum of to us English speakers,” said Alexander Martin, a language researcher at the University of Edinburgh and lead author on the paper. “We were shocked, therefore, to see just how starkly the 2 populations [English speakers and Kîîtharaka speakers] varied in this regard.”
For their research study, Martin and his coworkers studied specific word attributes among the two populations– one whose language relies more regularly on suffixes (51 English speakers) and one whose language relies more on prefixes (72 Kîîtharaka speakers).
English speakers thought about the starts of words as more vital, a language characteristic that shows English’s use of suffixes. Kîîtharaka speakers, nevertheless, were inclined to treat endings as more important, choosing to select series that altered the starts of words.
” This finding truly challenged a previous claim about human language,” said Martin. “It revealed that the abundance of suffixes throughout the world’s languages may not merely be a reflection of basic human understanding.”
A choice for prefixes over suffixes by some language speakers has bigger implications than diverse human cognition. It may be a sign that language research study has actually not been exhaustive in the past.
” The crucial take-home here is that if we wish to comprehend how language is shaped by universal features of human cognition or perception, we need to look at a diverse sample of human beings,” said Martin.
The WEIRD Choice for Suffixes
This is reflected in the structure of English: when customizing a word to alter its significance, English tends to include suffixes.
These previous language research studies, nevertheless, have focused predominantly on Western, educated, industrialized, abundant, and democratic (ODD) populations. Such studies have concluded that suffixes are typically preferred over prefixes.
The Nexus of Language and Cognition
” How the human brain views and processes the world around it affects language, however not every feature of language is a direct reflection of this,” said Martin. “For instance, how we utilize language, like for interaction, can also impact language patterns.” The research study’s conclusions further illuminate the relationship between human cognition and language systems and patterns. Nevertheless, Martin warned against presuming that various languages must imply dramatically various understandings of the world.
” When we take a look at speakers of other languages, especially those who speak languages that haven’t been studied extensively, we are able to understand that we’ve been seeing the world through a biased lens. That’s something we believe psychologists ought to care about,” he stated.