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  • Hi everyone, I'm Susie from the UK,

  • welcome back to my channel.

  • I've been thinking about something recently,

  • and I wanted to talk about it and hear what you think.

  • In Malcolm Gladwell's book 'Outliers'

  • he talked about transmitter vs receiver oriented languages.

  • In the book he wrote:

  • Western communication has what linguists call

  • a "transmitter orientation"

  • that is, it is considered the responsibility of the speaker

  • to communicate ideas clearly and unambiguously.

  • Within a Western cultural context,

  • it holds that if there is confusion,

  • it is the fault of the speaker.

  • But Korea, like many Asian countries, is receiver oriented.

  • It is up to the listener to make sense of what is being said.

  • I thought this was fascinating.

  • In English, you're expected to make yourself clear

  • as the speaker,

  • but in Chinese,

  • the listener might be expected to do some more work

  • to try and understand you.

  • Do you guys agree with this?

  • I have a lot of questions and feelings about it.

  • My initial feeling is that there might be some truth to it.

  • In my own experience,

  • it does feel like sometimes I might be explaining something

  • to someone from an Asian country,

  • and there's a moment of clear acknowledgement

  • of understanding,

  • just a head-nod or something,

  • and then I feel that anything I'm saying after that point

  • is just unnecessary.

  • There isn't too much explanation that's needed.

  • Another thing is that when it comes to essay writing,

  • I think there's a clear difference

  • between Chinese and English logic.

  • I've been helping a student with her PhD project,

  • and there have been loads of occasions

  • when we're reading her writing,

  • and I'll say 'it feels like there's a step missing here'

  • Or 'you haven't fully explained the relevance of this

  • or the connection to the next part.'

  • Her supervisors and I often use the words 'vague' or 'unclear'.

  • And she's usually shocked,

  • because she's like "I think it's very clear"

  • or "the reader should know exactly what I'm saying!".

  • And it's quite interesting to me,

  • because on the one hand, I can totally see what she means,

  • that the meaning should be guessable,

  • or that it might be so obvious

  • that it's not even worth spelling out.

  • But on the other hand,

  • in PhD writing

  • the convention is that you have to be as specific as possible,

  • so that you make your meaning clear.

  • I guess this has become the convention

  • and probably goes back to the Greeks.

  • Especially in writing,

  • you have to spell everything out

  • and make it crystal clear for the reader.

  • You have to be very scientific and logical about it,

  • don't miss any steps in your thinking,

  • even if it seems obvious to you,

  • you want to leave no room for misinterpretations.

  • That's how to write well in English anyway.

  • Another thing that seems to demonstrate

  • this transmitter vs receiver difference to me

  • is that someone else from Taiwan told me

  • they find it easier to read English books than Chinese books,

  • because in English books

  • the authors takes you through step by step,

  • like a clear story.

  • The logic helps the reader follow through bit by bit.

  • I thought that was quite interesting that they said that

  • even though it's their second language,

  • there's something about the logic

  • that makes it easier to follow in English.

  • Now obviously that's just one person

  • so you'll have to point out if I'm going majorly wrong here.

  • I'm still learning about Chinese logic in writing,

  • but it seems like maybe the rules are just less defined.

  • You don't have to start each paragraph

  • with a topic sentence,

  • introducing the point of that paragraph,

  • and you don't have to only keep 100% relevant points

  • in that paragraph.

  • It seems like you can be a bit more poetic

  • and, especially in the introduction,

  • you can talk about the 'big picture' for a lot longer.

  • The 'big picture' is quite a big deal actually.

  • If we're generalising,

  • it seems like western logic is more about details,

  • and Eastern writing is more concerned with big picture stuff.

  • So those are just my observations.

  • These language differences made me think of

  • the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

  • This hypothesises that

  • the structure of a language shapes or limits

  • the way speakers perceive the world.

  • It's been hotly debated for a long time in linguistics.

  • I personally think it's a chicken and egg debate.

  • On the one hand,

  • it's not like you can only think of something

  • if that thing has a word in your language,

  • but on the other hand

  • there are some studies that suggest different languages

  • influence the way people think about things,

  • especially at a young age.

  • I'll link some down below.

  • It really depends on what we mean by thought as well.

  • Some people have quite clear inner monologues

  • that only exist in terms of words,

  • but I don't really have that,

  • my thoughts are more like feelings or impressions.

  • Are yours like that?

  • Maybe the differences in the languages are to do

  • with the differences in the way we think.

  • In the bookThe Geography of Thoughtby Richard Nisbett

  • he talks about the cognitive differences

  • between North East Asians and Westerners.

  • Now of course when we talk about Asians and Westerners,

  • it's all generalising,

  • and I think these generalisations will hold less and less true

  • as the concept of 'nationality' becomes more arbitrary,

  • but to summarise very briefly, in Western thinking,

  • first of all,

  • being unique as an individual is seen as something desirable.

  • People like to feel in control in environments

  • where their choices lead to desirable outcomes.

  • They work towards personal goals and achievements,

  • and relationships can actually get in the way

  • of those achievements sometimes.

  • Your identity is seen as static,

  • meaning you can move from group to group

  • and setting to setting and still mostly be the same person.

  • On the other hand, in Eastern thinking,

  • there's less focus on personal goals and self-aggrandisement,

  • and collective goals are generally more important.

  • It's not particularly desirable to be individually distinctive.

  • Being in harmony with your surrounding network

  • is a strong predictor of personal wellbeing,

  • and relationships are valued over identity,

  • because your identity doesn't come from yourself

  • but from the context and influences you're exposed to.

  • This obviously relates to Buddhism, Taoism

  • and other philosophies that were born in the East.

  • Choices affecting outcomes is seen as oversimplistic,

  • and when it comes to relationships and the concept of self,

  • in Japanese, the word for 'I' literally changes

  • based on the context.

  • These distinctions can be distilled into 2 kinds of categories:

  • object-focus versus context-focus,

  • or analysis versus holism.

  • Now we can see where the essay-logic differences come from.

  • In western writing,

  • underlying assumed validity

  • isn't enough to prove that it's true.

  • This might make English writing easier to read in some ways,

  • as the reader is guided through step by step,

  • but there is a flaw in my opinion,

  • because if the larger context isn't taken into account

  • as much as possible,

  • major mistakes can be made.

  • In one of Nisbett's studies, they used this example:

  • All things made of plants are healthy.

  • Cigarettes are made of plants.

  • Therefore, cigarettes are healthy.

  • Within this paragraph alone, the logic follows.

  • But we're of course missing something,

  • which is the wider context.

  • I think it's useful to just be aware of this

  • when we go about our lives.

  • After all, the history of these two different regions

  • was completely different.

  • If we look at Greek philosophy,

  • which is seen as part of the foundation of western thinking,

  • Aristotle generally saw objects as categorisable and knowable,

  • and the Greeks looked for

  • underlying principle and patterns in science.

  • Arguments, debates and battles

  • were an important part of life.

  • The Eastern way of thinking, on the other hand,

  • was strongly influenced by Confucianism,

  • which was all about relationships

  • and shifting identity depending on context.

  • If we recall the Yin-Yang symbol from Taoism

  • we can also see the appreciation of contradiction

  • in Eastern thinking.

  • Different backgrounds, different languages,

  • different ways of thinking, maybe.

  • So what came first,

  • linguistic differences or cognitive differences,

  • and are these concepts even still applicable

  • or are they becoming outdated?

  • Let me know what you think.

  • Thanks for watching. I'm Susie and I'll see you next time!

Hi everyone, I'm Susie from the UK,

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【為何東西方思考模式不同】語言會影響思考的方式? 中英語言邏輯上又有哪些差異?

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    毓青曾 に公開 2021 年 10 月 19 日
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