How Language Destroys and Creating destroy our ability to think critically is the central theme running through this new book by Thomas Nagy. Nagy maintains that we live in a "language trap" where the written word limits and regulates our social reality while the spoken word frees us from the constraints of the written language. The language of the spoken word allows us to experience reality as it really is rather than as it seems to be by isolating it within the narrow confines of our words.
As a language tool, language destroys reality because it makes promises it cannot actually keep. Nagy's research into the social construction of reality demonstrates how language creates and reinforces specific notions, expectations and roles that are highly constraining in nature. It is not uncommon for members of a group to claim paramount authority, while creating and enforcing restrictions and limitations upon those who do not conform. Those who use the written word as their only means of communication are subject to the most strident demands, while those who speak the language of the spoken word are immune from the more subtle pressures and suggestions. Those who are fluent in one language but not another are subject to the double standard of having to decode messages from one cultural group to another.
How Language Destroys Our Thinking The language we speak not only provides the means of communication, but it also frames our perceptions and determines the optimal way of responding to events. This dual effect of language on our thinking is the basis of Nagy's contention that the use of one particular language can destroy our ability to critically think about the materials, events or topics of conversation. As he suggests, the logic of presuppositions, or assumptions, is the core of how language shapes our reality. Although these assumptions may seem rational at first glance, there is often a hidden logic at work that makes it impossible to follow the logic of these assumptions when confronted head-on.
How Language Destroys Our Emotions Nagy points out that most language users are quite willing to accept and give credence to the common logic of presuppositions and absolutes which are part and parcel of any everyday conversation. However, when we are confronted with an argument, for example, which goes against our common logic, we tend to reach a point of indecision. Rather than explore and challenge our own ideas, we usually retreat back into our pre-conceived notions and accept the perspective of the other side as the truth. In this way, the very foundation of how language constructs reality is affected.
How Language Destroys Our Communities Most English-speaking people have a limited vocabulary and are quite unable to engage in wide-ranging conversations with people who do not use English as their mother tongue. For this reason, many people fail to develop close relationships with people from other cultures or ethnic backgrounds. In order to thrive as a diverse community, we need to be open to developing meaningful relationships with people who do not speak English as their first language. The problem is that many English speakers live amongst people who do not speak English as a first language, making it difficult for them to interact with native speakers. It can be easy to lose sight of the fact that it is language not nationality that causes this difference of culture and society, but the fact that English is often perceived as a universal language, used throughout the world and spoken by many people of varying descent and ethnicity.
How Language Destroys Your Memory can often be attributed to how language is often associated with memory retention. When we are asked to read something, some of our senses are more quickly triggered and more easily remembered than others. This means that for some learners, hearing and speaking are the fastest ways of remembering what they hear and say. If we were to record every sound that we hear and note it down, we would have a large book of sounds to remember! For some people, however, hearing and speaking are still the best ways of remembering.