Humans were/are learning about nature via identifying, observing and studying objects and relations between those objects.
At the same time humans were/are assigning names to those identified objects (nouns) and observed relations (verbs), thus developing language ...

Since, therefore, human language reflects the physical world and it's laws, which are realities, existing independently of human mind, does language contain within its structure the knowledge about those realities?

closed as too broad by James Grossmann, acattle, curiousdannii, robert, jlawler Aug 20 '14 at 0:24

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • sometimes – prash Aug 16 '14 at 4:30
  • Welcome to the Linguistics Stack Exchange, Alex. Your question addresses general truths about the nature of the relationship between language and reality. This issue is a major topic in the the philosophy of language. This makes your question too broad, which is why I am voting to close it. But pleased don't be discouraged from posting in the future. Please check the guidelines for asking questions here: linguistics.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-ask – James Grossmann Aug 16 '14 at 6:23

The answer to the question as formulated in the last sentence is a resounding no. Language does in no way represent or reflect any underlying truths about the world. In fact, the very definition of language is that it represents one way of reflecting a particular way of perceiving the world.

Different languages represent this reality in different ways. Perhaps the one universal tendency is that much of language reflects certain realities of the human body. However, even here languages will differ in the particulars.

At best you can say that some language structures reflect certain social realities. But this will mostly be limited to vocabulary and phraseology. At any rate, any such correspondences can only be reconstructed, never predicted.

Plus, you make a very simplistic link between knowledge, names and physical reality. You could say that all three are constantly interacting in a mutually constructive way. But there is no chain of mirror like reflections.

Ultimately, you need to problematize both your notions of language and knowledge. Once you see them in all their complexity, the question will make less and less sense.

  • Language - is a way of communication between large group of people ... Your statement that language "represents one particular way of reflecting the world" implies language subjectivity . How would you explain that the large group people shares and accepts such particular way of subjectivity? To me it would be more reasonable to believe that due to the sheer number of people who participated (and still participate) in the formation and development of language, subjectivity, which is essential on individual level of perception, would be minimized ... – Alex Aug 16 '14 at 11:33
  • When I say language, I mean a particular language. So English may profile motion differently from French. This is then shared by speakers of that language. Although it is still important to remember individual variation (the extent of which had not been studied extensively but which is probably more significant than people assume). – Dominik Lukes Aug 16 '14 at 11:43
  • I was talking about whether individual subjective perceptive variations within ONE language got possibly statistically eliminated (due to the big number of that language participants), thus refining the language to reflect reality more objectively ... – Alex Aug 16 '14 at 12:34
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    Sure. But only to the extent those objects are coconstructed by that particular language. But it does not really tell us that much about language itself since reference to objects is only a small part of what language does. – Dominik Lukes Aug 16 '14 at 13:16
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    If you believe you can mine that grain of objectivity (interesting metaphor here, btw) without learning any linguistics, feel free to do so. But what you're being told here is that there isn't any such thing, as you state it. Sorry. Science is often like that. – jlawler Aug 16 '14 at 17:26

Dominik Lukes said:

Plus, you make a very simplistic link between knowledge, names and physical reality. You could say that all three are constantly interacting in a mutually constructive way. But there is no chain of mirror like reflections.

That's the most important thing to understand. Language is being constructed while it's constructing. It morphoses 'in the middle' of the whole dynamic of our consciousness, serving as a common 'ground' based on sounds, time, etc., which implies a lot of 'determined' characteristics of human (not only phonetically but culturally and perhaps emotional and psychologically), which as it's obvious holds a very complex structure, a structure that keeps changing and re-using, maybe tendencially simplifying, it's resources in accordance to it's needs.

Since language comes after human synthesis of the perceived world and the whole complex of emotions and the already established concepts (which affects both our input and output), to say that language reflects in pieces external reality in it's full objectivity, or say that language is a system fixed enough to reflect it objectively, is too reducing, it attributes language a place it doesn't have (which doesn't mean it's not highly important).

So in short, as you formulated your question, the answer is no, language doesn't give any raw or objective information of realities external and independent to us (nature); it simply helps to build up an understanding about our perception of that reality to keep developing through it.

  • Welcome and thanks for contributing. For the sake of Linguistics SE, could you acknowledge who you're quoting, and make more explicit how your answer addresses the original question? (such as "yes", "no", "yes", "but not in the way you're thinking" etc.)? – robert Aug 17 '14 at 23:54
  • @robert - I accept answers without quotes. – Alex Aug 18 '14 at 0:46
  • I think one could clearly separate language objects (nouns ) into two groups: 1) those, which reflect objects of nature (humans included) 2) those, which express human's subjective mentality - such as feelings, emotions, etc. – Alex Aug 18 '14 at 0:50
  • Language is a human construction. Once we perceive (perception is limited in itself) we construct words. Now, once we speak, what we perceived becomes part of our reality, which we later perceive and speak again, extending current concepts in time (conjugation), space (endo, exo, under, etc.), qualitative/quantitave prefixes (auto, hetero, hyper, co, etc) and so on, depending in our society's needs, which hold our disposition to differentiate. As you see, language tells us only things related to the complexity of our relationship with ourselves and with nature, not any truth about it itself. – drex.see.ya Aug 18 '14 at 1:43
  • Perception is not always subjective. What is subjective say in nouns Nature, Sun, Earth, Moon, etc., ( - those are the "names" English speakers gave to objects, which exist independently of human mind) ? Likewise - what is perceptive in the language construction "the laws of nature" (those laws also exist independent of human mind) ? – Alex Aug 18 '14 at 12:53

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