Deutscher, Guy. 2010. “Does Your Language Shape How You Think?”. New York Times. 1-6.
An interesting piece of writing titled “Does Your Language Shape How You Think?” by Guy Deutscher, a researcher as well as a writer expert in language and linguistic, offers a surprising yet logic idea on how actually language ‘obliges’ the speaker to think in certain way rather than ‘restricts’ to think at all. Having the experience in language, linguistic, and culture research, Deutscher’s analysis in the article are based on his interpretation of previous researches regarding the issue. Through his writing, he ‘attacks’ the argument of Benjamin Lee Whorf who believes that “[…] our mother tongue constrains our minds and prevents us from being able to think certain thoughts.” (Deutscher 2010:1) by presenting the counter arguments regarding the issue on language. However, there are some missing points on his argument due to the previous researches he uses to support his opinion. Therefore, Deutscher’s arguments and evidences provided will be evaluated through this review.
Deutscher presents his idea by stating that Benjamin Lee Whorf made many ‘mistakes’ due to his argument that language prohibits the speaker of the language to acquire knowledge and certain habits. Deutscher disagreement toward Whorf’s idea appears to be very obvious in a way he states his opinion through a strong word: mistake. In order to support his disagreement, Deutscher provides some previous research as evidences. Deutscher’s way in proving and supporting his idea is indeed convincing enough for the reader at least makes the reader think and gives a light bulb of the matter being discussed. However, what is lack from his evidences are the clear and reliable sources. For example, he mentions the research done in the year of 1990s by psychologists that compare the speakers of German and Spanish. Though he mentions the year of the research, he does not mention specifically who did the research. There are thousands of psychologists at that time, and which one was Deutscher intends to refer? The results of the research are yet very well said. Nevertheless, they becomes doubted since Deutscher does not mention who did the research. Are they reliable researcher? Is the research nationally or widely acknowledged? In addition, Deutscher does not, again, mention the exact time of previous research he provides on page 5, “[…] studies have shown that children in such societies start using geographic direction as early as age 2 …” (Deutscher 2010:5). Which studies? This statement makes me, as a reader, wonder whether the studies are reliable and has conducted well or it is just some random studies Deutscher chooses just to give an impression that he has many back ups evidences. Had Deutscher put clear sources in his article, his argument would be well said even more.
Furthermore, the unclear sources in the article leads to the question are the results of the researches still valid at this moment? In page 5 of his article, Deutscher provides evidence on how speakers of Guugu Yimithirr, a remote Australian aboriginal tongue, can memorize ‘the same reality’ differently from other natives through psychological experiments as an example how different language can actually set one’s mind and perspectives. Despite of the brief yet interesting explanation of the evidence, it is still vague which experiments were he means? Again, there was not only one reliable psychologist at that time, even the reader does not have any idea which period of time Deutscher is referring to. Therefore, the evidence he provides seems unreliable.
Regardless his lack of reliable clear sources, Deutscher’s article is somehow put the reader in the realizing phase about language and attitude of the speaker. For example, he talks about gender matter in some language such as Germany and Russian: how the language differentiates and gives ‘gender’ to certain words. Perhaps, for a reader who learns about language, linguistic, and culture will associate what Deutscher says with the language imperialism. Thus, this article can be a pretty good reference for those who are doing research on language imperialism.