How language shapes the way we think | Lera Boroditsky

  • Published on May 2, 2018
  • There are about 7,000 languages spoken around the world -- and they all have different sounds, vocabularies and structures. But do they shape the way we think? Cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky shares examples of language -- from an Aboriginal community in Australia that uses cardinal directions instead of left and right to the multiple words for blue in Russian -- that suggest the answer is a resounding yes. "The beauty of linguistic diversity is that it reveals to us just how ingenious and how flexible the human mind is," Boroditsky says. "Human minds have invented not one cognitive universe, but 7,000."
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  • Science & TechnologyScience & Technology

Comments • 3 441

  • frank fera
    frank fera 13 hours ago

    i ❤ you

  • Basic Analog Mathematics

    "There are about 7,000 languages spoken around the world"
    A typical example of the illiterate.
    Language is Universal and Intelligible, it is a biological given. Nobody speaks, thinks, or teaches language. It is a biological given to our species, the elements of which are not predicable of, so the myths concerning it are derived from dysfunctional minds.
    If the claim that there were more than one and that it can be taughtwere true, you could teach this biological, given and magically transform the inanimate, or even any species.
    Language is some one thing. Every thing is a relative constrained by correlatives. Language consists of two primitive elements, the unit, a Conjugate Binary Pair, and the intelligence to manipulate that unit in four distinct grammars.
    For those who are not so brain dead as most, and comprehend language as a biological given which is wholly impossible to teach and instead of chasing mythologies and would like to study factual grammar;
    Grammars are the method the life support system of the mind effects predictive behavior.
    Universal Language, Internet Archive. The pdf portfolio, Art of Prophecy.
    The comments on this are wholly bizarre.

  • Garry Litvinov
    Garry Litvinov 2 days ago

    Stinking Jew!

  • jan Stastny
    jan Stastny 2 days ago

    She is brilliant speaker. Greetings from Czech republic. :-)

  • Freedom Do
    Freedom Do 4 days ago

    Second soul

  • A I
    A I 5 days ago

    Very insightful. This takes me back to a heated debate between a Spanish and English colleague of mine surrounding the trial of a driver involved in an accident that resulted in the death of a pedestrian. The Spaniard said if it were in his country, the driver could be let go if it was proven that he did not cause the death intentionally. The Englishman however fervently believed that that the man was at least guilty of manslaughter because he had caused the death. The Spaniard just could not understand why the driver should be punished for a mistake. I had no idea their positions actually had a lot to do with language!

  • Jen L
    Jen L 5 days ago

    (around 6:58) Very true. In Chinese, I just need to mix a tint and a colour to make a word, but when learning English I find they don't do that in any way; the colours are instead derived from Greek/Latin/ancient roots or go nuts for some reason I don't know.

  • Jen L
    Jen L 5 days ago

    5:27 The sun sets in the west and rises in the east.

  • David Kimball
    David Kimball 5 days ago

    Important and entertaining points about different languages and how we think. Well worth your time to watch.

  • N Mani
    N Mani 5 days ago

    In India, the least anyone speaks is three languages... irrespective of their schooling .. mother tongue, hindi and the local language of their place of work ..

  • IdeasofMind
    IdeasofMind 6 days ago +1

    voice affects mind, is happening in HK.

  • TheMammus
    TheMammus 7 days ago

    รัก เลย

  • Dela
    Dela 8 days ago +3

    I got shivers when she explained how time perception changed with language

  • Marco Fialho
    Marco Fialho 8 days ago

    Congrats on the presentation!
    Learning English?
    Irregular Verbs. The Ultimate Guide. / Amazon
    A book simple in form but rich in content!

  • bert wesler
    bert wesler 8 days ago

    As a linguist, I must say that this is the biggest pack of lies and anti-West propaganda I have ever seen.

    • Еўль
      Еўль 7 days ago

      what do you mean? what are the propaganda ideas she promoted?

  • Alienna's world
    Alienna's world 9 days ago +1

    Absolutely love this video so-so much. It's amazingly interesting and inspiring!

  • Don Flamenco
    Don Flamenco 10 days ago

    I think I’m truly in love

  • N. Oliva
    N. Oliva 10 days ago

    I can relate to what she is saying. I speak 4 languages(Spanish, English, Japanese, Portuguese) 4 languages, 4 different cultures and I feel I’m a different person when I speak in each language.

  • Joao Carlos
    Joao Carlos 10 days ago

    I'm from Brazil, beautiful vídeo!

  • mieszaj bo gorąca
    mieszaj bo gorąca 11 days ago

    Really,scientists from all over the world are working on what you were talking about?

  • Barry
    Barry 11 days ago +1

    Great presentation, but her beauty was so distracting I could barely hear what she was saying.

  • John Callahan
    John Callahan 11 days ago

    Is she pretty-or beautiful

  • naly202
    naly202 11 days ago +2

    Speaking about Sun and Moon. my language (Romanian) uses for them the same genders as in Spanish. when i was studying German, i was asked to write a short fairy-tale. Based on some old Ro legends, i wrote about a sad love story between the sun and a fair princess, putting "Er (he)", whenever i wanted to replace "Die Sonne". the teacher had to correct all the "Er"-s and put "Sie (she)" instead.
    when i read my corrected composition, it sounded unintentionally LGBT. lol.

  • darcy thurlow
    darcy thurlow 12 days ago

    language shapes the way we think ? No it does not....It is the Aptitude that shapes the thinking....DO YOU HAVE A BAD ATTIUDE OR A GOOD ATTIUDE ….THAT IS WHAT MAKES US THINK

  • YummyCore
    YummyCore 13 days ago

    Great speech :)

  • Tony32
    Tony32 13 days ago

    I love the example of the vase being accidentally broken. Saying: El quebro el florero (He broke the vase) would be too accusing, It would imply he did on purpose. We are more likely to say: Quebraron el florero (they broke the vase) That deflects the blame from the person who did it by accident.

  • Paul Ventura
    Paul Ventura 14 days ago

    Neurolinguistic programming

  • The Mandinka Family
    The Mandinka Family 14 days ago

    As someone who studied another language she delivered this talk very well

  • Mehmet Akif
    Mehmet Akif 14 days ago

    I speak English, Turkish and Arabic. The language i speak affects my thoughts and behaivours. For example, when i speak Arabic i feel - most of the times - the warm sense of my religion (islam) and also i do feel myself in a religious personality.

  • ne morino
    ne morino 14 days ago

    dont do this just sick air vibrations

  • Konstantin Зайцев

    linguistic diversity will soon be gone and good riddance because if you can't speak english you can't study

  • G. Confa
    G. Confa 15 days ago

    I speak English as a second language for over 26 years. I can fairly say it is very poor in every grammatical aspect. I still feel I can't express myself 100%, even when I say sth I really meant to say, I don't feel it. Something is missing.

  • say what?
    say what? 15 days ago

    sad thing is statistics shows that native english countries around the world are the countries with less number of people speaking at least a second language comfortably, all you need to see how sad this really is, is to check the Eurpean stats, while every continental European country having from 75% to 99% of their population able to speak a second language the UK is around 35% and I'm don't know for sure, but i've got pretty strong hunch those are either immigrants or the celtic citizens that see english as their foreign language while the celtic as their native one or the other way around, they see the english as the native and the celtic as the second language.

  • Maide Canyakar
    Maide Canyakar 15 days ago

    Who is she?

  • Dan Mart
    Dan Mart 16 days ago

    She is so beautiful, in any language!

  • F
    F 17 days ago


  • Ristvac
    Ristvac 17 days ago

    Even tough this is one year old. I've got the feeling that the reasoning is somehow backwards.
    It may be true, that language can shape the way we think, but I guess that another chain of thinking is way more true. At first realitiy is as realitiy is, you may not change it by simply stating it is different than it is. (Which implies that reality does not change, despite your language changing). Now, you evolve your thinking according to your reality - so to speak, your surroundings, your environment. And finally you evolve a language to describe your environment. Therefore: Your environment shapes what you deem important, what you think and your thoughts shape your language.
    This seems to me way more in accordance to evolution than the chain of thoughts presented in the talk.
    And I am not saying that language does not change your thoughs (which still may be true) I am just stating, that the reverse seems more reasonable and rational to me.

    • Odee
      Odee 14 days ago

      Language may shape how we interpret reality. And reality doesn't have to be binary.

  • Fish Wax
    Fish Wax 17 days ago +1

    1:42 "...that begs the question..."
    Funny, I wasn't expecting a language expert to use that phrase to mean "that raises the question".

  • kabil Tamil
    kabil Tamil 18 days ago

    i speak world first language "Tamil"

  • Leandro Farias
    Leandro Farias 18 days ago

    Gramatical gender is splitting society and fueling ignorance charged with hate. Its how the languages that one speaks, shape the way reality is perceived.

  • Calvin Dueck
    Calvin Dueck 18 days ago +1

    Orwell's 1984 shows how controlling language can shape perceptions and beliefs. Our colleges and universities are proving this every day and it scares me. A lot.

  •  18 days ago +1

    Sometimes in Mexican restrooms they use an image or something of the moon or of the sun to tell which one is the female's or the male's one. La Luna for women and el sol for men. So it would be pretty confusing to have a language where these words have the opposite gender and to be in that situation.

  • Nostalgia1979
    Nostalgia1979 19 days ago

    In English we do the same with pink and red like the russians do with blue. A pink is actually a" light red" or a red would be a "dark pink."

  • Matthew Hervert
    Matthew Hervert 19 days ago +1

    This has helped me realize I don't think, we think.

  • Crispy Dyslexic
    Crispy Dyslexic 19 days ago +1

    "Married with kids" is illegal, here in Finland atleast. We are married with our spouses, and we may HAVE kids.

  • Natali Natali
    Natali Natali 20 days ago

    Dark blue color in Russian lg doesn't mean blue. Blue is blue, light blue you mentioned right, but dark blue is translated as dark blue ( тёмно синий) 😉

  • ibraima sori djalo
    ibraima sori djalo 21 day ago

    e.g. English to Portugues

  • ibraima sori djalo
    ibraima sori djalo 21 day ago

    it´s very important to know how translate

  • ibraima sori djalo
    ibraima sori djalo 21 day ago

    great . I really loved
    im GUINE -bissau
    its a useful video

  • anonymous 29
    anonymous 29 21 day ago


  • Eluosi Ren
    Eluosi Ren 24 days ago

    Никогда не задумывался о том, что в английском языке нет альтернативы русскому слову "голубой".

  • Tina S
    Tina S 25 days ago

    Very absurd remarks indeed. Like einstein she is trying to say something else and she cannot speak the truth.

  • Sting Lp
    Sting Lp 26 days ago

    Sanskrit or Saṃskṛtam as called in India, is a very articulate language. One can say precisely, what you want to say. Grammar was perfected about 2000 years ago.

  • Sting Lp
    Sting Lp 26 days ago

    India has got 122 Major and 1599 other languages. In Bangalore, we speak at least 2 languages, understand 3 . You listen to at least 30 other languages from other parts of India. People switch between languages very easily.

  • Miguel Cayazaya
    Miguel Cayazaya 27 days ago

    What about: How the way we think shapes the way we speak?...and vice-versa. How the way this affects reality... and how other's realities affect the way we think and and speak, and this, the way we feel and how this affects the our thinking and behaviour and so on....then: How everything affects everything and therefore everything affects nothing and nothing affect everything, making this pointless because the only action that matters is your awareness of how pointless this is. Therefore go do some meditation and stop watching videos.

  • 12 masters
    12 masters 27 days ago

    she really needs to distinguish her dress from the interior design of the TED platform.

  • K R
    K R 27 days ago

    Learning other languages have had some advantages too... So, you can meet beautiful girls like her!! 😍

  • Rashvin kaur
    Rashvin kaur 28 days ago

    and i guess when u aren’t fluent in that one language you’re conversing with, no one gets you and that sucks in this sensitive society.

  • Nina Blah
    Nina Blah 28 days ago

    I got data in my brain.

  • Nina Blah
    Nina Blah 28 days ago

    This is beautiful story. I wish I could say my story..

  • ZeroHour lite
    ZeroHour lite 29 days ago +1

    I’m a writer and a translator, so I really see the nature of words in each language
    that when I decide to write something I’ve got to choose first what language I will use
    because that totally makes different of how you tell a story!
    And sometimes I don’t even want to translate them back to my mother language :D

  • נדב חומסקי

    In Hebrew the moon and the sun can be both male and female.

  • Danny Pham
    Danny Pham Month ago +3

    The most inspirational speech to encourage students who are studying multilanguages

  • Sérgio Luz
    Sérgio Luz Month ago

    Here in Brazil many people insert English words in their daily conversations, with terrible pronunciation. Of course, only Brazilians understand this "English". But the worst part of this is that I always saw this kind of practice as a self-disrespect those Brazilians have with themselves. Now, I have a theory that back me up. I might say, unfortunately.

  • Selva Karthik
    Selva Karthik Month ago

    very useful..

  • H. Lhemheur
    H. Lhemheur Month ago

    Indeed the inuits have 17 adjectives for "white". But if language was performative (as she claims) then it would make that they have snow. Yet it is the opposite : it is because they have snow that they have 17 adjectives. It may influence some thoughts. But it does not make reality. It's like the POlitically Correct. It is the ideology of the post-modern who want to go always further and faster but do not know _where_ we go.

  • Eric Lavenne
    Eric Lavenne Month ago

    cette excellente "video "relative au langage ayant disparu de mon listing ;elle a été replacée ici......avis personnel +++++++++++

  • Maria Chrisjen Rose Depusoy


  • emek echo
    emek echo Month ago

    this is great. i wish someone talks about the nonhuman animal languages, too.

  • Abner Raposeiro
    Abner Raposeiro Month ago

    So imagine the destructive power of colonization. Not only for the country but for the world. Having other ways of thinking is what will really make new possibilities arise to humanity and once you force people to learn a foreign language and forget the mother tongue is also to make them forget the past and think differently about the future.They robbed their riches, their raw materials and even THE WAY OF THINKING. In Brazil we speak Portuguese nowadays, of course very differently from European version and with many mixtures of the old Tupi and Guarani language because of the distance, all foods, animals and even words that were exclusively Brazilian and of course all the culture that were in Brazil yet some things are different but we were still molded to think like Europeans or molded to think for exemple that having clear skin like Europeans is more beautiful than the dark/black one, denying our roots.We can not naturally recognize our beauty because that too has been stolen from us and that's just one aspect of many that we can see in the Brazilian daily life.

  • Just_Like YOU
    Just_Like YOU Month ago

    2:38 так это они съели Кука ... 😃

  • Hasan Keskin
    Hasan Keskin Month ago +8

    A verse from the Noble Qur'an
    Surah: The Romans
    Verse: 22
    And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your languages and colors. Surely in this are signs indeed for people who have knowledge (of the facts in creation and who are free of prejudices).

    • I am the rural juror
      I am the rural juror 26 days ago

      @tRonald Dump To avoid misinterpretation.

    • Raghad Alansari
      Raghad Alansari 27 days ago

      tRonald Dump
      ‏ just as God sent Moses peace be upon him to his people by the miracle of magic because they were advanced in it, the Arabs were language proficient, and God sent Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him a language miracle which is the Quran (and obviously it would be Arabic! And beat the Arabs proficienty), God Almighty also said (answering your question : {And if We had made it a non-Arabic Qur'an, they would have said, "Why are its verses not explained in detail [in our language]? Is it a foreign [recitation] and an Arab [messenger]?" Say,}

    • tRonald Dump
      tRonald Dump 28 days ago

      but why was the Qur'an revealed in only one language?

  • Kate Golovacheva
    Kate Golovacheva Month ago

    One of the best TED Talk ever!

  • Japhy Ryder
    Japhy Ryder Month ago

    Very eloquent, but in terms of sartorial eloquence...not so much; that dress looks like something Starfleet would issue

  • Archil Zhvania
    Archil Zhvania Month ago

    The laughing in this video is like laughing in sitcoms: they laugh at everything.

  • Claudio Costa
    Claudio Costa Month ago

    OK, but is there no exaggeration?

  • A Singh
    A Singh Month ago

    This video is absolutely superbly executed on every level - what a presenter.

  • ZachStarAttack
    ZachStarAttack Month ago +1

    English is the best language baby!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jorge Matos
    Jorge Matos Month ago

    I can totally relate to this. I speak Spanish (native), English, Italian and currently learning Japanese, so i can say that languages give you the opportunity to explore the diverse thoughts that are being presented to you. It gives you the opportunity to not only dig into the grammatical or historical background, but also to dive into the different connections and emotions that languages provide. I have always thought that learning a new language is like giving a massage to your brain, and letting it acquire such flexibility that sometimes is marvelous.

  • Cecilia Orrú
    Cecilia Orrú Month ago +1

    She´s very good. She´s seems Sandra Bullock.

  • Fátima ArMarques
    Fátima ArMarques Month ago

    Yes! The more languages you speak you become more open-minded. Everything gains a new meaning. You're able to expand ideologies. It's mind-blowing.

  • Pocholo Mcloud
    Pocholo Mcloud Month ago

    Very well said lady, you know how to put words together. Bravo!

  • Lejyoner Lejyon
    Lejyoner Lejyon Month ago


  • Inspirational prose and poetry Laure Compagnon

    Good bye, blue sky...

  • Tim Aaron
    Tim Aaron Month ago

    I wish she would have gave more examples on the people that don't have numbers in there language.

  • Arthur Müller
    Arthur Müller Month ago

    I'm a simple man. I see a woman, she is talking about psychology and language, she is articulate, she is clear, she is confident, she is interesting, and she is beautiful; so I want to marry her.

  • Pietro Troia
    Pietro Troia Month ago

    This talk is quite biased. The speaker uses weak and inaccurate proof to supoort her thesis. Language has some influence on thought, but it doesn't shape it

  • VineNinja
    VineNinja Month ago +14

    You've gotta respect the amount of research that has gone into this speech🙏

  • Bon Summers
    Bon Summers Month ago

    How do languages with double negatives compare with languages which don't use double negatives.

  • kai89tracid
    kai89tracid Month ago

    She is hot in that dress

  • Underground Skeptic


    By 2119 a.d.

    I'm saving English, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Russian, French, Italian, Afrikaans, Portuguese and German. That's 11 languages.

  • atheistic truth
    atheistic truth Month ago +8

    Your grace and elegance is distracting me😂

  • Nandaveer U M
    Nandaveer U M Month ago +1

    my thoughts are more english than kannada nowadays. i'll have to consume content(books, internet,etc) from other languages i speak.

  • Mykael Pereira
    Mykael Pereira Month ago

    Like much this get

  • Berliner Stadtschloss

    Whatever fascinated me most, is the way how the natives in northern Ecuador used to look at time:for them, the past is in front of them, because they know what has happened, but the future lies behind them, because it is unknown.First this vision felt a bit creepy, but after some time I got used to it and now I have adapted it, it Kind of makes life steadfaster.I believe that a lot of modern western man`s "stupidity" derives from his optimistic view of the foggy future (of cause there have always been clear minds, like the late Frank Zappa, who did sing: "If this is the future, spare me please!") and the contempt that he feels for the past, its people, how they lived and what they have achieved.

  • Berliner Stadtschloss

    These words of Shakespeare "a rose with any other Name" has ever astounded me and especially as they were written by the greatest master of language of all times.Just take the words "thunder" and "whisper" - could anybody imagine that they might be used with exchanged meanings ?

  • Berliner Stadtschloss
    Berliner Stadtschloss Month ago +5

    Thank you for all these beautiful tones, hisses and puffs.

  • Leopoldo Serraglio
    Leopoldo Serraglio Month ago

    This video changes definitely your day.

  • Leopoldo Serraglio
    Leopoldo Serraglio Month ago +4

    "To have a second language is to have a second soul" -Charlemagne.

  • jonas ex
    jonas ex Month ago

    Increíble me encantó esta conferencia una de las mejores y como no darnos cuenta de algo que siempre está en nosotros