Lera Boroditsky: Space and time, a matter of language

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One day, during a talk, she conducted a simple experiment: she asked a group of scholars to close their eyes and point south-eastwards. There were fingers pointed in every posible direction. However, Lera Boroditsky knew that if she asked the same question to a girl from an Aboriginal community in Australia she would point her finger in the right direction. “Aboriginals do not use directions such as left or right, and instead everything is in cardinal directions,” says the scientist. In the world there are some 7,000 languages, with different vocabularies, sounds and alfabets. Do differences affect the way we see the world? “Language has a profound impact on our perception,” says Boroditsky. Lera Borodistky is a cognitive scientist, psychologist and professor. Her research focuses on the complex differences in human communication. “I’m interested in how human beigns develop such a vast intelligence, how we process the information we receive from the world and how such a complex and wonderful phenomenon as the one we call language allows us to be as intelligent and sophisticated as we are", she says. Boroditsky is regarded as one of the key authors of the theory of linguistic relativity. The scientist has developed her career in world-class institutions such as the MIT or Standford University. She is currently professor of cognitive science at University of California, San Diego, and is chief editor of Frontiers in Cultural Psychology. Utne Reader included her in its list of “25 Visionaries who are Changing Your World.” “A better grasp of language makes us more creative, approachable and fosters communication in the incredibly diverse world that surrounds us,” she says.

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