Change your language, change your personality?

languageinterchangejpg“To have another language is to possess a second soul,” Charlemagne supposedly said, possibly in a Germanic dialect of the Franks. That certainly implies another personality, which is what researchers in the Journal of Consumer Research report observing in a study of bicultural, bilingual women.

…[W]omen classified themselves as more assertive when they spoke Spanish than when they spoke English. They also had significantly different perceptions of women in ads when the ads were in Spanish versus English. “In the Spanish-language sessions, informants perceived females as more self-sufficient and extroverted,” write the authors.

The researchers say the shift, which seems to occur unconsciously, could have implications for political and purchasing choices. Not to mention an interesting side-effect to a shrinking world.

[Image: jetheriot]

4 thoughts on “Change your language, change your personality?”

  1. This is not a new concept. It was the center of a work called “Language in Thought and Action”. A book on semantics by Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa in consultation with Leo Hamalian and Geoffrey Wagner. It was originally published in 1939; its Library of Congress catalog number is 64-10333.

  2. Thanks for that reference, Stan. I’m sure this concept isn’t new, but on the other hand it has yet to be mined out in research or fiction.

    Hayakawa was a major influence on the fiction of A.E. van Vogt, and was also a controversial U.S. Senator.

    There’s a relatively small but distinguished body of sf devoted to language and linguistics. I still love the idea of learning a new language as part of one’s assertiveness training. (I’m taking Spanish, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting my personality much, for better or worse.)

    Or of a language imposed as a pacification measure, as I think Jack Vance suggested in The Languages of Pao, way back in 1958.

    P.S. Not to mention Orwell’s Newspeak.

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