Hengqi Ye

Psyc 712

Maureen Gillespie 





                The meaning of language and how it effects our brain activity


  For most people, we communicate with language every day, when a word, a phrase, or even a sentence was spoken, we tend to understand it right away (assuming you are fluent in that language). However, most of us have never thought about how perception can affect the formation of our language, affect the way we speak and how fast we can form a grammatically correct sentence. When certain content involved in the language we hear, do our brain have a special movement?

  I have read some articles about how we perceive language (words) and the effects it has on our brain activity, by brain activity, I do not necessarily mean biologically stimulate in our brain but our mental reaction, our thinking, the consciousness in our brain.

Kaschak et al. (2005) believe the theory that when we heard of something, we percept the information in our brain and convert the verbal information to a picture before we can understand it and convey reaction. To testify this theory, he conducted an experiment, using entities in motion (moving in different direction, upwards, downwards, towards the participants or going the opposite direction towards participants) and concurrently give out sentences that describe the direction of the moving entities and testify the reaction time of the participants. It shows that people react faster when seeing the items moving towards them while auditorily receiving information says that the item is moving to the opposite direction, This phenome as a mismatch. And seeing the item moves in the same direction as the auditory information describes is called a match. In conclusion, although the article did not give out whether the author’s theory is correct or not, when the direction of motion in a sentence is different from the direction of the visual stimulation, the neurons do not activate their “multi-task” function, so people can have a faster understanding of the sentences and reaction. (Kaschak et al, 2005)

Not only in English, words in other languages has other kind of impact on our language logic. According to Birner (n.d), there is a native language in Australia called Guugu Yimithirr, in Guugu Yimithirr, directions are not described as “front, back, right-side, left-side.” Instead, people who speak Guugu Yimithirr only use “east, west, north, south” to express directions. Regarding to the complication of this language in describing directions, if Kaschak conducted the same experiment on Guugu Yimithirr speakers, would the result be any different? (Birner, n.d)

Here is another fun fact, although all the Chinese citizens speak Mandarin as our official language in main land China, people in Beijing (Original Mandarin speakers) describe directions the same way as people who speak Guugu Yimithirr by using “east, west, south, north”. However, people live in Hongkong area (Cantonese speakers) describes directions the same as English speaking people by using “front, back, right-side, left-side” even when they are speaking Mandarin. I found out this interesting fact when I was asking people for direction when I was in Beijing trying to find a specific restaurant. The stranger and I were speaking proper Mandarin the whole time, somehow I just could not understand what she was talking about and I gave up on asking people at the end.






















Birner, B. (n.d.). Does the Language I Speak Influence the Way I Think? . Retrieved October 27, 2017, from


Kaschak, M. P., Zwaan, R. A., Aveyard, M., & Yaxley, R. H. (2006). Perception of Auditory Motion Affects Language Processing. Cognitive Science, 30(4), 733-744. doi:10.1207/s15516709cog0000_54