by Jeanette Sakel
New findings by an economist suggest that there is a difference to people’s money-saving behaviour, which relates to whether or not their language has (obligatory) marking for the future tense:
(found on the BBC website, 23.2.2013)
I subscribe to language influencing the way we think (and behave). There has been rigorous and exciting research, e.g. conducted by linguists at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (Levinson et al). I used to work there as a postdoc more than 10 years ago. Yet, while such influence is quite clear for languages with different systems of directions (comparing those like English that use north/south versus those that distinguish facing the river/away from the river), but does it really relate to grammatical categories such as tense? I would love it if this came out to be robust and true – yet I’m feeling slightly uneasy as to whether all linguistically relevant aspects really have been taken into account. In the article, it is mentioned that the Russian data might have been misrepresented. Unfortunately, such misrepresentations have in the past led to bizarre theories (and as an Amerindianist my first thoughts go to Greenberg’s highly controversial classification of the languages of the Americas into a mere 3 language families – which was based on very shaky data). I’ll have to have a look at the research paper, to see how the results have been arrived at!
What do you think? Is this plausible?