Language and personality

A blogger recently mentioned that many of us switch back and forth between English and Punjabi in conversations, and how its sometimes more comfortable to speak Punjabi. Have you thought about how your mental frame of reference shifts when you switch languages? Do you think this affects your personality? A recent study seems to think so

Bicultural bilingual individuals have incorporated two cultures within themselves and speak the languages of those cultures. When cued by a particular language, these individuals activate distinct sets of culture-specific concepts, or mental frames, which include aspects of their identities. Three studies show that language-triggered frame switching (i.e., switching from one set of mental frames to another) occurs only with biculturals, not with bilinguals who are not bicultural. The studies uncover frame switching at the within-individual level, and they include both qualitative and experimental evidence. They also provide a methodology to identify the relative activation strength of specific mental frames in different languages. [link]

Researchers found that women classified themselves and others as more assertive when they spoke Spanish than when they spoke English. The study was based partly on womens reactions to television commercials shown in English and Spanish.

One part of the study got the volunteers to watch TV advertisements showing women in different scenarios. The participants initially saw the ads in one language English or Spanish and then six months later in the other “In the Spanish-language sessions, informants perceived females as more self-sufficient and extroverted,” they say For example, one person saw the main character in the Spanish version of a commercial as a risk-taking, independent woman, but as hopeless, lonely, and confused in the English version. [link]

I havent read this paper yet so I dont know the entire methodology, but from the TV-ad experiment, I wonder if the perceived assertiveness is a reflection of the level of comfort within the culture that the individual was responding to. If youve noticed a shift in mental frames when you switch from English to Punjabi (or French, or whatever else you speak), how does the shift in mental frame affect your personality?


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6 Responses to “Language and personality”

  1. Singh says:

    Well I know that it's very hard to be deeply introspective on a spiritual level in English for me. Speaking about Sikhi in Punjabi and specifically using words from Gurbani have a much more powerful influence on me than English, unless the speaker is very articulate.

  2. Singh says:

    Well I know that it’s very hard to be deeply introspective on a spiritual level in English for me. Speaking about Sikhi in Punjabi and specifically using words from Gurbani have a much more powerful influence on me than English, unless the speaker is very articulate.

  3. Reema says:

    Singh,

    I feel the same in a way- I feel like I have more depth of emotion and deeper connections in a Punjabi mental frame, but it's challenging because my vocabulary is definitely more expansive in English… so I can express more but feel less in English. Maybe because of these dynamics, or maybe regardless of them, sometimes I find silence to be the best expression.

  4. Reema says:

    Singh,

    I feel the same in a way- I feel like I have more depth of emotion and deeper connections in a Punjabi mental frame, but it’s challenging because my vocabulary is definitely more expansive in English… so I can express more but feel less in English. Maybe because of these dynamics, or maybe regardless of them, sometimes I find silence to be the best expression.

  5. harinder says:

    Let us make Punjabi the 'Cosmic Language"

    How so ever hard and impossible the task may look.

    (Let no word like impossible be coined in Punjabi).

  6. harinder says:

    Let us make Punjabi the ‘Cosmic Language”
    How so ever hard and impossible the task may look.
    (Let no word like impossible be coined in Punjabi).