Cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky teaches us that language, like intelligence, is a living thing that we can hone and change to suit our needs. With over 7,000 languages around the globe, she notes that each is a universe unto itself, affecting how we understand the world as well as each other. Does the language we speak shape how we think? Does learning different languages allow us to develop our brains in other ways? Boroditsky talks about how all the languages differ from one another, whether in grammatical differences or contain different sounds, vocabulary, or patterns.
On January 29, Lera speaks at the Kelowna Community Theatre on behalf of UBC’s Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences’ Distinguished Speaker Series. Early bird tickets open Wednesday, January 8 at 9am, and a second round of tickets are available on Wednesday, January 22 beginning at 9am.
One of her main research topics focuses on how people with different linguistic backgrounds act or have different behaviours when exposed to certain events. She has conducted studies comparing English to other native speakers of a different language and seeing the differences in the way they think and act given a certain scenario. For example, English and Russian differentiate between cups and glasses – in Russian, the difference between a cup and a glass is based on its shape instead of its material as in English.
Lera Boroditsky is an associate professor of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego. She previously served on the faculty at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at Stanford, and is the Editor in Chief of Frontiers in Cultural Psychology. Her work has been covered in the popular press and she is a sought-after keynote speaker – her 2018 Ted Talk was one of the most popular talks with nearly 8 million views.