POOR WORDS, POOR THOUGHTS

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” (L. W.)

In the 1980s, the New Zealand psychologist James Flynn disclosed the data he collected during the previous decades, highlighting an increase of several points in the IQ. of the new generations. Starting from the first half of the twentieth century, he verified that this net increase in the points obtained in the aforementioned test could mean a consequent enhancement of average intelligence. The Flynn Effect refers to the increase in the average IQ of the population over the years.

But, subsequently, a reversal was recorded, called the inverted Flynn Effect: some scholars from Copenhagen have noted how, starting from the second half of the 90s, the IQ growth trend has reversed. The values, which in Flynn’s studies were gradually increasing, had begun to drop abruptly, particularly in the countries considered to be more developed.

Does the impoverishment of language correspond to the impoverishment of thought?

The thesis underlying this research and its consequences are still hotly debated today. There are several reasons that are considered behind this lowering, such as, for example, the loss of social contact, laziness, the change in children’s games and extreme online connection.

The article by scholar Christophe Calvé helps us to think about how the impoverishment of language, both written and oral, both syntactic and orthographic, can be one of the causes of this phenomenon. It is worth reporting this article in its entirety, which in itself is very explanatory and without the need for further comments:

“Several studies in fact show the decrease in lexical knowledge and the impoverishment of the language: it is not just a question of the reduction of the vocabulary used, but also of the linguistic subtleties that allow us to elaborate and formulate a complex thought. The gradual disappearance of grammatical tenses (subjunctive, imperfect, compound forms of the future, past participle) gives rise to a thought almost always in the present, limited to the moment: incapable of projections over time. The simplification of tutorials, the disappearance of capital letters and punctuation are examples of “deadly blows” to the precision and variety of expression.

Fewer words and fewer conjugated verbs mean less ability to express emotions and less ability to process a thought. Studies have shown that part of violence in the public and private spheres derives directly from the inability to describe one’s emotions through words. Without words to construct an argument, complex thinking is made impossible. The poorer the language, the more the thought disappears. History is full of examples and many books (Georges Orwell – 1984; Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451) have told how all totalitarian regimes have always hindered thought, through a reduction in the number and meaning of words.

If there are no thoughts, there are no critical thoughts. And there is no thought without words.

How can one construct a hypothetical-deductive thought without the conditional?

How can the future be considered without a conjugation to the future?

How is it possible to capture a temporality, a succession of elements in time, whether past or future, and their relative duration, without a language that distinguishes between what could have been, what has been, what is, what could be, and what will be after what might have happened, actually happened?

Dear parents and teachers: We make our children, our students speak, read and write. Teaching and practicing the language in its most diverse forms. Even if it looks complicated. Especially if it’s complicated. Because in this effort there is freedom.

Those who affirm the need to simplify spelling, discount the language of its “defects”, abolish genres, times, shades, everything that creates complexity, are the real architects of the impoverishment of the human mind. There is no freedom without necessity.

There is no beauty without the thought of beauty.