Do you think that the complexity of grammar of a language reflects the elaborate thinking of its speakers? I brought up this issue due to the fact that some languages are very complicated in terms of grammar (English for example) while some others are pretty simple. What do you think? Does grammar have anything to do with the way people think?
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Perhaps, but it may be a case of 'chicken or the egg'

As an extreme example: Would cavemen have been more civilised with a complex language, or were they simply not civilised enough to develop one.

I mean, is the language the result of the type of culture; or did the language shape the culture!
I don't think English is that complicated, really. I think the main problem is that it just has way too many exceptions. It's a partly deteriorated hodge-podge of a language, and so its difficulty, it seems to me, lies not in the complexity of its grammar but rather in its lack of unity and order.
I do think you have a point, though. I'm not sure the thinking of a person who speaks another language is any less complex (and you'd probably get a tomato hurled at you if you suggested that too loudly, anyway), but certainly it is different. Languages all have different characters, and since we all think in words, certainly our language influence our thinking process. At some point, I'd like to learn a language that isn't Indo-European, especially, since all the languages I know anything about have a lot of grammatical similarities.
But certainly, for example, if a sentence is typically structured in a certain way, then one's thinking is structured in the same way. Or for example, the fact that we have many different verb tenses means that, not only can we better express things chronogically, but we are more used to thinking about how things relate to each other along a linear concept of time. Whereas if we didn't have so many verb tenses, it just wouldn't occur to us very readily to make a chronogical distinction which we couldn't express and to which we couldn't put a name.
An interesting thing: I'm studying Classical Greek at school, and though I'm just a beginner, I'm getting familiar with a few of the typical Greek sentence structures that they're pounding into our brains. One thing I've noticed is that it is common in Greek to present everything as a contrast to something else, to set up sentence in a way that show opposing ideas, in a way. And the other day I was thinking, jeez, isn't it interesting how much this has influenced our rhetorical traditions? One of the strongest rhetorical devices I can think of is to set two things up in opposition to each other; and where do we get so many of our Western ideas about rhetoric? From the Romans! And isn't it interesting that the educated Romans all spoke Greek? So I was speculating that perhaps this rhetorical device, something which is much more common in Greek, arose because the thinking of these educated Roman orators was influenced by Greek language patterns.
Anyway, that's just speculation. Could be just hogwash, for all I know.
This sort of fits into my own theory, though, that at least 85% of good writing (in a language in which you are fluent) is good thinking. People always ask me why I'm so anal about grammar, but really, it's because I strongly believe that it improves your thinking (and also because I just find it fun, but whatever). If you can understand how parts of a sentence fit together, then you can understand how sentences fit together in a paragraph, which means that you can better understand the logical flow of ideas. When I edit other people's essays (I like doing this; I find it fun), most of the grammatical problems I see are there because the person hasn't thought the idea through fully and doesn't really understand how it all fits together. And when an idea is hazy in the first place, it is still hazy when you try to write it down; but if the idea is clear in your mind, well-thought-out in the first place, then when you write it down, even if you don't understand grammar as well as you should, things just sort of fall into place naturally. So it is my belief that if you codify your thinking patterns through the study of language structure, then you are able to form logical trains of thought much more easily.
Oh, and also, speaking of language and thought, I think there is also a connection between the sound of a language and the temperament of its people. If you listen to a language, and then look at its speakers' art, music, literature, etc., then you start to notice some patterns, I think. Do you folks get this too, or am I crazy?
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Oh, and to Hitch's comment: Well, both, really. They are inseperable. The language reflect the culture which reflects the language which reflects the culture... which one came first is sort of a moot point. They sort of shape each other.
As for the cavemen, well, but they did develop a complex language! Which is why we have one today. It took them a while, understandably — Rome wasn't built in a day — and while they were developing their language, they were also becoming more civilised, yes?
Doh! Gaping hole in my example. Must..not..think..eras.. It's late here, give me a break! Emotion: stick out tongue
Your theory sounds consistent but what about bilingual people or people who speak several languages. What is the connection between these languages and their temperament?
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I don't know. I suppose a mixture? Anyway, I was just talking generally, about national character, if you will.
At some point, I should ask someone who is completely bilingual — as in extremely comfortable in both languages — whether or not his way of thinking starts to change when he switches between languages. It would be interesting, yes?
Wait, wait, Kitkattail, hazy, moot, uf, pounding au
I'll asnwer you when I finish to note down all the new words I picked from you.
Kit, impressive. Just let add that I don't think we are civilised at all , yes, we own Grammar and language but if civilised, the Bombay bombs would never happen and many other ghastly recent events (forgive my sad point)
Kit, people with different temperaments speak differently - maybe, but different language different temperament, not sure about that; what is the temperament of the English speaking people then?Emotion: wink
I very much agree with you that grammar can improve one's thinking. I really think that learning grammar really helps you think in a more 'structured' way, which means you can express yourself better and therefore makes yourself properly understood. Also, subtle differences in meaning of phrases and sentences, which are also the results of different grammar usage, definitely helps one develop better understanding of the language and consequently helps him make better use of it. You can say more with less words.
That is why I strongly believe that complexity of language does reflect the thinking of its speakers, and speakers of languages that are more simple, I think, do have less complex thinking (uhh, waiting for some tomatoes to be thrown at me). Unfortunately I know nothing about the Indo-European languages and their grammar so I can't say anything about their complexity compared to the English's (but since they were all developed from the same language, I suppose they are very much alike). From all the languages I know (Indonesian, Malay, ChaoZhou, Mandarin & English), English is indeed the most complicated one in terms of grammar. And in contrast to what you said, I think the exceptions are just fine. It is sensible to have some exceptions when you have S0000 many rules. And it is not the rules that make English complicated, it is the subtle differences resulting from the usages of the rules.
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