Through the Language Glass Summary – May 2022

Author: Guy Deutscher

Short Summary
Through the Language Glass (2010) by Guy Deutscher uses linguistic relativity to communicate the influence of language on one’s thought and expressive ability of a person. Language makes a person and it is powerful enough to influence his thoughts, ability to express his opinions, culture, and even conventions found in a society.

Detailed Summary

The book is divided into different parts. Deutscher gives a brief history of language and illustrates different experiments with examples to define language and its influence on an individual human being, community, society, and the whole world. He gives the idea that language forces one to express ideas in a particular way and a difference in grammatical structure, syntax, and diction can change the perception of one’s language and culture. He even describes how the difference in perception and language can affect the gendered noun and its related meaning in a language.

A speaker would give gendered-specific properties to a gender-specific word, thus influencing our ideas and perception of the world.  Moreover, language association can also influence our ability to recall information as one would easily remember gender-specific names and properties if they are similar to the ones found in one’s language. Also, culture is both affected by language and affects language. One uses arbitrary names for different things found in his surroundings. However, he cannot use a name for something that is not found in his surroundings. This influences languages and on a larger point influences culture.

Through the Language Glass Summary Key Points

Language reflects culture

A particular language influences the culture of a country and nation. The more complex language is reflected by the logical and stoic people found in a country where they are immersed in learning the intricacy of their language and lose the expressive power of a language.

Language is related to arbitrary naming or to perception

Language influences our naming ability. As language is influenced by nature, one can have different words for the same things in different parts of the world. Also, language changes from one generation to another as the perception of different generations are not similar to each other. Therefore, language is influenced by people and it affects ones naming ability and perception. 

Languages can affect our thoughts by controlling what we are required to express

Language is influenced by one’s ability to express. As our perception is influenced by language, it can affect how we express words, opinions, ideas, and thoughts in different ways. In different parts of the world, different things are expressed in different ways as they are influenced by the language of a particular region, country, and locality.

Language reflects culture through the complexity of its grammatical structures

The languages of the world are complex; however, their degree of complexity differs from one another and it is these complexities that are reflected in their culture. These complexities of language describe the social structure in a society. But most of all, the morphology of a language reflects the shared context found in a society. In a complex language, there is a more complex morphology of words and less context shared between its individuals, groups, or community. 

Sophisticated Society Does Not Relate to Sophisticated Word Formation

Guy Deutscher’s analysis revealed a significant relationship between a society’s level of complexity and the number of distinctions expressed within the word. However, contrary to what Joe, Piers, and Tom might expect, advanced and powerful societies do not necessarily have refined word structures. On the contrary, there is an indirect relationship between societal difficulty and word-formation! The more information that is likely to be marked in the word, the more information that is likely to be kept within the word; the more complex is the society and the use of language in it.

Through the Language Glass Book Summary Quotes:

“Fluent speech, there are no real spaces between words, so when two words frequently appear together they can easily fuse into one.” –Guy Deutscher

“Fluent speech, there are no real spaces between words, so when two words frequently appear together they can easily fuse into one.” –Guy Deutscher

Through the Language Glass Summary Review

 This book is a book that introduces language in a fun way but is both practical and backed up by research. It is not a new concept but the way it is written makes it fun, exciting, and exhilarating to read. It is written in a way that a reader would not get bored while reading. One can quickly gain enough knowledge about language, its sociolinguistics aspects, and how different researchers experimented to give a conclusion on why language is influential on a human being.

This book will help one answer all the questions about language and its expressive ability. It would also make a human being aware of the similarities and differences in languages and how these lead to forming different perceptions of a human being. One can easily get lost in the wonders of language, its history, and the different findings from researchers and their conclusion.

To Whom I Would Recommend Through the Language Glass Book Summary

  • To a younger teen who is always baffled by the different languages of the world.
  • An old person who would love to read about languages and their influence on his perception of the world.
  • To a curious person who wants to understand language and why we have different languages in the world.
  • An academician who wants to research language and its influence on people.