Language and Limits on Thought

"Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about."

— B. L. Whorf

I have long held the opinion that mastery of language not only improves one's ability to communicate, but also one's ability to think. Some complex ideas cannot be communicated with simple language, not even when talking to one's self. Complex forms of expression (in structure and/or vocabulary) are not always superior to simpler forms, but they are sometimes required to capture the essence of an idea.

[The lead-in quote appears in my files on 2001-09-23.]

UPDATE 2003-10-17: This quote also appears in the preface to the first edition of Bjarne Stroustrup's The C++ Programming Language.

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