TESL.3050.analysis of thought patterns

A brief analysis of Chinese
and English thought patterns
Kaplan, Robert. (1966) Cultural
Thought Patterns in Inter-Cultural
Education. Language Learning 16 (1-2),
Different approaches
• Cultural differences in the nature of rhetoric
(verbal communication; discourse) supply the
key to the difference in the way language is
• Rhetoric is a mode of thinking or a mode of
“finding all available means” for the achievement
of a designated end.
• Rhetoric concerns itself with what goes on in the
mind rather than what comes out of the mouth.
• Most language education is based on grammar,
vocabulary and sentence structure.
Logic as a cultural phenomenon
• We have primarily been contrasting
language according to lexical and
grammatical differences.
• Is language tied to culture or is culture tied
to language or are the separate?
• Logic which is the basis of rhetoric comes
from culture; it is not universal.
• So, rhetoric is not universal either.
Languages’ interpretation of the
• Every language offers to its speakers a
ready-made interpretation of the world.
• Also called a metaphysical word-picture.
• The differences in different world vies
result in such things as the positive
answer to a seemingly negative question.
• Which came first, the world view or
• The branch of philosophy that examines
the nature of reality, including the
relationship between mind and matter,
substance and attribute, fact and value.
Difference in perception
English says: “I see him.”
The Eskimos say: “He appeared before me.”
The first one indicates that the seer is in control.
The second one indicates the importance of the
event and the seer is less in control.
• The Anglo-European thought pattern came from
the Greeks like Plato (427-347 B. C.) and
shaped by the Romans, Medieval Europe (6001600) and later Western thinkers.
• Eskimo history is about 5000 years old
and includes people that live around the
North Pole in Alaska, Canada, and Russia
Different tools to work with
• Why can’t we just switch vocabulary and
grammar and communicate freely in a
second or third language?
• Because we lack the rhetoric and
sequence of thought of the second
language before we are trained.
English essay structure
• Introduction states your premise,
• then you use facts and examples to back it
up, sometimes with subdivisions,
• and then you draw a conclusion.
• All to usually prove or argue a point.
• This is linear thinking.
Asian roots
• Most East Asian countries were heavily
influenced by Chinese thought, for example,
Korea, Japan and Vietnam
• Ancient Chinese thought is based primarily on
Confucius (551-479 BC)
• With some influence by the Daoists: Laozi (6th
century BC) and Zhuangzi (350-300 B.C)
• Buddhist thought starting at the end of the Han
Dynasty (about 200 AD)
Modern Asian thought
• Modern thinking--and therefore writing-has been influenced by German, Russian
and English writers.
Asian writing style
• Approach by indirection.
• Paragraph development goes in a
widening circle
• The subject is described in terms of what it
is not rather than what it is.
• It is never looked at directly.
• This results in what is perceived as a lack
of clarity and directness.
Definition of college education
College is an institution of higher learning that
gives degrees. All of us need culture and
education in our life. If we receive no education,
it would be like living in hell.
One of the greatest differences between
humans and animals is that man has made rapid
progress in education.
The higher the divination, the higher the
educational level.
So college education is very important which
goes without saying.
• We are not making value judgments.
• These are just different ways to write about the
world based on the way people perceive the
• Bilingual individuals need to be aware of these
• Teachers need to make there students aware of
these differences.
• In short, contrastive thought is part of contrastive
analysis of any two languages.
Conclusions continued
• Kaplan’s article also discussed
– Semitic languages, a group of related languages whose living
representatives are spoken by more than 467 million people
across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of
Africa that include Ugaritic, Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew, Syriac,
Arabic, South Arabian, and Maltese.
– Romance languages: Italic languages subfamily, comprising all
the languages that descend from Latin, the language of ancient
Rome. The six most widely spoken standardized Romance
languages are Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian,
and Catalan. There are in total about 25 Romance Languages
now in existence.
– Russian.
• These different patterns should also make it clear that
not everyone outside of Asia thinks in a linear manner.
• A graphic rendering of the different thought
patters can be seen this way.
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