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WALES: Welsh eyes 'see world differently' ... say scientists making amazing discoveries on how language shapes sight.


WELSH and English speakers could be seeing the world around them differently, a new study has revealed.

Professors at Bangor University have used brain activity technology to calculate how people speaking different languages perceive colours.

Its findings have proved "remarkable" and opens the way to proving that the Welsh and English speakers perceive the world in a completely different way.

Further studies are nowbeing carried out at the university looking at the word blue, which in Welsh is glas, a word that can also mean the colour green or silver.

Dr Panos Athanasopoulos, from the School of Linguistics and English Language, said: "The findings have been very surprising.

"It has shown that people perceive the world around them in a different way depending on the language that they speak, which is a remarkable finding.

"The fact that the same colour stimulates the brain in a different way depending on the language someone speaks means everything around them could be perceived differently.

"This could certainly be the case between Welsh and English speakers.

"Language acts like a set template to perceive reality, if these are templates are different then what people perceive is different."

To see if language shapes our biological and physiological processes of colour perception, researchers used a technique called event related brain potentials (ERPs).

This technique tracks activity in the brain millisecond by millisecond.

The first experiment was carried out on Greek and English speakers at the university looking at the colour blue.

Researchers found differences in visual processing of light and dark blues between Greek and English speakers as early as 100 milliseconds, suggesting speakers of different languages literally have differently structured minds.

Professor Guillaume Thierry said: "We know that the visual system in our brain begins processing stimuli like colour a few tens of milliseconds after light has hit the retina of the eye. We also know language consciously invades our thinking about 200 milliseconds later.

"Using ERPs, we are able to look at very early stages of visual analysis, well before conscious language information is accessed."

Dr Athanasopoulos said: "In Wales we have the perfect place to further research this study. We have people raised in the same environment but speaking different languages so findings here will be very important.

"The continued studies in the Welsh and English speakers could provide world first breakthroughs."
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 27, 2009
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