Native Language vs L2
Its fascinating to observe that when one switches over to L2, the whole thinking process undergoes a dramatic transformation. Our mental faculties otherwise a spontaneous, continuous, flowy one becomes more skeletal, stripped-off, rule based, formal and discretized. The mental representation of the outside world reflective of its objects, the relationship between objects, the causal and temporal structure is indeed language independent subliminal one. The inferences we draw, upon some sensory stimulation, is also language independent one. Once some kinda inferences is made, some “touching” happens from the unconsciously active part of our mind, to a consciously active language dependent part of our mind. It is at this point that we as a conscious entity become aware of the unconscious inferences we made. When inference is mapped to a consciously and language dependent statement which gets “spoken” in our mind, then our conscious qualitative and quantitative machinery takes over to evaluate the merit of the statement. It feeds back the “statement” with its “assessment” to the unconscious mind for further processing. This loop operates many times before we reach to a sound conclusion about anything.
The conversion of a language independent proto-thought to a language dependent statement, is definitely some kind of “lossy” one.
The spectrum of ones continuum of mental constructs is way more smoother in ones mother tongue than that in an acquired foreign language. Or in other words, when our mind “clamps” the receptables of the L2 to the language independent region, to receive the proto-thought, a great deal of nuance is lost in the transfer process. But the skeletal outlook remains in tact. It is this skeletal outlook which makes it more biased towards more of logic upholding loop. Because our mind has the first order logic computing capacity, which itself stems from the materialistic causality.
It seems right to think that the moral aspects are determined by the language independent mind as opposed to the language dependent parts, as morals and ethics are independent of language. The “trolley problem” is a problem on human morality is somewhat illuminating one. A trolley is careening on a rail towards a group of five people. Either you can operate a switch which routes the trolley to a different rail where a single person is sitting. Most of the people will agree to operate the switch. Now lets have another choice. You can throw a person onto the track in front of the trolley to stop it. In both cases one life is lost. Which do you prefer? Now the most fascinating part is, if this question is asked in mother tongue, people are not willing to throw the person onto the tracks. But if this question is asked in L2, more people are willing to throw the person onto the tracks. The operating language seems to have different moral preferences towards the same scenario, which is baffling. So it is not the quantitative part of our mind that takes the decision, but the language dependent part of our mind qualitatively decides on what is considered moral.
This really baffles one. Language processing which is fundamentally a algorithmic symbolic processing unit also codes for moral standing of choices and behaviors. The believed “continuous” representation codes not only codes for pure symbols, but for much more cases. Maybe a somewhat skeletal representation and processing in an acquired language does not allow for more moral codes. In this case I consider the act of shoving a person onto a rail track more immoral than not acting, though the number of deaths is one in both the cases. And more people willing to do it while asked in L2, is indicative of poor activation of the “moral evaluating machinery”.
Human brain works in miraculous ways indeed. Maybe the representations and algorithmics upon it is, scattered and decentralized in our brain much more than our present understanding.