Does language for wine shape perception?

Some thoughts. Can we think without language? In the absence of words, can we experience things consciously? I’d argue, yes.

We think and process our experience consciously independently of language, and then use language to tag these thoughts. Experiences are a human universal, but the language we use to structure these thoughts then may differ.

But does language shape experience? Do we attend differently to the experiences we have according to the language we have to label and process these experiences with?

I think that for sensory experiences such as tasting wine, language is quite significant. Part of learning about wine is learning a vocabulary for describing the flavour of wine; without such a vocabulary it is hard to make sense of the sensory experiences we have when we taste a wine.

The more experience we have with wine, the more sense we can make of tasting it. In part, this is because we have more words ready to anchor our experiences, and then process them appropriately.

5 comments to Does language for wine shape perception?

  • I agree. As a South African, a couple of years ago I was looking into developing some wine websites and content in Xhosa and Zulu, two of the country’s most spoken official languages. The guys that I was discussing ideas with were saying that it was not feasible as the ‘language of wine’ was not part of the Xhosa or Zulu frame of linguistic reference. So by implication, we are all learning to talk about wine the same way, even though we experience it differently.

  • VM

    Oh, we’re in Wittgenstein territory here…

  • Chris, thanks for your perspective
    victoria, I have just ordered a copy of philosophical investigations, as well as hacker’s primer on wittgenstein

  • VM

    If we really want to get carried away on this, and thinking about how what’s in your head directs your perception of the taste of a wine you could also add Roland Barthes’ Death of the Author to your Amazon shopping cart….To be discussed, over a large glass of nebbiolo.

  • I think language is part of the prestige in wine that needs to be broken down. Using words like “minerality” “cassis” and “structure” are commonly used and yet they really don’t mean anything outside of the wine world. In fact, I think a lot of these words are very misleading to someone looking to try a new wine. I remember when I started getting into wine, reading wine descriptions made me really want to buy the bottle, and when it would arrive, I’d be disappointed.
    -Madeline from winefolly.com

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