Language pervades social life. It is a primary means by which we gain access to the contents of others' minds and establish shared understanding of the reality. Meanwhile, there is an enormous amount of linguistic diversity among human populations. Depending on what counts as a language, there are 3,000 to 10,000 living languages in the world, although a quarter of the world’s languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers and half have fewer than 10,000 (Crystal, 1997). Not surprisingly, a key question in culture and psychology research concerns the role of language in cultural processes. The present chapter focuses on two issues that have received by far the greatest amount of research attention from cultural researchers. First, how does language and human cultures co-evolve? Second, what are the non-linguistic cognitive effects of using a certain language? Does speaking different languages orient individuals to see and experience the external reality differently? The scope of the present chapter does not permit a comprehensive review of all pertinent research; only a selected sample of studies will be used to illustrate the main ideas in the present chapter.
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