Theory of Knowledge Essay

“The vocabulary we have does more than communicate our knowledge; it shapes what we can know. ” Vocabulary and knowledge mean differently to each person. In layman’s terms, vocabulary may simply be the language in general or specifically the words that a knower uses for communication, education and many other aspects of everyday life. Knowledge, for common people, may just be the concepts that they learn at school or through experiences.

Before we could assess the claim that vocabulary not only communicates our knowledge but it also shapes what we can know, we must first provide formal definitions of the terms involved in it. Vocabulary is defined as all the words of a language and a supply of expressive means. This directly implies that vocabulary is in general the language that a knower uses to express his thoughts, notions, feelings, points of view and judgments. Knowledge on the other hand is familiarity, awareness or understanding gained through experience or study. It is also defined as the sum or range of what has been perceived, discovered or learned.

Through these definitions, we can simply claim that before a knower could acquire knowledge, he must know a certain language in which he could fully understand what has to be learned. Obtaining knowledge not only needs language but also a thorough understanding of the concepts underlying that certain knowledge. This understanding means that the knower must completely comprehend the language he is using as this is the basic factor of learning or acquiring of knowledge. For instance, as a baby, a knower first learns by perceiving what people around him are doing. This concept of perception is the acquisition of knowledge.

Slowly, he starts to learn how to speak the same language that people surrounding him are using. This is using perception to learn vocabulary. As the knower grows older and starts formal education, he uses the vocabulary he has learned to obtain more complex knowledge that will help him understand the world in an absolutely complex way. To sum this “baby-to-adult knowledge acquisition” up, vocabulary and knowledge go hand-in-hand as a knower gains and develops what he learns. This relationship we have established ascertains that vocabulary shapes what knowledge we can acquire.

Vocabulary is not a hindrance to learning but it serves as the limitation to what knowledge we can acquire. A very good area of knowledge for the proof of this is History. History is the branch of knowledge that records and analyzes past events. It is also a chronological record of events, the life or development of people or institution, often including an explanation or commentary on those events. According to these definitions of history, we can already claim that there is indeed a need for a language in which a knower must comprehend so as to understand the concept of history.

The definitions mentioned the word “records” which means that a knower must have a good comprehension and vocabulary so as to acquire the knowledge that History is imparting us. One example topic in history is the about the World Wars that transpired during 1914 and 1941. Without an excellent vocabulary, one would definitely find it hard to contain all the information that these World Wars did and established within people from different countries all around the world. A knower might be imparted with a misconception of the reasons for the wars or of the countrymen who started the wars.

All topics in History needs a tremendous quality of language in order to be perceived and learned correctly since they involve records which means that they are either written texts or recorded videos that use language in conveying the knowledge to a knower. Biology is the study of life. This is the science that deals with living organisms and their interaction with each other and with the environment. People from everywhere know that we need a great deal of memory in order to understand the concepts in Biology and pass the examinations we have or had to take as students in high school and college.

If we do not possess good skills in the language it is being taught, we would not be able to identify the differences between biosphere, ecosystem, community, population and organism. We know that these terms are interrelated but without a precise comprehension of the language it is being defined, we will not be able to identify their differences and would lead to a misconception and a series of more mistakes in understanding. Organism is the basic unit of living things. This is the smallest part of the living environment. Population is a group of organisms living together under same environmental conditions.

Community involves living together with other populations and interacting with them. The next higher level is the ecosystem. It is an ecological system formed by the interaction of living organisms and their living environments. Biosphere is the part of Earth where living organisms are found. This includes all the ecosystems in the world and therefore considered the broadest of the five words. There are many other lessons in Biology which is similar to the one mentioned that would create a big difference if the words would not be defined and understood well by means of an exceptional vocabulary.

This further validates the claim that vocabulary shapes what we can know. Mathematics is the study of the measurements, properties and relationships and quantities and sets, using numbers and symbols. People often think that Mathematics is just about numbers and computations. Little do they know that since it needs symbol to be understood, it also needs a language for it to be imparted to others. Vocabulary is considered to be a set of symbols also. A set of symbols represented by the letters or characters involved in each of the alphabets all around the world.

There is a great part of Mathematics that a knower will never understand if he does not have a full comprehension of a certain vocabulary. Mathematics comprises of theorems and axioms that knowers must understand completely before they could acquire the knowledge that it offers. Axioms are formal statements assumed to be true without proof. With these axioms we can derive many other mathematical statements which are what Mathematics is comprised. Theorems on the other hand are statements which are accepted because of their proofs. They are the logical consequences of axioms.

These two kinds of mathematical statements are essential in proving in the field of Geometry and Abstract Algebra. They are also the foundations of the many concepts in Mathematics. Most of the time, the axioms and theorems serve as proof themselves to many other theorems. Topic wise, a good example of the proof of the claim that we are trying to evaluate is in the field of Statistics. I personally have experienced the confusion that the terms being defined in Statistics give students, especially for a Korean like me who is learning all of these in English.

The beginning of the lessons in Statistics is all about terminologies such as population size, sample space and frequency. A very simple but good example of the importance of knowing one’s vocabulary is by differentiating the terms frequency and cumulative frequency. Frequency refers to the number of measurements in an interval of a frequency distribution while cumulative frequency means the total of a frequency and all frequencies below it in a frequency distribution. It is therefore known as the running frequency. One needs to continuously add the frequencies of the intervals to get the cumulative frequency.

The word ‘cumulative’ made all the difference in these two terms. One should understand the concept first of the word ‘cumulative’ before he could understand and completely grasp this topic. ‘Cumulative’ seems a very simple word but not every student knows the meaning of the word. Many students or people in general, in order to understand a term, would research first for its meaning. Once they have grabbed its meaning, they would be able to comprehend the concept of that term with respect to the subject they are studying.

Therefore, with respect to Mathematics, people need to have a good understanding of the vocabulary first before they can fully understand the concepts behind each topic. In a Psychological study by Lera Boroditsky, she was able to give evidences that the languages we speak affect our perceptions of the world. With these perceptions follow the acquisition of knowledge. She went to different countries and studied how different languages used by different people affect how they perceive things and learn knowledge.

In Pommpuraaw, a small Aboriginal community on the western edge of Cape York in northern Australia, she had observed that children could tell the directions they were facing even if their eyes were closed and this was because their language uses spatial orientation that gave them a very good conception of the directions. With this research, she was able to conclude that language appears to be involved in many more aspects of our mental lives and this therefore includes knowledge acquisition for we use our mental abilities in learning. Thinking” is a collection of both linguistic and non-linguistic processes. Therefore, we can use these evidences from the different areas of knowledge that vocabulary shapes what we can know. We need to have a full comprehension of such a language in which we can learn things and concepts. But this evaluation does not only prove that it language is needed to acquire knowledge. We have also given way to the fact that before we can learn a language; we need to obtain knowledge first by perception.

Therefore, we it works both ways for vocabulary and knowledge. Both are required in acquiring each of them. Word Count: 1,600 References: www. thefreedictionary. com www. mathisfun. com How Language Shapes Thought. Lera Boroditsky. February 2011 ScientificAmerican. com Biology Matters. Lam Peng Kwan and Eric Y K Lam. Marshall Cavendish Education. 2007 TOK questions. Areas of Knowledge. International Baccalaureate Organization 2006 Encyclopedia from A to Z. Tormont The Calculus 7. Louis Leithold. HarperCollins Publishers Inc. 1996

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