From the IBO TOK Guide (first exams in 2015):

How does language shape knowledge? Does the importance of language in an area of knowledge ground it in a particular culture? How are metaphors used in the construction of knowledge?

Language can refer to the mental faculty which allows people to learn and use complex communication systems, or it can refer to those systems themselves. Language consists of a system of signs with agreed or conventional meanings combined according to a set of rules for the purposes of communication, formulation of ideas, storage of knowledge, or as a medium of thought. The term “signs” can be interpreted very broadly to include letters, symbols, sounds, gestures, images, and even objects. Language is a crucial part of our daily lives, but is also filled with potential problem areas, for example, ambiguity, sarcasm, irony, and translation issues.

Language plays an important role in communicating knowledge. However, some see language as having an even more central role, arguing that language doesn’t just describe our experiences of the world but in fact actually structures those experiences. In the section on the knowledge framework there is a discussion about whether certain types of knowledge are actually constituted by language—the idea that language is part and parcel of the knowledge claim itself and not merely a description of something that exists independently of language. The view that facts about the world might be determined by language is called linguistic determinism.

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