For my freshman English class in college, I wrote a paper looking at the correlation between language and thought. My premise was that certain thought capabilities would be impossible without having a language in order to express those thoughts.
There has been some recent research looking at how language can help with learning. The experiment was designed to see if people could learn information more quickly if there was a word associated with it. They were shown a series of “aliens”. These were clay sculptures some had roughly shaped heads and others had smoother heads.
The subjects of the experiments were told to tell if each alien was friendly or not. The smooth head aliens were considered friendly, but the subjects were not told this. They were expected to learn by trial and error. Once they selected, a friendly or unfriendly tone indicated whether their guess was correct or not.
A second group was given the same instruction, but once they made their guess, they were shown if the alien was “leebish” or “grecious” in addition to the tone. The “lebbish” aliens were the friendly group while the “grecious” ones you would want to avoid.
Both groups eventually learned to distinguish between the two types of aliens, but the ones who had the words “leebish and “grecious” associated with them learned to recognize the difference in the alien’s heads more rapidly than the group that didn’t have these two made up words associated with them.
Under some circumstances assigning words to things in your problem domain can help you better process information. This is a very important part of being able to productively manage our work–especially the parts that require communication with others. If we can agree on single words to describe the state of various objects in our work flow, we can more quickly communicate with each other. For example, an insurance claims processing department might come up with a vocabulary that allows the to describe the state of insurance claims with out having to give a detailed description of what a claim is waiting on, etc.
This is particularly important in learning or creating computer systems. When I used to work at a hospital, one of the biggest difficulties people would have in learning the hospital management system was simply learning the vocabulary necessary for describing the system so they could talk with each other about it. Once the vocabulary was mastered, learning the rest of the system was significantly easier.
I’m not suggesting that we should just go around creating new words for everything we encounter, but there are times where inventing a new vocabularly to describe our particular area of work will make for a much smoother work environment.