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Language knowledge questions

Language knowledge questions

Knowledge questions (KQs) form the heart of the TOK course, and provide us with the opportunity to discuss, explore, and sometimes argue about the way in which we acquire, use, and evaluate our knowledge about the world.

Although the knowledge questions on language that you see here link primarily to this optional theme, many of them link to other AOKs, and themes, so one of the first things to consider is how they relate to, and impact on, other aspects of the course.

Knowledge questions on the nature and scope of language

  • These KQs on knowledge & language relate to Big Question 1, our first BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to the nature and scope of language, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Good KQs ask how we know about the world (second-order knowledge), rather than what we know about the world (first-order knowledge)
  • Being able to tell the difference between first and second-order knowledge can be difficult, but it is the most important attribute of successful TOK thinking

What is the relationship between words and meaning?

Does language determine reality, does reality determine language, or is it a two-way process?

How important is the relationship between reason and language in the production and justification of knowledge?

Should we use language in a prescriptive or descriptive way?

Is it possible to know something without being able to put it into words?

Is language a shared or personal trait?

Knowledge questions on the relationship between language and values

  • These KQs on knowledge & language relate to Big Question 2, our second BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to language and ethics, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Good KQs ask how we know about the world (second-order knowledge), rather than what we know about the world (first-order knowledge)
  • Being able to tell the difference between first and second-order knowledge can be difficult, but it is the most important attribute of successful TOK thinking

Does language shape our moral outlooks, or just reflect them?

To what extent are ethical knowledge claims the expression of feelings, rather than considered propositions?

How does the way we frame a question about values change its nature?

Does the expression of values require a different form of language than other ideas?

How do our values shape the way we use language to represent the world?

Are we morally responsible for the language that we use?

Knowledge questions on the role of language in communicating knowledge

  • These KQs on knowledge & language relate to Big Question 3, our third BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to methods, tools, and practices of language, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Good KQs ask how we know about the world (second-order knowledge), rather than what we know about the world (first-order knowledge)
  • Being able to tell the difference between first and second-order knowledge can be difficult, but it is the most important attribute of successful TOK thinking

Can all ideas and concepts be expressed via words and symbols?

How are metaphors used in the production and justification of knowledge?

What is the difference between the definition of a word, and an explanation of a word?

How does the evolution of words shift our understanding of concepts?

Can knowledge be conveyed from one person to another in a non-language based way?

How can punctuation be used to “extend, contradict and play with meaning”?

To what extent do labels and names create ‘motivated seeing’ in knowers?

How can language be used to manipulate people’s emotions?

How does the form of expressing ideas change the way we understand the world?

Knowledge questions on the role of language in shaping our perspectives

  • These KQs on knowledge & language relate to Big Question 4, our fourth BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to perspectives & context related to language, part of the IB’s knowledge framework for exploring TOK
  • Good KQs ask how we know about the world (second-order knowledge), rather than what we know about the world (first-order knowledge)
  • Being able to tell the difference between first and second-order knowledge can be difficult, but it is the most important attribute of successful TOK thinking

To what extent can words be translated?

Do words have an inherent meaning, or do our perspectives determine them?

Should we try to overcome ambiguity in language?

How do cultural factors affect our ability to produce knowledge about language?

Does language reinforce, or break down, our biases and perspectives?

Does learning other languages offer an insight into the way other cultures see the world?

Would we know more or less about the world if we all shared a common language?

Knowledge questions on the relationship between new ideas and language

  • These KQs on knowledge & language relate to Big Question 5, our fifth BQ units for TOK
  • They also link to linguistic methods, tools, and practices, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Good KQs ask how we know about the world (second-order knowledge), rather than what we know about the world (first-order knowledge)
  • Being able to tell the difference between first and second-order knowledge can be difficult, but it is the most important attribute of successful TOK thinking

How do events shape the development of language?

How can we tell if our ability to use written language is ‘declining’ over time?

How does the development of a language depend on its online presence?

Do academic traditions support or stifle the production of (linguistic) knowledge?

Does the transmission of knowledge from one person or generation to another depend on language?

How important is language in curating knowledge for future generations?

What impact has technology, social media, and new forms of language made on the way we communicate ideas and concepts?

Knowledge questions on becoming a discerning knower about language

  • These KQs on knowledge & language relate to Big Question 6, our final BQ unit for TOK
  • They also link to linguistic methods, tools, and practices, part of the IB’s knowledge framework
  • Good KQs ask how we know about the world (second-order knowledge), rather than what we know about the world (first-order knowledge)
  • Being able to tell the difference between first and second-order knowledge can be difficult, but it is the most important attribute of successful TOK thinking

How is a prescriptivist approach to language used to consolidate socio-economic power?

How does being a descriptivist or prescriptivist change our understanding of language?

Is language “an instrument of power, a measure of humanity, a map for world-making”?

In what way is language ‘self-regulating’?

Is any aspect of language superfluou

Link these KQs to the exhibition

Our TOK exhibition prompt decoder helps you to understand each of the 35 IA prompts, link them to the core and optional themes, and the 12 key TOK concepts, and explore them via quotes, questions, TED talks, and media sources. Access the decoder here.

Explore the KQs in more depth

Our sixty-six Exploration Point documents (updated every month) help you delve deeper into TOK via media sources, unpacking ideas, guidance on the key concepts, and other tips. HERE is an example of a EP document (for history & perspectives) – join us to gain access to the other sixty-five!

Subscribe to the TOK newsletter

Our TOK newsletter helps you explore the most important events and issues going on today, and fully grasp how TOK concepts manifest in the real world. Read a recent edition here, subscribe to the free version here, and gain access to the premium version by joining theoryofknowledge.net.