Would have expected this to be already extensively studied. C'mon humanities there must be already some linguistic research on this?
Holy cow batman. I guess I wouldn't expect slashdot to be up on anything to do with the filthy humanities but this is really quite something. There is a vast amount of research on this. The general idea is called linguistic relativism and has been a hotly debated topic since Wharf first started pondering the issues in the 1930s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L...
It's easily tested and has been often demonstrated, that speakers of languages with certain obligatory features, like say tense and plural in English, will be more observant about those facts that speakers of languages where such features are optional. Then there's a vast array of work that has discussed perception, particularly colours where languages vary in terms of how many names for colours there are, and hence the form of distinctions that need to be made when observing colours. I was always rather more partial to Dan Slobin's description of 'thinking for speaking' where our cognition shapes what we observe and what cognitive paradigm to use based upon the demands of the language we intend to speak in.
The whole Sapir-Wharf hypothesis and linguistic relativity has been flogged to death. The TFA paper is building on that with an interesting experiment designed to discover something rather more nuanced than suggested by the headline here. They used an interesting experimental technique that involved employing interference from another language by making them perform a task using that language. They seem to have demonstrated that this interference does indeed shift the way the participants viewed the task based on the differences between languages. It's certainly not a surprising finding for those linguists like me, that hold to a usage based theory of language (functionalism) based on general cognition. However it's a great example of the fascinating things you can discover with clever experiment design.