The sapir whorf hypothesis
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The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. To what extent, if at all, does our language govern our thought processes?. Grammar . “In substance, grammar is one and the same in all languages, but it may vary accidentally.” Roger Bacon Chomsky – the propensity to receive grammar is innate.

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The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

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The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

To what extent, if at all, does our language govern our thought processes?


Grammar

  • “In substance, grammar is one and the same in all languages, but it may vary accidentally.” Roger Bacon

  • Chomsky – the propensity to receive grammar is innate.

  • Backed up by studies conducted by Kegl in Nicaragua into deaf children who independently developed what became known an Nicaraguan sign.

  • Consider some corresponding KIs after you’ve compared languages around your table


Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

1) Strong: Language determines thought and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories. (What we CAN and CAN NOT think)

2) Weak: Linguistic categories and usage influences thought and certain kinds of non-linguistic behaviour. (Influences how we THINK about things)


The ‘Strong’ Version

How language influences the way in which we CAN THINK …

  • Research Case 1:

    Peterson and Siegal

    http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/4110/whorf.html

  • Research Case 2:

    Numerical Differentiation – Piraha tribe

    In Brazilian Amizon

    “One, Two, Many”

    First noted by Peter Gordon


The ‘Weak’ Version

How language influences the way in which we THINK …

  • Research Case 1:

    Spatial Orientation - Australian aboriginals

    - Guugu Yimithirr

Research Case 2:

Colour Differentiation – Russian

vs.

Research Case 3:

Perception of things (Bridge) –

German/Spanish

- El puente vs. die Brücke


Back to our definition of knowledge“Language is the dress of thought” Samuel Johnson

  • Quechua Incas

  • Particles are attached to nouns to signify:

  • Personal knowledge: “I know it for a fact”

  • Hearsay knowledge: “or so I’ve heard.”

  • What difference would this make if knowledge claims were this distinction to be adopted in English?


The Piraha Revisited – An extreme Empirical Model

  • What follows is the thesis of Dan Everett who had spent far more time with the Piraha than Gordon and was the first to decode their languge

  • Piraha embodies a living-in-the-present ethos so powerful that it has affected every aspect of the people’s lives

  • do not think, or speak, in abstractions

  • do not use color terms, quantifiers, numbers, or myths

  • E.g. xibipío “When someone walks around a bend in the river, the Pirahã say that the person has not simply gone away but xibipío—‘gone out of experience,’

  • Dan Everett, the Pirahã’sunswerving dedication to empirical reality

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/04/16/070416fa_fact_colapinto#ixzz27g0BOyJV


Experiment – you need to think in the language for this to work (assuming it will work at all!)

  • Pictorial language:

  • Non Pictorial Language:

  • Ghost

  • Presumptuous


Here’s what you might have come up with if the pictorial element of the language governs:

“娱”[amusement], “耍”[playful], “婪”[greedy], “嫉”[envy], “妒”[envy], “嫌”[dislike], “佞”[to flatter], “妄”[presumptuous], “妖”[evil], “奴”[slave], “妓”[prostitute], “娼”[prostitute], “奸”[rape], “姘”[have an affair], “婊”[prostitute] and “嫖”[prostitute]


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