Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Science and Linguistics (1940) (mit.edu)
43 points by shawndumas on Jan 5, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 10 comments



For a summary of modern understanding of the connection between language and thought, see the SEP's section on Whorfianism: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/linguistics/#Who


This verb-noun split in latin-rooted languages makes me to recall the essay by Steve Yegge "Execution in the Kingdom of Nouns" https://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2006/03/execution-in-kingdo...

It's really amazing how our linguistic system influences our process of thinking and systems we produce. Also, "unknown unknowns" phenomena (part about blue color in the article) explains why lambda calculus feels so alien :)


This should have the date 1940 in it!


It should also be noted that Whorf did not speak Hopi fluently so any of his claims regarding this language should be taken with a grain of salt.


Hah, from the article: "Scientific linguists have long understood that ability to speak a language fluently does not necessarily confer a linguistic knowledge of it, i.e., understanding of its background phenomena and its systematic processes and structure, any more than ability to play a good game of billiards confers or requires any knowledge of the laws of mechanics that operate upon the billiard table."


This claim is analogous to one like "Bill Nye is not a race car driver, so we should take his account of how centrifugal force acts on a race car on a bank with a grain of salt."

It's true that the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis has been largely discredited. But practical use of a language and analytic understanding of the principles that allow it to function are not strictly related.


taken from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/linguistics/#Who

For Whorf, it was an unquestionable fact that language influences thought to some degree: [...]

He seems to regard it as necessarily true that language affects thought, given

- the fact that language must be used in order to think, and

- the facts about language structure that linguistic analysis discovers.

He also seems to presume that the only structure and logic that thought has is grammatical structure.

These views are not the ones that after Whorf's death came to be known as ‘the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis’ (a sobriquet due to Hoijer 1954).

Nor are they what was called the ‘Whorf thesis’ by Brown and Lenneberg (1954) which was concerned with the relation of obligatory lexical distinctions and thought. Brown and Lenneberg (1954) investigated this question by looking at the relation of color terminology in a language and the classificatory abilities of the speakers of that language.

The issue of the relation between obligatory lexical distinctions and thought is at the heart of what is now called ‘the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis’ or ‘the Whorf Hypothesis’ or ‘Whorfianism’.


That's not a measure of the veracity of linguistics research.


Maybe not, but a lot of what Whorf said in general should be taken with a grain of salt with what we know about natural language nowadays.


Certainly something like linguistic relativity is not very popular today (I can't speak of it's scientific soundness as I'm not a linguist), but that does not change the fact that the truth of a linguist's research is not really correlated with whether he speaks the language he's studying fluently.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: