Linguistic Relativism

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Sparkle093
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Linguistic Relativism

Post by Sparkle093 » Fri Dec 31, 2010 11:29 am

Hello there, I have just written a speech on Linguistic Relativism for the upcoming Academic Decathlon, but honestly I find it quite the same throughout which makes it a bit dull. So out of curiosity I would like to ask your opinion on the theory especially if you are bilingual (or more) I'd like to see how you think it applies (or doesn't) in your experience with the languages. Thank you for your time :)

David B
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Post by David B » Fri Dec 31, 2010 12:49 pm

I know very little about linguistics - just a couple of Pinker books, so have just looked up linguistic relativism on wikipedia.

The only potential bit of insight I can offer comes from one or two recent threads here, in which I and others speculate that the asking of 'Why?' questions can tend to give an implicit purpose to non animate things, where no such purpose in fact exists.

David

Cath B
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Post by Cath B » Fri Dec 31, 2010 2:04 pm

I'm thinking now about human perception of colour.

I tend to think of pink as being more distinctive from red than dark blue is from light blue which I suspect is a result of language and culture rather than anything inherent.

And I'm pretty sure languages vary in how many different colours are supposedly identified in a rainbow.

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Jobar
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Post by Jobar » Fri Dec 31, 2010 2:20 pm

Isn't Copernicus, one of our members, a professional linguist?

Sparkle093
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Post by Sparkle093 » Fri Dec 31, 2010 3:15 pm

@ Cath, that's a good point about the colors. I thought about them as well, but I did not come to the conclusion of how we differentiate shades by their names.

@ Jobar, thanks I think it would be nice to hear a professional's view on this, and I'm new so I don't really know anyone here yet

and @ David, honestly I don't think I really understood what you mean. I mean I see what you mean by what the question 'Why' imply, but I didn't really understand how it ties to the theory. If I understood correctly you are talking about the concept of the question itself, or am I wrong?

darjeeling
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Post by darjeeling » Fri Dec 31, 2010 8:31 pm

[quote=""Sparkle093""]@ Cath, that's a good point about the colors. I thought about them as well, but I did not come to the conclusion of how we differentiate shades by their names. [/quote]

There's been a lot of work done on colors and linguistic relativity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic ... ing_debate

I prefer Wierzbicka's approach and suggest this article:
Wierzbicka, Anna. "There Are No 'Color Universals' but There Are Universals of Visual Semantics." Anthropological Linguistics, Vol. 47, No. 2 (Summer, 2005), pp. 217-244

David B
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Post by David B » Sat Jan 01, 2011 12:34 am

If you check out this thread you will see what I'm trying to get at, which I think is relevant

http://www.secularcafe.org/showthread.php?t=9881

David

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Copernicus
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Post by Copernicus » Sat Jan 01, 2011 1:26 am

[quote=""Sparkle093""]Hello there, I have just written a speech on Linguistic Relativism for the upcoming Academic Decathlon, but honestly I find it quite the same throughout which makes it a bit dull. So out of curiosity I would like to ask your opinion on the theory especially if you are bilingual (or more) I'd like to see how you think it applies (or doesn't) in your experience with the languages. Thank you for your time :) [/quote]
Hi, Sparkle. I got your pm on this. Is a copy of your speech available? Or can you give me some idea of your take on the subject? I assume that you are referring to the so-called Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, right? The Wikipedia page on the subject is not too bad. Generally speaking, modern linguists reject Whorf's research as being too skewed by his own biases. Subsequent re-examination of his data on American Indian languages has led to different conclusions. On the other hand, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in the way that different cultures express activities such as giving directions. Some research (and this is mentioned on the Wikipedia page) has suggested that whether people use bodily orientation or landmarks to give directions is directly influenced by culture.

But I am not quite sure of what more to say here. My opinion of linguistic relativism is that the original Sapir-Whorf claims have been debunked and rejected by the linguistic community. Recent research suggests that there are more subtle forms of it that may get more traction as more research is done. Whether or not behavioral and cognitive differences across cultures can be tied to language structure is the real question here, and I am somewhat skeptical that they can.

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