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Whorfians of the world unite!

Fascinating article.

Of course, if language influences the way we think, then it's not only important to turn off your teebee, it's important to make sure it doesn't infect your children or loved ones.

NOTE Via Naked Capitalism.

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quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

turns out to be even more important than one might have thought....

In addition to space and time, languages also shape how we understand causality. For example, English likes to describe events in terms of agents doing things. English speakers tend to say things like "John broke the vase" even for accidents. Speakers of Spanish or Japanese would be more likely to say "the vase broke itself." Such differences between languages have profound consequences for how their speakers understand events, construct notions of causality and agency, what they remember as eyewitnesses and how much they blame and punish others.

Speakers of MSM-ese have taken non-causality to heights only dreamed of in other empires. In Spanish and Japanese, intentional acts do express causality.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

for reasons i'm sure i don't have to explain. is there another choice quote you'd like me to read other than the above?

i hope whatever they said about television they also extended to the glowing boxes of computers and game terminals. that shit spooks me out every time i come across it, in the form on internet ads of wii "games" or WoW subcultures. i wonder if the people who consume them know how they are being conditioned, probably not.

one way i know our masters have succeeded in their project to destroy education in this country: the propaganda is getting less sophisticated here, imho to better reach the newer generation of glowing box slaves. big long words and wordy long essays only work on those who can read, yo. same deal with long, involved television programs and story arcs. these days, the propaganda is getting more and more punctuated, snappy and short. and viscerally more intense.

Submitted by gob on

Language Log is a wonderful collective blog for academic linguists, where occasionally the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is discussed, usually from a rather skeptical point of view. Entertaining, well-written, mind-expanding, and notably Obama-skeptic during the primaries.

john.halle's picture
Submitted by john.halle on

Rather than dealing with the substance of the piece I'll merely note here that the basic form of this piece reduces to the following:

"Way back when many people agreed with Noam Chomsky that X. Now, we know better."

Suffice to say that for X=

the genocidal war in South East Asia was morally indefensible
we should massively reduce the defense budget
corporations have inordinate influence on the political system
chimpanzees are capable of learning language
linguistic syntax can be expressed as a computation effected on underlying representations

to cite just a few instances Chomsky has been shown to be right and his numerous detractors wrong.

Based on this track record, suffice to say that the pronouncements in this article should be viewed with considerable skepticism.

(This would be the case even if they were not published in the Wall Street Journal editorial page.)

a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

the biggest cognitive difference they seem to be able to substantiate being "a bit less memory'. Not so impressive. And that's without looking at the data.

For link about the Piraha and their lack of words for numbers:

this post.

basically, my impression is that the linked article tries to make a lot out of of some rather weak correlations to how easy something is to retrieve in memory. I imagine Mark Liberman will be on the case: if not, I'll have to summon an actual blog post.