Although this review concentrates on the second level-whether structural differences among languages influence thinking-it should be stressed that the other two levels are ultimately involved. Any claims about linguistic relativity of the structural sort depend on accepting a loose isofunctionality across speakers in the psychological mechanisms linking language to thinking and across languages in the everyday use of speech to accomplish acts of descrip- tive reference (Hymes 1966, Lucy 1996). More importantly, an adequate theo- retical treatment of the second level necessarily involves engaging substan- tively with the other two levels (Lucy 1996; Gumperz & Levinson 1996; cf Sil- verstein 1976, 1979, 1981, 1985, 1993).
Although almost everyone would agree that language and thought are dis- tinct in some respects, there is no generally accepted set of criteria. Some even treat language and thought as identical at the level of conceptual or semantic representation. This is common, for example, in cognitive linguistics (e.g. Jackendoff 1983, Langacker 1987), although the implications for relativism are side-stepped by a universalist orientation (but see Lakoff 1987). Levinson (1997) provides a useful critique of such conflations of language and thought, as well as the inverse claims for a radical disjunction between the two. In dis- tinguishing them, he places special emphasis on the structured (linear, obliga- tory) and social (indexical, pragmatic, public) nature of language categories in contrast to those of thought. In indicating their necessary interrelation, he em- phasizes the natural processing economy of harmonizing the two. Perhaps the place where the distinction between language and thought is most debated is among those working on language acquisition and socialization, where the concern is whether language can be learned with general cognitive skills or re- quires specific linguistic capacities. This research on acquisition has increas- ingly concerned itself with language variation in recent years (e.g. Bavin 1995, Berman & Slobin 1994, Gelman & Byrnes 1991). Although the research is ad- dressed to how language is learned, and not to linguistic relativity as such, in- terest in the latter has begun to grow as it becomes clear just what different in- terpretations of experience children must form to speak properly (Bowerman 1996, Levinson & Bowerman 1997, Ochs 1996). This research should become a major source of insight into how language and thought differ from each other and how they come to interrelate during development.
SAGE Reference - Linguistic-Relativity Hypothesis
Empirical demonstrations of the types just described move the linguistic rela- tivity hypothesis from the realm of speculation to the realm of concrete investi- gation, but they are not equivalent to providing a theoretical account. Such an account must specify the conditions and mechanisms leading to relativity ef- fects, that is, give further content to the two key relations of the hypothesis: how languages interpret reality and how languages influence thought. This in- volves engaging with the semiotic and discursive levels of the language and thought relation with respect to how they enable and shape structural level ef- fects.
The Beginning of Modern Science
SPATIAL ORIENTATION The most successful effort at a domain-centered ap- proach has been undertaken by a research team under the direction of Stephen Levinson at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics that has been ex- ploring the domain of space. The larger agenda of the project has been to cri- tique the excessive reliance on English and other European languages in the field of cognitive science. Space was chosen as a domain because it has been widely regarded as invariant within philosophical, psychological, and linguis- tic circles and yet appeared to exhibit cross-linguistic variation (Haviland 1993, Levinson 1996a; see also Brown & Levinson 1993b, Levinson & Brown 1994). For example, speakers of modern European languages tend to favor the use of body coordinates to describe arrangements of objects (e.g. the man is to the left of the tree). For similar situations, speakers of other languages such as Guugu Yiimithirr (Australian) and Tzeltal (Mayan) favor systems anchored as cardinal direction terms or topographic features respectively (e.g. the man is to the east/uphill of the tree).
Chapter 7 Edited Flashcards Flashcards | Quizlet
This research reflects the typical weaknesses of domain-centered ap- proaches: choosing a domain more for its ease of study than for its linguistic significance, being unreflective about the appropriateness of the domain for other languages, ignoring routine usage in favor of performance in a controlled task, and creating the appearance of examining a linguistic structure when none has been demonstrated on internal grounds. Because of these limitations, the studies essentially end up showing the distribution of the world's lan- guages relative to a fixed set of parameters drawn from the Western European scientific tradition. Any gains in comparability are purchased by virtually eliminating the possibility of detecting genuine or interesting linguistic vari- ability. Language becomes a dependent variable, a device for coding or map- ping a pregiven reality, rather than a substantive contributor to its interpreta- tion or constitution.