What is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis ..

Pinker scoffs at the Sapir-Whorf (S-W) hypothesis. This attitude is based on the argument that humans think without language in “mentalese”. For Pinker, mentalese is a species-wide, innate function that is unaffected by the process of learning a language or the process of using a language. All actual and possible thought is, or would have to be, conducted in mentalese. Clearly, if what can be thought is limited to the reach of our genetically determined cognitive component, then the syntax of the language or languages we speak can’t possibly limit what we think (the strong version of the Sapir-Whorf (S-W) hypothesis). At most it can limit what we say or write.

Also called the hypothesis of linguistic relativity or the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, ..

Pinker shows an appreciation of linguistics as a potential experimental science, and he discusses the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis at some length. However, he does not mention Loglan, a language which was designed to address in an experimental setting the issues raised by the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.


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The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis illustrates the stucture of one language strongly affect the world-view of its speakers....

A direct consequence of the relation that M asserts between the genetically and syntactically determined components of cognitive reach is a denial ofthe strong version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and a trivialization of the weak version. To understand how this is so, imagine a dynamic version of Figure 1 (like a cartoon or movie) that would represent what happens as language is acquired. Basically, by acquiring the grammar and lexicon of a natural language we expand what we can express in language to include much (although perhaps not all) of what we can understand in mentalese. Graphically, we can imagine the size of the proper subset expanding within the area of its superset as shown in Figure 3.