Language is part of your body: Why Sapir-Whorf is a fallacy

Anotace kurzu (Course annotation)

The idea that the language a person speaks fundamentally shapes or constrains their thinking or perception, known as the Sapir-Whorf ‚hypothesis‘, is widespread among educated people. Everyone has heard the story that ‚Eskimos‘ have many, many words for snow, and Sapir-Whorf was even the premise for the hit science fiction film Arrival (2016). In this presentation, I will explain why Sapir-Whorf is not a hypothesis at all, but in fact a fallacy: not only is the idea false, it could not be true. 

 

Průběh (Course course)

In the first lecture, I briefly sketch the history of Sapir-Whorf and show how this notion and its empirical support were unsound from the beginning. Then I outline the core concept of modern language science that conclusively refutes Sapir-Whorf: language is a function of the brain, and thus an aspect of human biology. Because human brains are virtually identical at a genetic level, there are no group differences in linguistic or cognitive capacities. In other words, language does not constrain thought because language is a kind of thinking, and human brains think in the same ways.

The second lecture focuses on the role of words in the Sapir-Whorf fallacy. It is popularly believed that the ‚(non) existence‘ of words in a language limits or expands people’s ability to think about various concepts (for example, Orwell’s Newspeak in 1984 vs the previously mentioned ‚Eskimo words for snow‘). However, I show that this conception is actually backwards: words are freely composed by the same structural mechanisms as sentences. Once again, language does not constrain thought, but instead constitutes the creative capacity to articulate and express any and all human concepts. 

Délka: 2x 45 minut

 

Jeffrey Keith Parrott, Ph.D.

Jeffrey Keith Parrott působí na Fakultě humanitních studií na Ústavu moderních jazyků a literatur. 

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Summary
45 Minutes
Language is part of your body: Why Sapir-Whorf is a fallacy
Zaměstnanec
Jeffrey Keith Parrott, Ph.D.