Language and Thought
- Whorf. B.L. (1939/2001). The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language. In John A. Duranti (ed.), Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers.
In course packet.
Wednesday 01 November.
Presented by Elizabeth.
- Rosch, E.H. (1973) Natural Categories. Cognitive Psychology,
4, 328-250.   In course packet.
Friday 03 November.
Presented by Damon.
- Lakoff, G. (1987) Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories
Reveal about the Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Chapters 1 and 6.   In course packet.
Monday 06 November.
Presented by Kelly.
- Everett, D.L. (2005). Cultural Constraints on Grammar and Cognition in
Pirahã: Another Look at the Design Features of Human Language. Current Anthropology, August-October, 2005.   Available
here.   Please read
Wednesday 08 November.
Presented by Brian.
Assessment #3 Questions
(Due Friday 14 December)
- What is the central idea of the Sapir/Whorf hypothesis? How does this
idea go beyond the simple (and
notion of Eskimos having 100 words for "snow"?
- In what sense does Rosch's work on color terms lie at the other end of
the nature/nurture spectrum from Sapir/Whorf? Are there some parts of
language where we should not expect to find cultural variation?
- What, according to Lakoff, is the driving force behind much (or most) of
the semantic categories found in human languages?
- How does Everett see the Sapir/Whorf hypothesis in light of his work with
Suggestions for Further Research
- Discuss the controversy surrounding Everett's work
with the Pirahã. You may wish to consider this debate in light of
the debate over work of
in Samoa, and the subsequent
attempt by Derek Freeman to debunk that work.
- The topic of language and thought has inspired a surprising
number of fiction writers. In the book chapters you read, George Lakoff quotes
this well-known piece by Jorge Luis Borges.
Read it, and/or one or more of
these works of
fiction, and describe how its theme relates to one or more of the scholarly
works you have read in this section. If you can't one of these books in the
library, I can get a copy for you.
Most people have heard of the artificial language Esperanto, but you may
not be aware that there are hundreds of artificial languages. Some of
these languages were designed specifically with the Sapir-Whorf
Hypothesis in mind. They range from the completely artificial,
computer-inspired language Lojban (formerly called Loglan), to the
minor English variant called E-Prime. Investigate and describe such
languages. Discuss the goals of their designers, the size of their community of speakers,
and any other issues you may encounter in the course of your investigation.
Based on our study of language change, what do you think would be the
likely fate of an artificial language that gained wide acceptance and
on Esperanto suggests an answer to this question.