Author Topic: Good sources on Sapir-Whorf (Linguistic relativity vs linguistic determinism)  (Read 7527 times)

Offline Befuddled

  • Jr. Linguist
  • **
  • Posts: 7
I want to make a review of the science in "Arrival", but since the science involves Sapir Whorf, a topic about which I have strong feelings but little knowledge, I would appreciate any sources that could give me a solid understanding of where the academic worlds stands on the issue of linguistic relativity/linguistic determinism. Thanks in advance :)

Offline Daniel

  • Administrator
  • Experienced Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 2073
  • Country: us
    • English
It's hugely controversial in every way. Specifically there is no historical hypothesis by that name, but rather a sort of abstraction that came about in the following years. Then there's the question of whether it's "strong" or "weak". You can look up literally thousands of books/articles on the topic, although there is not going to be any consensus. In the end, some kind of weak effects are to be expected (essentially, by practicing enough, due to frequency in linguistic behavior, speakers of some languages will have more awareness of certain real-world categories), but any stronger claims (e.g., "language controls thought", or of course something like "language allows our minds to control spacetime") are just not supported in any clear way.

The real problem with Arrival is that it was an adult who apparently reached nativelike "linguistic relativity" in a few months, which is nonsensical compared to any linguistic research on the topic, whether or not (or to what degree) linguistic relativity is a factor for native speakers.

In the end, it's interesting to think about, but it's just a movie, probably the same reaction that physicists had watching it.

But again if you want to learn more, you can start on Wikipedia or Google Scholar and literally spend years diving into the immense body of research related to this nebulous topic.
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.