- Also known as the thesis of linguistic determinism, the view named after the linguists Edward Sapir (1884–1939) and Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897–1941), that the language people speak determines the way they perceive the world. As such, the view has a long history of adherents, including Aristotle (Rhetoric, Bk. iii). It is a central theme in Vico (The New Science ) and a doctrine of von Humboldt's . Whilst many philosophers accept that perception is ‘theory-laden’, and that the theories we can bring to bear are constrained by the concepts we have available, it is more difficult to read off just which concepts are available from the surface phenomena of language. Whilst Sapir himself thought of linguistic determinism in a relatively a priori way, his pupil Whorf collected evidence of linguistic and conceptual divergence from many Native American languages. Categories that may be very different include those of time, causation, and the self. It should be noted that some superficial examples of diversity that are frequently cited are in fact spurious. It is not true, for example, that the Indo-Aleut languages have a vast number of words for different varieties of snow.
Philosophy dictionary. Academic. 2011.
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