Talk:Linguistic relativity/Archive 2

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Archive 1 Archive 2 Archive 3

lead too long

I disagree that the lead is too long. The requirement of the lead is that it contains a condensation of all the information that is in the articles sections, there is no maximum length. The article is currently 44kbs and it is a work in progress and I will include more sections - it will probably end around 70-80kb - this means that according to WP:LEAD#Length the lead is allowed to be three or four paragraphs long. Also many other articles and FA's (e.g.Nahuatl and Mayan languages) have leads that are as long or longer. ·Maunus·ƛ· 23:31, 23 May 2009 (UTC)

WP says nothing about the length of the paragraphs. Please await consensus before you reinsert the tag.·Maunus·ƛ· 00:01, 24 May 2009 (UTC)
I'm here. I didn't notice this note here before, or I would not have put the tag back without discussing it. Sorry.
As to the point. I have no problem with 4 paragraphs, but they are very long. Yes, the article isn't short either, but these leads are disproportionaly long. You can always find an article with a longer lead, but I do see a lot of articles, so it's not as though I'm making this up. Would you care to ask some other editors for their opinion? Debresser (talk) 00:14, 24 May 2009 (UTC)
Of course, if other editors agree that it is too long they are welcome to add to the discussion. A consensus will of course be respected. Otherwise they are welcome to edit the lead and remove material or change phrasings that can shorten the lead while still complying with the criteria for summary style leads.·Maunus·ƛ· 00:28, 24 May 2009 (UTC)
I invited three editors I know, perhaps you do the same. Take into consideration that the references and sources take up part of the article's size, so the lead in relation to the netto text is quite large. Debresser (talk) 00:49, 24 May 2009 (UTC)
Consider also that it is work in progress and I estimate the content of the article to be double sized within the month. I won't invite anyone, but if your friends agree with you, then I think you should rather help trimming the lead than merely marring the article by tagging it.·Maunus·ƛ· 01:18, 24 May 2009 (UTC)

I don't find the lead especially long. It doesn't seems to be out of scale to many other Wikipedia pages, based purely on my impressions after scanning several Special:Random articles. As Maunus suggests, though, the page is undergoing major revisions. Crisper prose is, I think, always welcome. Cnilep (talk) 01:36, 24 May 2009 (UTC)

I'm one of the editors Debresser invited to take a look at the "lead too long" issue. The length seems fine per Wikipedia:Lead section but it sure is complicated. I see a core issue in that it's so heavily salted with linguistic nomenclature that I have no idea what this theory is about. After reading the first couple of sentences I also started thinking "isn't this part of cognitive linguistics and/or anthropological linguistics? The lead fails to show how linguistic relativity fits into the study of linguistics though the article has a section has a section dedicated to cognitive linguistics.
I reread the lead several times, and the article a couple of times. My confusion keeps getting deeper as I still can't figure out what this particular theory is about nor when it was developed. The linguistic anthropology article seems to contain a summary but contains information that either conflicts with this article or is not highlighted in this article.
  • That the linguistic relativity principle was developed by Franz Boas in ???? and, before him, by a long line of European thinkers from Vico to Herder to Humboldt). (Boas' own article does not mention his role and FWIW, Whorf's own article claims he and Edward Sapir developed the theory.)
  • That the term Sapir–Whorf hypothesis was invented by Harry Hoijer in ???? (maybe 1954). Hoijer was one of Sapir's students. As a result, linguistic relativity came to be associated with Sapir and Whorf. (Hoijer's own article does not mention his role in the theory thought mentions he was a student of Sapir).
This is material, if true, and supported by RS, that should be in the article and summarized in the lead.
One other comment concerns the end of the third paragraph. "... was seen as completely discredited" is a pretty strong term and yet is not backed up in the article and also fails to show who sees this hypothesis or principle as without credibility. I suspect this language comes from academics firing grapeshot at one another.
I see that editors are hard at work on the article body and so the lead can be redone once the article body stabilizes. --Marc Kupper|talk 21:05, 24 May 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for your comments. I agree and I had vocied concerns at User:Cnilep's page that I had focused too much on the history part and negelected describing what the principle/hypothesis actually is about: I will take steps to rremedy this within the next weeks. You are right that Hoijer was the first to use the term sapir-whorf hypothesis. Boas' role in the development is not in fact as important as it is often made out to be - he often spoke out against the stronger versions of the hypothesis in fact. His role consisted mainly in bringing the german ideas from herder, wundt and humboldt to the Americas. Actually even the supporters of linguistic relativity agree that the idea was SEEN as discredited in the period from 1960 to ca. 1990 when Chomsky rule the world of linguistics - that doesn't mean that they think it WAS in fact rightfully discredited - maybe this point needs to be clarified. ·Maunus·ƛ· 01:03, 25 May 2009 (UTC)

This edit shortens the lead section primarily by placing an 'Introduction' section header after the first paragraph. (It also removes two maintenance tags, though I'm not sure if the maintenance called for still needs to be performed?) In light of the foregoing (albeit somewhat dated) discussion, does this seem appropriate? I suggest that the change at least needs to be discussed on this page. Cnilep (talk) 21:07, 1 June 2010 (UTC)

My involvement wasn't prompted by the cleanup-tag and I am still working on the article (even if slowly) so it doesn't really matter (to me). As they say: it will all come out in the wash.
Hpvpp (talk) 06:33, 2 June 2010 (UTC)
Improvements are certainly welcome and if the lead can be made shorter while still including the necessary information that is an improvement.·Maunus·ƛ· 08:05, 2 June 2010 (UTC)
I am the one who made the referenced edit, and I was invited to comment here. I have seen long introductions on Wikipedia articles in the past (and by long introductions I mean more than one paragraph). I am probably out of touch with what the norm for an intro is on Wikipedia, but I strongly believe that if you can't introduce a short article in four sentences or less, then you need to figure out a way to better articulate it.
In the case of this article, I looked at the intro and felt that the first sentence adequately describes the article. I could find no other sentences in the intro that could improve the clarity of that single sentence, in the spirit of "what, in a nutshell, is this article about?" Compare this with the Biology article, which also uses a single sentence to introduce the article. The remainder of its header is devoted to referrals to sub-branches of biology.
My edit had the additional benefit of moving the Table of Contents to a position where, regardless of your display setting, you should still be able to see it without scrolling. Robertwharvey (talk) 19:53, 7 June 2010 (UTC)
I disagree with Maunus reverting Robertwharvey's edit and I agree with Robertwharvey's comment that "if you can't introduce a short article in four sentences or less, then you need to figure out a way to better articulate it." IMHO, even if it does not comply with WP:LEAD, it is at least better than it was. I believe that Maunus revert should be undone, but that the "cleanup" should be put back. There are still a number of unaddressed complaints. Hpvpp (talk) 05:23, 9 June 2010 (UTC)
I am sure the lead can be improved but this is not an improvement. It is directly against the Manual of Style which tells us exactly what a lead should be like. It clearly states that leads of long articles can be asl long as four paragraphs. You will not be able to find any featured articles with a lead of just four sentences because it is simply against wikipedia policy to have such short leads - the lead should be able to stand on its own as a short summary of the article. IF you choose to shorten the lead that drastically you will be faced with haviong to expoand it iof the article is ever nominated for Good Article or Featured Article status because those articles must comply with the manual of style and WP:LEAD. I am not going to revert again but I suggest that any changes made be grounded in wikipedia policy and not just in personal opinion about "what an article should be like"·Maunus·ƛ· 06:12, 9 June 2010 (UTC)
This was my concern; whatever aesthetic or informational strengths a short lead may have, WP:LEAD specifically states, "The lead serves both as an introduction to the article and as a summary of the important aspects of the subject of the article" (emphasis added). I agree with Maunus that it is best to comply with WP:LEAD. Arguments about the virtues of short introductory overviews might best be held at Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (lead section). Cnilep (talk) 19:43, 9 June 2010 (UTC)
The style guidelines should only be followed if they can improve the article. If you can't improve the article by following the guidelines, then you need to do something different; see Wikipedia:Ignore All Rules, and Wikipedia:Common Sense. I would suggest to you that the current heading is clearly not an improvement over the single sentence heading with an introduction. Don't confuse article improvement with legalistic guideline interpretations. Robertwharvey (talk) 00:14, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
It is simply not an improvement. It makes the lead not serve its purpose as a summary that can possibly stand alone. Don't confuse article improvement with imposing your own idiosyncratic ideas about what articles should be like.·Maunus·ƛ· 05:13, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
Robertwharvey is correct to note that Wikipedia is not a bureaucracy, and I admire his boldness. But in my opinion the central tenet of Wikipedia is consensus. Baldly stating that versions one doesn't like are "clearly not an improvement" seems to underplay that value. WP:LEAD is not simply a legalistic guideline; it is distilled from discussions and represents consensus. Of course it can be changed, if there is consensus to do so. Of course individual articles can diverge from guidelines if (according to consensus) this improves the article. In this case, two editors assert that the shorter lead is an improvement and two disagree - a classic "no consensus" outcome. There is nothing self-evident here; you will need to argue the virtues of proposed changes. Cnilep (talk) 13:03, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert on this article's subject matter, but I do have strong opinions about what I consider good writing and bad. So the following paragraph is my sincere effort at providing a quick fix, while satisfying everyone's sensibilities. The paragraphs that follow it are the original opinionated point of view that I wrote, and it is just an opinion, so take it as you will. You have been warned.
My quick fix: Looking at the header as it exists right now, I think you would be fine by just including the first three paragraphs. These three paragraphs do a fine job of summarizing the article. Compare with Biology. The remaining paragraphs of the header belong more properly in the body of the article.
Alright, well if you're really sincere about improving the article you need to remove a large portion of the minutiae that is in the heading. The heading needs to tell a casual reader (like me) what the article is about, and why it is significant. Nothing more. You can do that in significantly less prose than what you have now. I noticed that someone has already added more text to the header. That's not the solution. The solution is to condense it. Keep it four paragraphs, if you like, but those four paragraphs must be brutally and succinctly focused on introducing the article in brief, and nothing more. Think primarily about describing the words, "Linguistic Relativity." Model your intro like an abstract for a research paper. There are research papers that are ten pages long that are effectively described in one abstract paragraph, and there are research papers that are a hundred pages long that use less, more focused text in their abstract than the header in this article.
Remember, casual readers like me are also reading this encyclopedia, not just eggheads. The header should answer my question, "Should I continue reading?" I fell asleep before I got to the fourth paragraph. Robertwharvey (talk) 16:29, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
I have made an attempt at condensation shaving of some 787 bytes. Feel free to continue improving. ·Maunus·ƛ· 19:20, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
I like this better. Kudos for the improvements. Robertwharvey (talk) 22:30, 10 June 2010 (UTC)

I see two problems here: consensus and intended audience. And these two impact each other.

(i) Consensus is effectively amongst editors and not amongst those who are knowledgeable on the topic. Moreover, it can neither be assumed that all those who are knowledgeable have read the article nor that those who have actually agree by not expressing disagreement.

(ii) Intended audience is a function of the level of esotericness of the topic which is reflected in the requirement that the first sentence of the lead be a declarative sentence stating the 'what' (=essence) and the 'why' (=justification) of the article. And note here that while WP:LEAD is very explicit about the first sentence, it glosses over the rest. This means that editors are effectively given ample leeway to style the article as they see fit which serves to broach the topic and gets the article off the ground. More esoteric material can be accommodated later in more narrowly defined sub-articles, if necessary.

The consequence is that the quality of the article tends to reflect both the topical knowledge of the editors as well as their ability to envisage their audience. However, the article must satisfy both the layperson and the expert. Therefore, note that WP:LEAD explicitly says "If its subject is amenable to definition, then the first sentence should give a concise definition" and I would like to point out that a proper definition is superior to a summary, in principle, with the attendant benefit that the lead can be significantly reduced and still stay wholly within the scope of WP:LEAD.

Therefore, given that the topic of this article is amenable to definition and also given that this article is still in development, there was virtue in Robertwharvey's edit simply because it is easier to enhance a concise text than to pare down a verbose one. As it stands now, the lead is still too long. (And as an aside, getting the article right should take precedence over getting it to "featured status".)

Hpvpp (talk) 03:12, 11 June 2010 (UTC)

Still not convinced, I have been presented with no compelling reason that the lead of this article should be treated differently from topics such as General relativity or String theory in what concerns the MOS and the requirements of WP:LEAD. Maybe your questions about consensus are answered here.·Maunus·ƛ· 04:46, 11 June 2010 (UTC)
General Relativity and String Theory are arguably far weightier subjects than this article, and probably warrant a longer introduction than this article does. Robertwharvey (talk) 02:42, 14 June 2010 (UTC)

Regardless of anything, now that there is the Apture Add-on (e.g. here for Firefox), it is worthwhile to ensure that the first paragraph of the lead properly introduces the article. Which, of course, suggests having a short lead, followed by an Overview section. Do you all agree? Hpvpp (talk) 00:35, 16 March 2011 (UTC)

No, Overview sections are discouraged by the MOS. And it is more important that the lead gives an adequate summary of the article than to provide particular functionalities for users of particular software.·Maunus·ƛ· 00:52, 16 March 2011 (UTC)
Like Maunus, I do not agree that a short lead and an overview section are warranted. Per MOS:LEAD, "The lead should be able to stand alone as a concise overview of the article. It should define the topic, establish context, explain why the subject is interesting or notable, and summarize the most important points—including any prominent controversies." Completeness and compliance with WP policy take precedence over any browser plug in or other means of accessing the page. Cnilep (talk) 18:28, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
Okay. Then how about reworking the first para into a concise definition of the topic. The idea is that the first paragraph of the lead be able to stand alone. I have actually proposed this at the MoS here. Hpvpp (talk) 21:43, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I think it would be good to have a succinct definition as the first paragraph. Some of the ideas in the first two paragraphs come close to that, but they also include some other elements. A tighter definition would probably be a good improvement. Cnilep (talk) 22:16, 17 March 2011 (UTC)
Done. Hpvpp (talk) 23:26, 23 March 2011 (UTC)
I disagree with your change to the definition. Linguistic relativity does not limit itself to semantics. Differences in grammar and especially in usage are equally relevant. I think you should change "semantic structure" to just "language" and I also think there has to be a mention that it holds the existence of differences in semantics to contribute to differences in how the world is conceptualized and perceived.·Maunus·ƛ· 15:56, 24 March 2011 (UTC)
I took a leaf from Matthews, 1997, The concise Oxford dictionary of linguistics, OUP: "the semantic structure of the language which a person speaks either determines or limits the ways in which they are able to form conceptions of the world they live in." And "semantics" he simply defines as "the study of meaning". And as broadly as Bloomfield used it to include grammar. Thus, semantics concerns not just symbols and expressions, but also the particular structure of expressions. For example, there is a difference between having time-before-place (eg Dutch "we morgen naar Parijs") and place-before-time (eg English "we are going to Paris tomorrow"). Re: the "differences", I thought that was obvious from "the ways in which" and re: "perceived", I would say that that is implicit in "conceptualized". (I have added world view to clarify.) I think there is value in being concise, but I won't insist on it. Hpvpp (talk) 01:27, 25 March 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I understand your point, Hpvpp, but I also take Maunus's that semantics has a specialized usage as the name of a subfield, as well as the general sense of "meaning-making". Plus, as language is only half as many words as semantic structure I don't think the change Maunus suggests threatens conciseness. Cnilep (talk) 02:16, 25 March 2011 (UTC)

IMO, deleting "semantic structure of" impoverishes the definition. Also, "semantics" has more than two interpretations (see semantics) and the article is not even presented as a linguistic one. Moreover, this is not about "language", but about the unthinking/uncritical use of language. Sapir: "Language and our thought-grooves are inextricably interrelated, are, in a sense, one and the same" (1921 p. 217) and Whorf: "habitual assumptions", e.g. his gasoline drums. Just having "language" in the definition hides this crucial information and if we were to shorten the definition we would need to say a lot more in order to put across all that. But the aim is to educate the reader and I am not a teacher so if you can improve it, please do so. Hpvpp (talk) 04:17, 25 March 2011 (UTC)
removing semantic - it is actually redundant and probably serves mostly to confuse the lay reader (summary from edit by Maunus moved here for discussion by Hpvpp (talk) 00:19, 27 March 2011 (UTC))
I have reverted your revert. You didn't have consensus to include it in the first place. You were bold and included I disagreed and reverted. now we discuss and find out how best to phrase the definition. Most of the definitions of linguistic relativity do not use the word "semantic", removing the word does not make the definition less accurate or less concise. I see no reason to include it.·Maunus·ƛ· 00:23, 27 March 2011 (UTC)
I have said that I do not think removing the word "semantic" is a detriment. Let me go further and say that I think it is a slight improvement, since it avoids a potential ambiguity without sacrificing any vital information. Cnilep (talk) 00:37, 27 March 2011 (UTC)
I shall not go into an edit-war, but I would like to point out that rather than making a bold edit, I came here first to seek consensus. Then, after Cnilep's comment that a more concise definition would be an improvement, I waited six days for Maunus (or anybody else) to comment. He didn't, so I assumed I had consensus and I rewrote the first para. Then Maunus disagreed about me using 'semantic structure' and a discussion ensued which I see as the D-part of the BRD cycle. However, he did not take part, but simply removed the 'semantic' without comment here which is why I reverted his edit and placed the summary here, because summaries are not visible here and can therefore not reckoned to be part of the discussion.
Concerning the word 'semantic', I think it is important to use it because in essence the principle is about the meaning that people attach to any given instance of language use. Hpvpp (talk) 01:21, 27 March 2011 (UTC)
Linguistic relativity is not just about "the meaning that people attach to any given sentence in language use". Much more so it is about the ways in which the habitual use of particular linguistic structures influence cognition - the semantics is a very small part of most formulations of linguistic relativity. Also: You interpret my lack of response as consent? I had not been presented with anything to consent to before you introduced the actual writing. Cnilep's agreement that something more concise was welcome was also not a carte blanche agreeing in advance with anything you might write. If you had presented the proposal here before boldly inserting it then I wouldn't have had to revert and we could have preceded directly to discussion.·Maunus·ƛ· 02:23, 27 March 2011 (UTC)
I shall not argue this any further. Hpvpp (talk) 04:58, 28 March 2011 (UTC)
"Much more so it is about the ways in which the habitual use of particular linguistic structures influence cognition -" Indeed. Thank you. __ Just plain Bill (talk) 16:38, 27 March 2011 (UTC)
Including "semantic" makes the definition too narrow. There are more facets to the "structure of language" than semantics. Syntactic differences, such as word order (e.g. Subject Verb Object, or Object Subject Verb, and so on) don't make a difference to how speakers conceptualize the world? Of course they do. Is the T–V distinction syntactic, semantic, or a bit of both? From that article: "Though English has no syntactic T–V distinction, there are semantic analogues, such as whether to address someone by first or last name (or using sir and ma'am)." Such a structural difference, not limited to semantics in all lantuages, affects the way people conceptualize their social environment. Does Whorf use the word "semantic" in a definition or statement of "his" hypothesis? __ Just plain Bill (talk) 02:20, 27 March 2011 (UTC)
In my choice of definition I let myself be guided by the anthropology template on the article. Thus, the meaning of ‘semantic’ is broad and therefore includes grammar as Bloomfield held and as I mentioned in my post earlier. Also, you guys appear to be taking a static view as grounded in some particular language (hearer perspective) while I take the dynamic view as grounded in the individual speech-event (speaker perspective). But that is fine and it doesn’t make much difference to the article anyway so I won’t argue this any further.
For an alternative definition, how about this one?
"postulates that the structure of language informs the structure of the world as conceived by speakers of a particular language" (Allan, K.: 2007, The Western classical tradition in linguistics, Equinox: London, p. 13)
Hpvpp (talk) 04:58, 28 March 2011 (UTC)

I apologize for adding the 'Lead too long' tag to the article without checking the talk page; I obviously would have seen this long discussion and would have thought twice. As a bit of background, I was reading the wikipedia article on Pinker's The Language Instinct which says "language has a heavy influence on a person's possible range of thoughts (the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis)". I followed the link, and (in my initial estimation) found that the lead section was not nearly as simple as that, and seemed to be unnecessarily dry and long. After I was directed to this article I re-read the lead and find it to be better than my initial estimate. I still think it could be simplified, with much of the condensed out (say by removing the second paragraph). I do not claim to be a wikipedia expert, or an expert on this subject, that's just my two bits. If you want to remove the maintenance tag, I will not complain. Sanpitch (talk) 03:39, 30 November 2011 (UTC)

I'll see what I can do to condense it.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 03:56, 30 November 2011 (UTC)

Disputed section: Linguistic relativity and bilingualism

I have placed a template on the section 'Linguistic relativity and bilingualism' to seek help in checking its accuracy. Although the section boasts a dozen citations, most of the potentially controversial claims are cited to work by one of two authors, Vivian Cook or Benedetta Bassetti.

I am particularly skeptical of the claim that Cook and Bassetti's own 2010 volume was the first book to deal with relativity and bilingualism. Since the section cites a journal article from 1961 on the topic, I wonder if there really was a gap of 50 years before book-length work was published. And even if there was, if no one felt the lack of such a volume, is it really that significant that most of the earlier work was in journals or chapters? I know, for example, that students in my own school's psychology department were studying bilingualism and color perception during the early 2000s; I assume they were drawing on an older literature.

Rather than simply marking that claim as dubious, I am asking for a check of the whole section since another author earlier marked the first paragraph as needing verification. Also, I noticed the section when yet a third editor removed (what was apparently) an external link to Cook and Bassetti's publisher from the section's text. Cnilep (talk) 11:26, 12 February 2011 (UTC)

I am not competent to comment on that section myself - but I think that if you feel it is imbalanced that you just go ahead and trim it, it already seems to alot undue weight to one corner of the topic that hasn't received that much attention.·Maunus·ƛ· 14:18, 12 February 2011 (UTC)
In light of my own concern that the section is dubious and Maunus's suggestion that it gives undue weight to one area, I have removed the section and summarized its uncontroversial content under the existing sub-section 'Present status'. I also moved most of its references (though not the individual chapters cited from Cook & Bassetti 2010) to the References section. Cnilep (talk) 00:31, 13 February 2011 (UTC)
I think there is sufficient substance here to either split off this stuff or merge it with Cognitive advantages to bilingualism or Metalinguistic awareness. The subsection "Fishman's 'Whorfianism of the third kind'" could then go there as well with perhaps other bits and pieces (which would serve to make the article more concise). Lastly, I think the summary would fit better under a (subsection of) "Cognitive linguistics" rather than "Present status". Hpvpp (talk) 01:00, 13 February 2011 (UTC)
I would have no objection to someone moving or changing what I wrote, and obviously if the portions I removed can be useful in other articles, they can be retrieved from the page history. Cnilep (talk) 01:51, 13 February 2011 (UTC)


Donald Davidson's critique of the notion has had an enormous influence on 20th century analytic philosophy. Shouldn't there be a mention? Agent Cooper (talk) 00:40, 26 May 2009 (UTC)

it should probably be in a section on the notion in philosophy of language - I am not up to deal with the philosophical implications just the linguistic ones. Please add a section if you feel up to it I would put it after the current status section - I Imagine it should feature Wittgenstein prominently and probably also opponents like Hilary Putnam.·Maunus·ƛ· 01:37, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
Definitely. When reading only the caption of the article, the name Wittgenstein already popped up in my head. (talk) 19:11, 1 October 2011 (UTC)

I just wanted to indicate my agreement with the suggestion that there at least be some reference to Davidson's "On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme" in this article. There need not be a separate heading, but the question of whether conceptual schemes are definable via non-translatability is important, and this article seems to me incomplete with no mention of it. Thanks. WH (talk) 15:43, 11 July 2012 (UTC)— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:37, 11 July 2012 (UTC)

I recently wrote the article on Benjamin Lee Whorf and reread Davidson for that purpose, (also Max Black) made a similar critique in 1959 - and Lenneberg also made the same argument. They should definitely be mentioned and are also mentioned in some works on Linguistic relativity. I think that generally their arguments are considered to be wrong by relativists, since the linguistic relativity does not preclude the possibility of translation. We could make a section on the question of conceptual schemes and translaiton in analytical philosophy and include Quine, Putnam, Davidson and Wittgenstein.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 15:50, 11 July 2012 (UTC)

Artificial languages / Fictional presence (redux)

An IP user added the following two sentences. To me they read more like the bullet points that tend to comprise less-discriminate lists than considered additions. What do others think?

Yukihiro Matsumoto (Matz), creator of Ruby (programming language), on O'Reilly Open Source Convention (2003) said that one of his inspirations for developing the language was a science-fiction book named Babel-17, which is based on Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis <ref>The Power and Philosofy of Ruby (or how to create babel-17):</ref>
Dave Astels, on "A new look at Test-Driven Development", mentions Saphir-Whorf Hipothesis and, based on his theories, creates a new vocabulary for tests on his methodology "Behaviour Driven Development" <ref>A new look at Test-Driven Development:</ref>

By the same token, it might be time to look again at the subsection "Fictional presence" to ensure that the examples there are appropriate and illustrative, rather than simply a collection of various users' favorite works. (See also #trivia section pulled, above.) Cnilep (talk) 13:47, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

By my cheap cheerful assessment, zooming out and looking at the color of the page, the fictional presence section is one of the bulkier ones on the page, if not the bulkiest. It looks bigger than the references, bigger than the section on Whorf, and bigger than the section on empirical research, which seem to be the other main contenders for biggest section. I'm willing to call that unbalanced, and undue weight; drastic pruning seems to be in order. If it continues growing persistently despite that, it might make sense to keep only a very short list, and split the rest out into a sub-article. That would keep this article to a readable size, and perhaps be easier to patrol. As of today, this article is 55 kilobytes, towards the large side of the range for convenient browsing. __ Just plain Bill (talk) 16:36, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
I have previously removed the entire section pr WP:TRIVIA only to have it inserted again with no further justification being made for its inclusion. I am not against tyhe inclusion a well written analysis of the influence of the hypothesis of linguistic relativity in fiction - but that is clearly not what this is. This is a list of any work of scienfiction that ever speculated on the relation between thought and language. Actually I think that at the least only those works where reliable sources confirm that they have a relation to linguistic relativity should be included. I do think for example that it is original research to say that the sapir whorf hypothesis has anything to do with Orwell's Newspeak without a reliable source describing the exact relation.·Maunus·ƛ· 16:54, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
I've removed the three examples with the least connection to the subject matter. There's no escaping the fact that this is one of the best known hypotheses in linguistics to the lay reader, and that this is due to the attention which has been drawn to it by SF works from Orwell to Elgin. --Orange Mike | Talk 20:03, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
If there is no escaping that the sapir/whorf hypothesis is famous because of its appearance in sci-fi then it shouldn't be too difficult to find scholarly sources corroborating that those works of science fiction actually has any relation to the hypothesis? Also that would make it easy to write up an actual analysis of the hypothesis' use in sci-fi instead of just a list of trivia.·Maunus·ƛ· 20:59, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
Like User:Manus, I doubt that the hypotheses is known because of sf novels. Newspeak is Basic english as far as I know. P.S. But strangely enough googgle has tons of stuff on Whorf-Orwell.--Radh (talk) 20:50, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
I didn't mean to express doubt (I can only say that I don't know the hypothesis from sci-fi, but I am hardly representative) - I just think that providing sources would be the right way to show that it is the case.·Maunus·ƛ· 21:18, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
"Fictional presence" section split off to Experimental languages.
Hpvpp (talk) 02:03, 28 May 2010 (UTC)
This is still happening as of now. I just pulled a statement from the experimental, i.e. conlang section to the effect that "work" in that area was done in science fiction. Nothing you can do I think but keep deleting it or protect the article. It's a funny thing because the conlangs would be considered short of being first rate linguistic scholarship on the one hand and on the other things like Klingon are in fact (unserious) conlangs. The distinction between a serious conlang like Esperanto or Lojban which does constitute somekina scholarship and the other which is the antithesis of that is clear. (talk) 06:19, 28 April 2012 (UTC)

Search for neuroscience related references

I wonder why the article doesn't contain a single mention or hint of references investigating the subject with functional MRI or theoretically, with respect to cognition frameworks.

Dmlled (talk) 10:39, 8 March 2011 (UTC)

I don't know how one would design such an investigation at all, and I have never read of any studies doing it. If you know some that are directly aimed at the topic of linguistic relativity please do present them here.·Maunus·ƛ· 12:33, 8 March 2011 (UTC)
This open access review article may help: Chen et al. Cultural neurolinguistics. Prog Brain Res. 2009;178:159-71.MistyMorn (talk) 17:40, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
Wow, that looks great. I'm looking forward to reading that!·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 17:58, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
Yes, it's a good secondary source which is spot on topic and fills a gap, I think. Some of the individual studies are fascinating (a personal favourite [1][2]). Incidentally, that review comes from a theme issue; fortunately the key article for us is open access via PubMed Central (though not via Elsevier!). —MistyMorn (talk) 19:03, 25 May 2012 (UTC)

What to Believe?

"The early 20th century school of American Anthropology headed by Franz Boas and Edward Sapir also embraced the idea. Sapir's student Benjamin Lee Whorf came to be seen as the primary proponent as a result of his published observations of how he perceived linguistic differences to have consequences in human cognition and behavior. Harry Hoijer, one of Sapir's students, introduced the term "Sapir–Whorf hypothesis",[1] albeit infelicitously due to Sapir's non-involvement with the idea"

So the very same paragraph claims that Sapir embraced this idea but was not involved with it! GeneCallahan (talk) 21:18, 6 October 2011 (UTC)

I agree, & so I modified this sentence to make it clearer that the idea is associated in some forms with early 20c American Anthropology "founded" by them, but not stemming from Boas & Sapir in particular. It is correct that Sapir actually did not subscribe to or express belief in what is now known as the "Sapir-Whorf hypothesis." While there are occasional moments in his writings that can lend some credence to the idea, there are many more very clear and direct statements on his part (specifically with regard on the one hand to the similar cultures but entirely unrelated and often dissimilar languages of California Native Americans, and on the other to the similar and/or related languages but dissimilar cultures of other Californian groups) against most forms of linguistic relativity. Wichitalineman (talk) 14:01, 23 May 2012 (UTC)
Personally I trace the lineage through Boas' paper on Alternating sounds back to the German psychophycisists and on to Sapirs work on the psychological reality of the phoneme. I think the phoneme principle is the best and clearest example of linguistic relativity (I've never understood how universalists could reject linguistic relativity while adopting the phonemic principle wholesale) - and clearly the main inspiration for Whorf.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 00:42, 24 May 2012 (UTC)

Kudos for Excellent Work

At one time this article was a very sad sight indeed. Today it is a model of what Wikipedia can and should be, and provides a very thorough and very neutral overview of a very important and at times controversial topic that rivals and in some case exceeds the comprehensiveness found in some of the source documents it cites, many of which (rightly, as argumentative essays) take one side or the other of the controversy. Thank you to everyone who has worked on it. I will not hesitate to recommend it to colleagues and students as the best first stop in learning about the topic. Wichitalineman (talk) 14:08, 23 May 2012 (UTC)

Thanks! (also on behalf of the many other contributors)·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 14:41, 23 May 2012 (UTC)

Expansions and Brushups for GA review

I do condone the nomination for GA, but I feel that there is a few small things that we should address before the reviewer steps in. HEre is a list of my ideas:

  1. Standardize references. We have some texts referenced with full refs in the notes and others with short refs. I think there is a need of pagenumbers in some cases, and also we need to decide on whether to use the harv-ref linking option or just standard short refs.
  2. There is some info in the lead that is not in the body (e.g. the en passant remark about Stuart Chase, his role should be describe in the section on Whorf - perhaps also more mention of Hoijer 's influence.) (Also using Penny Lee's 1996 book more would be a great improvement)
  3. In the empirical studies there should be mentioned other strands of research than color terminology - recent studies have focused on spatial language and cognition (especially from the Max Planck institute), and other studies by Lera Boroditsky have suggested that attitudes towards things and peoples are affected by grammatical gender differences, and another recent study argued that bilingual peoples attitudes towards others was influenced by the languager they spoke at the time (i.e. they tended to have different attitudes and opinions when interviewed in one language than when interviewed in another).
  4. The relation to philosophical and psychological debates about the role of language in concept formation (Nietzsche, Putnam, Quine, Davidson, Wittgenstein, Vygotsky, Piaget (Eve Danziger's study of relativity in Mopan Maya kinship terminology), Wundt.
  5. A better summary of Pinker's critique and critiques of his critique (since this is very well known in the general public))
  6. A better description of the background in German psychophysics (including Boas and Sapir's work on the phoneme principle).

These additions would make for a truly excellent and comprehensive article I think. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 16:37, 24 May 2012 (UTC)

"Currently, a balanced view . . . ."

A sentence that was in the lead was multiply dubious and contentious: "Currently, a balanced view is held by most linguists . . . ." First, it is unlikely that most linguists have a definite view on linguistic relativism. Second, the term 'balanced view' is subjective, vague, and often congratulatory of one's own school of thought. Third, the two claims are unsubstantiated. Although this sentence was sandwiched between two others that both cited Koerner (2000:17), that source, that very page, does not contain the claims contained in this sentence. Therefore, I deleted it.

In fact, this whole article seems just a tad too subjective; it's contains lots of personal findings verging on speculation. That would be fine in a "real" encyclopedia, but in this one, we err in the opposite direction. Subjective judgements can be inserted if explicitly hedged. Dale Chock (talk) 03:05, 11 June 2012 (UTC)

Hey, User:Maunus, read Koerner (2000:17). Indeed, the phrase 'balanced view' does not appear anywhere in that book. Granted, it is ambiguous whether the 'balanced view' sentence is meant to be sourced to this page; but if it is not, then it has no citation at all, not even a wrong one. Dale Chock (talk) 03:23, 11 June 2012 (UTC)

I am not going to engage with you more, you are the epitome of a WP:DICK and nothing good will come from me beginning to discuss with. I will simply wait untill reasonable people come around and revert your crap. BTW: I have mentioned your antics here at ANI in the thread you have already established for yourself. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 03:25, 11 June 2012 (UTC)

"principle" or not?

I object to the locution, "principle of linguistic relativity" because it is my understanding that in science (and contemporary linguistics has pretensions to being a science) a principle is something that is well established by scientific research; that is proven. Editor Cnilep emphasizes the assertion that Whorf's claim was not a hypothesis. Well, something that is neither hypothesis or principle is dogma. I even inserted the word 'dogma' as a replacement for 'principle' in one instance. Dale Chock (talk) 03:09, 11 June 2012 (UTC)

  • but Linguistics is a social science, not a hard science, and "principle" does not have this meaning here. It is widely referred to this way (and as hypothesis or theory) in the profession, and Wikipedia reflects the way things are done, not how some of us think they should be done. The article makes it clear that the hypotheses are objects of great controversy. "Dogma"--a view that is accepted beyond question and potentially beyond fact by one or more people--is completely inappropriate, as there are few hard-core believers in the principle as it's described here, and fewer still who would suggest it should be beyond the realm of empirical testing or conceptual argumentation. Wichitalineman (talk) 15:35, 16 June 2012 (UTC)

Due weight for Malotki on Whorf, and for the Sapir-Whorf era generally

Although Malotki's refutation of Whorf is cited, and is well described as "monumental", the treatment appears to minimize its importance: Malotki's Hopi Time "challenged" Whorf's account of Hopi grammar. But as Radh wrote here in August 2009, Malotki "pulverized" Whorf's account. Malotki should be excerpted here more. It matters little that Whorf was not a dilettante in linguistics generally, since he was all wet regarding Hopi grammar. The article seems to give due weight to pre-Sapir-Whorf and post-Sapir-Whorf, but too much weight to Sapir-Whorf. Dale Chock (talk) 10:54, 11 June 2012 (UTC)

I totally agree. Malotki's work is massive and important. It needs to be discussed much more. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:43, 25 September 2012 (UTC)
For some reason studies of linguistic relativity do not use Malotki's work alot. Critics simply cite it obliquely as "Malotki oproved Whorf wrong", never going into details about the different claims of Whorf anf Malotki and how they relate to eachother. Relativists tend to dismiss Malotki saying either that he misrepresented Whorf or that he caught Whorf on minor details that don't invalidate the concept. I don't think malotki's weight in the literature on Linguistic Relativity merits a detailed discussion on this already very large page. The literature on color and spatiality is much more important and much more widely discussed in relation to linguistic relativity. I do think that we should have a separate article on Hope time that describes both Whorf's and Malotki's views in greater detail as well as subsequent ways they have been critiqued and used.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 16:52, 25 September 2012 (UTC)

Non-sexist language

Isn't this the theoretical base of non-sexist language and political correctness? I see no mention of these concepts in the article. --Error (talk) 00:51, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

Arguably, but I don't know of any literature that treats it as such.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 12:44, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

Malotki study is more than just claiming universal properties of mind

Some one edited the Malotki entry into a minimal mention of his work as a universalist study (as opposed to relativism). But I think it is an important point in addition that Malotki shows where Whorf made specific errors. For exmaple Whorf claimed that Hopi cannot understand time like English speakers can. That is they do not cognize time as English speakers do, and because of this they have no passed tense (nor time metaphors and figures of speech). Malotki however finds no evidence to support that, and he used modern speakers and historical documents and archeological data to show that Whorf was blinded by an ideological cultural relativism. It does not follow from this that linguistic relativism is impossible or that Malotki thinks so. What follows is that Whorf's poor scientific education, methodological flaws and lack of fluency in Hopi obscured and complicated everything. (talk) 19:56, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

Whorf did not claim that Hopi speakers cannot understand time as English speakers do. He claimed that they generally don't. Malotki was blinded by an ideological generative universalism which made him misread Whorf and disprove a strawman claim. Also your charascterization fo Whorfs education and skill as a linguist is ridiculously wrong, as a cursory reading of his biography can tell you. Linguists then considered him among the best of his time, and those linguists who work with relations between cultural and linguistic diversity still do. Those who believe in cognitive and linguistic universals don't, but they don't get a better case by smearing Whorf's reputation as a scientist. Malotki is an excellent scholar and someone who has actually done a lot of great work on language diversity, but he was educated into a universalist tradition which makes him apparently unable to read what Whorf actually wrote. His findings on Hopi time are monumental and important, but they do not disprove Whorfs claims, or even engage with them at a fundamental level. He is refuting a claim that noone has made. Read Leavitt 2010, Linguistic Relativities, and Penny Lee's 1996 the Whorf Theory Complex about this. Also read the critique in Dinwoodie, David W. (2006). "Time and the Individual in Native North America". In Sergei Kan. New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, And Representations. U of Nebraska. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 20:19, 24 September 2012 (UTC)
OK. So Whorf says:
I find it gratuitous to assume that Hopi who knows only the Hopi language and the cultural ideas of his own society has the same notions, often suppoused to be intuitions. of time and space that we have, and that are generally asumed to be universal. In particular, he has no general notion or intuition of time as a smooth flowing continuum in which everything in the universe proceeds at equal rate, out of a future, through the present, into a past (p 57 in Collected papers ed Carroll 1956)
I think it's fair to say that Malotki's material seriously cast a doubt upon statements like this. What do you think? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:36, 25 September 2012 (UTC)
I don't think so necessarily no, that depends on you one choose to operationalize the quote. The problem with Whorf's statements is that they are vague and can be read generously or strictly. I think it is fair to say that it has been definitively shown that different groups habituallty do conceptualize time in ways different to the average Englishman, and that in this sense Whorf was probably right. I think that Malotki shows that the Hopi do think and speak about time, and that they do so in ways that are neither entirely different nor entirely similar to the ways an average Englishman speaks of time, so in that sense Malotki is right. Malotki's central claim is that there is a single universal way of conceptualizing time as divided into past-present-future, and that Hopi speakers simply conflate past and present and contrast that against the future. I think that claim is highly questionable since in my way of viewing things that difference (between English past-non-past and Hopi future non-future) would be expected have certain linguistic and cognitive ramifications, at least in the ways in the habitual use of language and thought. I do play with the idea of reading Malotki's own Hopi texts (which are excellent material) in order to try to analyze the discursive and textual functions of time in Hopi. Malotki himself focuses quite singularly on the grammatical rather than semantic and textual meanings of tense, and I suspect reading his texts with an open mind might give interesting insights. But that remains to be done.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 16:48, 25 September 2012 (UTC)
Hmm. Anyway the points the Malotki make should be discussed more. He also says that Hopi does have past tense. I don't have refs currently at hand, but IIRC Whorf did claim that Hopi lacked past tense. I always personally never thought of Malotki as a universalist, in the sense that, say, Pinker definetly is one. Rahter, he just showed that the Whorfian account was a mess and needed revision (which was done later). Malotki might have written in the golden age of universalism, but he makes points in his work that are relevant to Whorf relation to the field of linguistic relativism nevertheless, and therefore Malotki's work should be discussed more extensively IMO. (talk) 16:57, 25 September 2012 (UTC)
Would you like to start work on Hopi time with me? I think that would be a great article for Wikipedia to have.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 17:00, 25 September 2012 (UTC)
I'd love to, but I will be out of town for the rest of the week, so I cannot contribute untill later. Also I need to register. (talk) 17:02, 25 September 2012 (UTC)
It is also fair to say that Whorf thought that time perception was different in different cultures. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:40, 25 September 2012 (UTC)
yes, and I think there is good reason to think that that ios in fact the case.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 16:53, 25 September 2012 (UTC)
If you mean that it is the case the Whorf thought so, then I have no disagreement. However, if the above means that you think that time perception is different in different cultures, then I would say that the scientific consensus is not that. I'm not saying what it is, but it is not that. And because this is an encyclopedia, this should be stated88.114.154.216 (talk) 17:01, 25 September 2012 (UTC)
I mean both. I don't think there is a scientific (or philosophical) consensus against this idea in fact (or in favor of it). Also I think that the fact that we have different views on this will be useful for constructing a broad and neutral view of the topic.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 17:17, 25 September 2012 (UTC)

Failed to verify Lucy 1997 Malotki claim

A just checked a ref that Maunus added. The sentence claims states "Universalist scholars such as Steven Pinker often see Malotki's study as a final refutation of Whorf's claim about Hopi, whereas relativist scholars such as John A Lucy and Penny Lee have criticized Malotki's study for mischaracterizing Whorf's claims and for forcing Hopi grammar into a pregiven model of analysis that doesn't fit the data" then refers to "Lucy 1997". The article does not even mention Malotki. I'm removing it. (talk) 06:37, 2 October 2012 (UTC)

Additionally the above refers to Lucy 1992a. I only have access to a similarly titled book from 1996, which does not have such a claim. (talk) 06:50, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
The Lucy 1997 is is chapter in Rethinking linguistic relativity - I forgot to add that to the bibliography. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 11:36, 2 October 2012 (UTC))
Ooops, it was 1996, and 1992b instead of 1992a. I added the references from memory, I should have checked first. I've added the page numbers.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 11:47, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Where exactly does this Pinker guy claim that Malotki is a final refuationtion? (talk) 09:53, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
I'll find the page where he cites Malotki as evidence for Whorf's lingustic incompetence and lack of Hopi knowledge. It is in KLanguage Instinct, and probably also in Stuff of Thought.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 11:44, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
I would suspect that it is in Language instinct. (talk) 12:10, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Yeah, in Stuff of thought he goes into detail on tense and cognition, but he only cites Malotki in a footnote. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 16:10, 3 October 2012 (UTC)


I've removed the link to the institute of creation research because it is not a reliable source for Whorf's biography (it is a reliable source for how creationists have represented him, but they have even portrayed Stephen Jay Gould as a kind of crypto-creationist). While Whorf's alleged creationsm is repeated in some reputable sources, It has been well established (among others by John E Joseph who have read the materials in the Yale Whorf collection including the treatise against evolution which has indeed survived) that Whorf was not a Christian creationist but rather had a much more complex relation to both science and spirituality, which he mostly explored through theosophy. His early interest in old testament Hebrew also appears to have been more cabbalistic and inspired by reading Fabre D'olivet than Christian in nature. Indeed it appears that even Whorf's father was interested in theosophy and not particularly devout.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 11:45, 3 October 2012 (UTC)

But then again the institutes article cites verbatim other sources that are reliable, even Whorf's own work. Also the article on Wikipeida on Whorf states his connection to creationism, which is understandable as his argument in the pamphlets is that there has to have been a deginer/creater. Once again it is possible to go into philosophical nit-picking on what is and what is not creationism, but the main point is that he apparently became interested in language and world views because of his own mystical inclination. His argument essentially is that evolutionary theory is poor science because complex objects have to bee designed. So, it is fair to say that he is not "anti-evolutionist" because of any given reason, but because he is "creationist". (talk) 12:09, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
I am sorry but that is wrong, they cite Stuart Chase and it alludes to the supposedly lost treatise "why I have discarded evolution". Using the word creationist implies to most people Christian creationist and that does not reflect what we know about Whorf's religious views. Please read Joseph's detailed account of Whorf's spiritual views based on actually reading Whorf's religious papers. I don't know how you can summarize the main argument of a treatise that you haven't read, and which hasn't been read by the person who summarized it to you. having read Whorf's paper "Why I have Discarded Evolution" John Joseph writes that this manuscript is almost pure Madame Blavatsky based on the anti-evolutionist thinking in "The Secret Doctrine". He also writes that this only characterizes his early thinking (he wrote this paper when he was around 20), his later thinking being Darwinian. Describing him simply as "creationist" will entirely misrepresent the complex issue of Whorf's spiritual and scientific views and it will not add much to the description of the topic of this article since it is mostly of biographical interest. (When I refer to Joseph here it is his "From Whitney to Whorf" pages 75 and 98) ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 13:18, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Actually, the article on Whorf at Wikipedia actually cites the same article that you removed. It is apparently published in a scientific journal of some unknown quality. It also cites Lakoff who apparently has called Whorf a creationist also. What to do? (talk) 12:16, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
I know it cites it because I wrote that article, but it cites it as an example of how people have interpreted his work as Christain inspired. It then goes into detail about how subsequent scholarship has found that characterization to be inaccurate.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 13:24, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Another scholar who has claimed that Whorf's interest in language was mostly fueled by fundamentalist christianity and anti-science leanings is Peter Rollins, whose writings on Whorf have mostly been either ignored or criticized by serious scholarship. IN other words it has been the case that scholars have considered christianity to be the moving factor behind Whorf's interest in linguistic relativity, but it isn't any more, because it doesn't seem to align with the facts. This is something that it makes sense to go into some detail about in the Whorf article, not in this article which is about the hypothesis/principle not about Whorf's background or beliefs.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 13:24, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Well, I think it is important to notice that he had an a priori motivation to see "other cultures" as competition for "Western" culture (i.e ideological cultural relativism). That he was a creationist is perhaps not important for the history of linguistic relativism. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:33, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
I think that is a much easier point to make, because then we can simply point to the many scholars who see him as exoticizing non-western culture and exaggerating the differences. Cultural relativism and an ideological approach tha elevates the merits of non-western cultures is an integral part of the Humboldt-Boas legacy and not necessarily something we would have to explain specifically in the case of Whorf.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 14:47, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
  • In fact I think that this article perhaps should spend less time describing the particular biographies of the involved and rather focus on arguments and examples. I think the History section (particularly the subsection on Whorf) could probably be considerably shortened, and the empirical research section correspondingly expanded.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 14:51, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
This is true, I haven't got to that point yet. I don't have much free time... (talk) 18:42, 4 October 2012 (UTC)

Expanding universalism section?

I would like to expand a bit on the universalism part in this article. But how should it be done? Currently this entry does not give a very good idea about what is behind universalistic theories of languages. Should some of these ideas be included or should this entry just link to another entry which discusses the issue? Currently this entry reads as if Kay & Berlin's research were central to universalist theories. Most (if not all) universalist linguistic/anthropological theories are not based on Berlin & Kay, however. (talk) 06:16, 11 October 2012 (UTC)


The article as a whole--especially the "External Links" section--seems to be highly biased in favor of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis jʌʃ t̪ʊlsjan 23:48, 6 December 2012 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Cosman246 (talkcontribs)

I don't see how an external links section can be biased. Unless you can be a little more specific and constructive I don't think the NPOV tag is very useful. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 01:12, 7 December 2012 (UTC)

It consists mostly of links that support the (highly controversial) hypothesis jʌʃ t̪ʊlsjan 18:20, 8 December 2012 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Cosman246 (talkcontribs)

If you have any ideas for high quality links to be added that do not support this viewpoint then feel free to add them or suggest them here. Note that it is well documented that a large amount of scientific support for the hypothesis has been generated within the past decade, making it a lot less "controversial" than it was in the 1980s and 1990s. Yes, die hard universalists like Pinker remain unconvinced but frankly they are not part of the scientific dialogue anymore. I am going to remove the POV tag, because it is seems to be based on disagreement with the links in the El section and not on any constructive ideas for improvement.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 18:47, 8 December 2012 (UTC)
A page describing any hypothesis is going to be "biased" toward that hypothesis. This page is exceedingly clear in laying out the many versions of the hypothesis and even the strong objections to them, and lists many if not all of the best-known works for and against it; as a believer in only some of the most modest versions of the "hypothesis" it does not strike me in any way as "supporting" or "discounting" my own views on the subject, or anyone else's. The external links section lists 6 useful and well-known resources and I can't imagine a good argument for deleting them. The bibliography and notes present many of the most established works for and against. The page represents a very objective snapshot of where scholarly opinion is about the topic today. If you object to that scholarly consensus, you are free to write your own scholarship, establish a position, and have it reflected here. If you know of respected works that should be listed here and are not you are free to list them. Any wider modifications to the page regarding its POV should be subject to community input. It seems to me a model of NPOV. Wichitalineman (talk) 16:54, 9 December 2012 (UTC)

On Daniel Everett

Some one reverted an edit that I included, and they did this without discussion, which I shoud ad is against Wikipedia:Reverting guidelines! Anyway, the problem is that currently the article doesn't cite high quality references against Everett's research. These, however, exist, and the work is in progress. The article as is reads as though Everett's work were not controversial, which is really far form the truth. I don't want to be the sole person to add content that questions Everett's findings, so pleas, instead of reverting the additions, help me to find more sources and write the passage so that it shows that Everett's findings are novel, but controversial. Even people that oppose Universal Grammar (such as Esa Itkonen, who has written against it for nearly 30 years) have states that Everett's work is sensationalistic and untrue (see if you happen to speak Finnish). (talk) 08:44, 4 November 2012 (UTC)

The page you link to reads (in relevant part), "revert a good faith edit only after careful consideration. You might want to discuss the matter on the article talk page, but this is not obligatory." And later, "If you make an edit which is good-faith reverted, do not simply reinstate your edit - leave the status quo up" (emphasis in original). The relevant standard is also known as the WP:BOLD, revert, discuss cycle.
As it happens, I did consider carefully. I have every confidence that your edits were offered in good faith. But I also know that there has been considerable discussion of the controversies surrounding Professor Everett's publications here over the past few years. In my considered opinion, the peer-reviewed and published work currently cited is more reliable and more relevant than letters to newspapers or email lists, notwithstanding the considerable controversies that remain. I do agree that it is reasonable to include some published counter-arguments, but ideally the arguments on both sides of the controversy should come from equally rigorously vetted sources. Cnilep (talk) 01:25, 5 November 2012 (UTC)
Most people would yet agree that it would be absolutely fallacious to cite Everett's without mentioning the massive criticism that it was evoked. Peer-reviewed and published work is better than other stuff, but seeing as how the points are made specialists on a specialist list, the are admissible, even news articles are admissible so why not? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:24, 5 November 2012 (UTC)
There are two problems 1. for a peer reviewed paper to be "debunked" it would require another peer reviewed publication. 2. The debunking is not very relevant, since Everett is not one of the main proponents of linguistic relativity. We are not obligated to include all criticism of any paper we mention or cite unless that criticism has direct relevance for the topic of this article. These critiques of Everett's conclusions are not at this point a part of the general literature on linguistic relativity.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 01:17, 7 December 2012 (UTC)
The content that you deleted was not "debunking" anything. The mentioned Everett article (2004) is a primary source, I reckon, and it definetly is considered highly controversial. Criticism has been given by several sources (the ones that you deleted) but is also given in the commentary section in the Everett 2004 piece. Does the current text give this impression to the reader? I don't think so. This is especially relevant, since there are but a handful of experimental research on linguistic relativism related issues88.114.154.216 (talk) 14:28, 20 December 2012 (UTC)
I think it does. There is a lot more than a handful of empirical studies, and Everrett's study is not one of the major ones since as you know, it has been widely met with disbelief. I've drastically shortened the paragraph on Everett's work since it really is not a major empirical study of linguistic relativity, Everett himself does not even argue that it is. I have retained the crtitical article you included.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 15:13, 20 December 2012 (UTC)
Maunus, do you know of more studies? I assume that there are not many, as this is what Lucy says in his 1997 review. (talk) 15:32, 20 December 2012 (UTC)
Yes, I do. 1997 is a long time ago and it was also the year in which linguistic relativity studies started their comeback with the publication of the volume by Gumperz and Levinson Rethinking Linguistic Relativity [edit: Actually that was 1996]. Since then dozens of articles and several edited volumes of empirical studies have been published (Pütz & Verspoor 2000, Niemeyer & Dirven 2000). Weak linguistic relativity effects on color cognition has been demonstrated to a degree that even Paul Kay has admitted they exist (mostly in the left visual field!), and top down cognitive effects on perception is now well established in the cog-sci literature. Currently spatial cognition is perhaps the most developed field of linguistic relativity studies. Look up studies by Stephen C. Levinson, Lera Boroditsky, Dedre Gentner, Dan Slobin, and a number of other researchers who have dedicated the past two decades to empirical research in this field. A good introduction to the current state is the introduction to the 2012 edition of Whorf's "Language, Thought and Reality" by Stephen Levinson. Also check out Leavitt's 2010 "Linguistic relativities". This is all stuff that is very underdeveloped in the article unfortunately. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 15:43, 20 December 2012 (UTC)
Browsed through Pütz & Verspoor, and it seems to be mostly essays. I could not find any work by niemeyer & Friven from 2000. I'd still say that considering the amount of academic interest linguistic relativity has inspired, there is relatively little experimental work been done in the field. (talk) 15:48, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
It's Niemeier and Dirven[3]. I am sorry but I don't really think that your opinion upon having browsed a book is very useful in determining the state of the field. Relatively little in relation to what exactly?·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 17:46, 31 December 2012 (UTC)
BTW this same point is proposed by Levinson 2003 (that there is extremely little experimental work considering how much talk the issue has caused). But, contrary to what you thought, I didn't mean to imply that this opinion is useful for anything. It was just me expressing my astonishment! (talk) 17:14, 2 January 2013 (UTC)
Well I guess that when seen relative to the number of people who have a strong opinion about linguistic relativity the amount of empirical work is small, but I was taking issue with what I understood as a suggestion that the field is abandoned or non-existent, which it isn't.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 17:45, 2 January 2013 (UTC)
I tried to clean up the wording here a bit, but I think it could still use some work. It's been a while since I read Everett's articles, but my memory is that his main thesis is that cultural constraints drive the formation of grammar, which could almost be thought of as the inverse of linguistic relativity (roughly, here, that grammatical and other linguistic structures, not chosen by individual speakers or even groups in any conscious way, drive cognition). His main target is not linguistic relativity but Chomskyan grammar (or his version of it), because he wants to show that syntax is not a brain function but can be created by groups based on cultural and environmental pressures, and so the sentence summarizing Everett's critics ("That is, these critics argue, the lack of need for numbers and color discrimination explains both the lack of counting ability and the lack of color vocabulary," in my slightly-cleaned up but not semantically different sentence) actually reads to me like what Everett asserts. I don't have the time to go back and re-read this material now to be sure, but in any case I worry that it's a distraction in this article because Everett's work is not, contrary to earlier comments here, considered mainly a contribution to the Linguistic Relativity debate. If sources can be provided to show Everett being discussed in the linguistic relativity literature I will happily stand corrected, but that's not my memory of the debate. Wichitalineman (talk) 17:10, 20 December 2012 (UTC)
That is also how I understand Everett's work. Some popular (mis)treatments of Linguistic relativity such as pinker's stuff of thought and Deutscher's through the language glass do discuss Everett's claims as examples of the "outlandishness" of relativist claims, but at least in Everett's 2004 CA article he very explicitly says that he is not arguing that language has effects on cognition but that culture has effects on language and cognition.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 23:01, 20 December 2012 (UTC)
The page would probably benefit from briefly reflecting the info in this exchange then. I'll try to get to it when I have a chance to review Everett & the dissents, unless you get there first ;) Wichitalineman (talk) 14:10, 21 December 2012 (UTC)
In his book (2008) Everett has a table, with different constraint-relations in various theories, there he himself describes his position as exactly opposite to Whorf. However, does that make it or not linguistic relativity? (talk) 14:23, 21 December 2012 (UTC)
Yes basically it does, because he sees culture as constraining language and cognition, not the other way round. It is basically a kind of cultural relativism.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 14:28, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

Orwell's Newspeak

Does anyone think this warrants a mention here? In 1984 Orwell posits a language where the concept of political equality is inexpressible ie saying 'All men are equal' is as meaningless as saying 'All men are of equal height'. So who controls language controls thought. Seems relevant, no? If no-one objects I will essay a sentence or two in a week or so. SmokeyTheCat 08:09, 15 December 2012 (UTC)

If you can find a source that discusses it as an example of linguistic relativity or in relation to the concept then yes, otherwise no.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 10:20, 15 December 2012 (UTC)
  • "In Geroge Orwell's novel Nineteen Eight-Four, language restricted the way in which people thought. The rulers of the state deliberately used 'Newspeak', the official language of Oceania, so that the people thought what they were required to think. 'This statement ... could not have been sustained by reasoned argument, because the necessary words were not available' (Orwell, 1949, p. 249, in the appendix, 'The principles of Newspeak'). This is a version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis."(Harley, Trevor A. (2001). "3: The Foundations of Language". The Psychology of Language: From Data to Theory. Taylor & Francis. p. 80. ISBN 9780863778674. )
  • It's also extensively discussed in the introduction of a chapter here: (Steinberg, Sheila (2007). "6: Language and Communication". An Introduction to Communication Studies. Juta and Company Ltd. pp. 115–117. ISBN 9780702172618. ).
  • This source mentions Newspeak, and Pinker's crticism of the concept of linguistic relatively: (Moran, Terence P. (2010). "Becoming Human". Introduction to the History of Communication: Evolutions & Revolutions. Peter Lang. p. 49. ISBN 9781433104121. ). Those are just the first three books I found. Looks like it is a pretty common theme. —Torchiest talkedits 12:59, 15 December 2012 (UTC)
Well, it doesn't appear in the literature that is specifically about linguistic relativity, but apparently it is not an uncommon way for non-specialists to see the two as related. I don't know where in the article the material would fit.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 13:17, 15 December 2012 (UTC)
There were, in earlier versions of this article, large numbers of 'shout-outs' to fictional works that seem implicitly based around some version of linguistic relativity. Nineteen Eighty-Four is a prominent example, but there are many, many others, especially in science fiction or fantasy. Such fiction is not particularly relevant to understanding linguistic relativity, but may be useful by way of illustration. One way to limit the accumulation of unnecessary or distracting examples is, as Maunus suggests, only to cite examples that are explicitly analyzed in reliable published sources as illustrations of, or meditations on linguistic relativity (a.k.a. Sapir-Whorf). The literature Torchiest suggests sounds promising, provided that it discuss Newspeak explicitly in terms of relativity/Sapir-Whorf, and not just implicitly so. Cnilep (talk) 01:14, 17 December 2012 (UTC)
I added the ISBNs for those items, so it's easier to look them up. The first two are pretty explicit. I'd guess, just guessing now, that Orwell is probably the most commonly referenced example, since, again guessing, he's perhaps the original novelist to use such a concept. —Torchiest talkedits 01:49, 17 December 2012 (UTC)
Thanks all. Do you want to add a sub-section to this article about this Torchiest? I won't because you and other editors here are more knowledgable than me on this subject. SmokeyTheCat 03:57, 17 December 2012 (UTC)
Arika Okrent has a chapter called "Whorfianism" in her book onm constructed languages. I used that as a source for writing a small section, see if you like it.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 02:59, 11 January 2013 (UTC)

Directional or Bi-directional

The Standford Encylopedia refers to one of the claims of linguistic relativity as being that:

the structure and lexicon of one's language influences how one perceives 
and conceptualizes the world, and they do so in a systematic way.

The article here on Wiki addresses the issue of Linguistic Relativity in the same directional/causative manner as this. The idea as expressed is that language influences conceptualisation, rather than that conceptualisation influences language or that there may be a bi-directional or systemic relationship between the two. Perhaps it helps to clarify that when we are discussing language in this context I think we are more referring to its meta-language (grammar etc). The other side of the coin being presented would therefore concern the way that the manner in which we conceptualise reality impacts on the the meta-language we develop to express that conceptualisation. Can anyone point to any work that has addressed this aspect in the field? LookingGlass (talk) 13:05, 21 April 2013 (UTC)

I think it is a given that conceptualization affects language, I don't know anyone who would disagree with that. Both Whorf and Sapir agreed that it does. It is the main claim of many of the universalists that this is the only causative relation between cognition and language. This view is for example developed by Berlin regarding conceptualization of biological species, and by Berlin and Kay for the domain of color. I am not completely clear about what you mean by your distinction between language and metalanguage it seems to be different from the standard distinction made by the followers of Silverstein who see metalanguage as the ways in which we talk about language. ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 13:22, 21 April 2013 (UTC)


I apologize for the need to use Wikipedia to make a statement, but after a month into a graduate-level course, an instructor should not continue to use Wikipedia as a primary source. This is quite unprofessional. I will revert the page to the last edit at 04:01 GMT on Monday, June 16, 2014 unless reverted sooner. Again, my apologies to the broader Wikipedia community. — Preceding unsigned comment added by PSUNittanyLion (talkcontribs) 00:27, 16 June 2014 (UTC)

There is a power dynamic that precludes a student from making such points in class that I'm sure that other users can appreciate. Wikipedia should probably not be an instrument for civil disobedience, but it's a democratic site, so I'll let the community decide whether it can remain for 4 hours. Thanks. PSUNittanyLion (talk) 00:32, 16 June 2014 (UTC)
I'm sorry to hear that you are having difficulty. However, Wikipedia is a highly visible source, used by millions of readers each week. Please do not disrupt Wikipedia to make a point, either about the encyclopedia's usefulness, or about an individual's reliance on it. If you would like to contribute to improving Wikipedia, that is great. If you simply want to communicate with one person, you should find another way to communicate that message. Good luck, Cnilep (talk) 00:48, 16 June 2014 (UTC)
Well I for one am flattered that someone teaching a graduate course is apparently finding this article of sufficient quality to use it in their teaching. I also think it is clearly erroneous to suggest that graduate level courses should never use Wikipedia, there are many circumstances in which wikipedia could be a useful supplement to less "transitory" sources.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 01:20, 16 June 2014 (UTC)

Suggested addition to German Romantic writers

I know there are complex rules on how to make something a source, so I'm worried about adding a philosopher's text myself, but Schleiermacher, in "On the Different Methods of Translating," discusses Linguistic Relativity a lot, and the value of translation techniques that could "Improve" German.

If someone wanted to, this would be a good addition to the article. (talk) 19:20, 18 February 2015 (UTC)

It would require a secondary source that discusses Schleiermachers views directly in relation to the topic of Linguistic relativity.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 19:34, 18 February 2015 (UTC)

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Article needs much work

Article reads like an extended historical account

The article places too much of an emphasis over persons, where in subjects of science one would expect it not to be the case. This is so much so, that the "history" section takes almost a half of the article (it should get an article of its own if that's the case and it's well-edited), and the the "empirical research" section reads like history too. Example:

Instead of this:

John Lucy has identified three main strands of research into linguistic relativity.


Research into linguistic relativity has focused on three subjects:

And instead of this:

Another widely publicized project with relevance to linguistic relativity is Daniel Everett's work on the Pirahã language of the Brazilian Amazon.


The Pirahã language has been shown to...

Conciseness, accuracy and style

"Definitional issues and debates" is an awkward way to name a section - should instead be separated to "definition" and "core questions". The second paragraph in "Relation to debates in science and philosophy" could be broadly summarized by referring to nature versus nurture, and phrases such as "or it can be described... and it can be described... it may also be described..." should be entirely avoided. A section termed "outside of science" (what's "outside of science"?) containing information about formal logic and programming languages is misleading at best.

All in all, a good candidate for the {{copy edit}} template. François Robere (talk) 06:34, 26 December 2015 (UTC)


Recently the page has been edited to change linguistic relativity or relativity to LR in several places. That is not a standard abbreviation that I'm familiar with. Wikipedia's Manual of Style calls for "sourceable abbreviations" and counsels editors, "Always consider whether it is better to simply write a word or phrase out in full, thus avoiding potential confusion for those not familiar with its abbreviation." I don't see any sources currently cited that use this abbreviation (though it's possible I've missed them), and I can't think of any linguists, psychologists, or anthropologists who routine use the abbreviation. I think the phrase should be spelled out.

Moreover, the article has quotation marks around "the principle of LR", attributed to Whorf but not to any particular piece of writing. Whorf wrote of "a new principle of relativity" and "the linguistic relativity principle" (Language, Thought, and Reality, p. 214), and many people have written of "Whorf's principle of linguistic relativity" (e.g. Hoijer 1954; cf. Alford 1978). But I'm not aware of any place where Whorf used the abbreviation LR. The quote, at least, should go. Cnilep (talk) 04:12, 9 March 2016 (UTC)

I agree that the abbreviation was not an improvement.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 04:24, 9 March 2016 (UTC)