Re: Language and mind

Ron Kephart (
27 Dec 1996 16:51:47 GMT

Gustav S|derlind <> wrote:
> Has there been any study on how the buildup of a language influenses how
> its users think and the kind of culture they therefore create and act
> by?

Edward Sapir and his student, Benjamin Lee Whorf, wrote about these
issues earlier in this century; a "strong" version of their views came
to be known as the "Spair-Whorf Hypothesis" which (simply put) stated
that language determines thought and behavior.

However, Sapir himself, and others, argued (correctly) that language
and culture do not correlate (see the chapter on "Language, Race, and
Culture" in Sapir's Language (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich). A good
contemporary example of this is provided by the Garinago people (so
called "black Carib") of Belize, whose culture is essentially African-
American but who speak an Amerindian language. And, of course, the
same is true of "race", that is there is no correlation between racial
categories (which are fictions anyway) and language.

In other words, language, culture, and "race" are independent
variables with respect to each other.

For more recent views on language and thought, see works by George
Lakoff and also John Lucy.

Ron Kephart
University of North Florida