March 25, 2004

Sapir-Whorf alert

The April Scientific American has a feature on Paul Kay, discussing his research before and after Basic Color Terms in 1969. An interesting quote:

"Two key questions must always be kept separate," Kay adds. "One is, do different languages give rise to different ways of thought? The other is, how different are languages?" It is possible, he says, that the respective answers are "yes" and "not very."

We've discussed related issues in the past (here and here, for example). A current controversies has to do with differences in spatial reference -- the relative role of cultural, linguistic and situational factors is debated, with different experiments pointing in different directions (so to speak). More on this soon.

Posted by Mark Liberman at March 25, 2004 10:31 PM