Philosophy

Part A: Summarize Dale Spenders account of how language makes us see reality in a certain way. Do you believe that what Spender says here is correct? Why or why not?

Part B: Assume that what Spender says is true. Would this mean that the realities that people with different languages live in are different? If this is the case, could people with different languages ever be able to communicate with each other, or would people only be able to communicate with people who have the same reality as they do?

Research the following for background to the above questions:

1.  Wm. Von Humboldt:

Although there has always been strong interest in Humboldt expressed by political and cultural historians and educationists in Germany, it is only in recent decades that his contributions to the formation of modern linguistics, to semiotics, hermeneutics and philosophy of language have given rise to renewed attention to his pioneering achievements in these areas, even though much of his work in linguistics has remained unknown or unexplored until recently. Yet numerous linguists beginning with Pott and Steinthal in Germany and the American Brinton in the nineteenth century to Boas, Sapir, Bhler, Weisgerber, and Chomsky in the twentieth century derived or claimed to have derived important insights from Humboldt. But their interest in Humboldt was partial at best and limited to those aspects of his work that could be utilized to reinforce or to legitimize their own projects and methodologies. It is quite misleading to associate the term Humboldtian linguistics or Humboldtian philosophy of language with anyone specific direction, for example with the Whorfian thesis of linguistic relativity or with Chomskys opposite notion of a universalist generative grammar because these tend to ignore other equally or more important dimensions of Humboldts work. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wilhelm-humboldt/

2. Sapir Wharf hypothesis:

The hypothesis of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language (Links to an external site.) affects its speakers’ world view (Links to an external site.) or cognition (Links to an external site.). Also known as the SapirWhorf hypothesis, or Whorfianism, the principle is often defined to include two versions: the strong hypothesis and the weak hypothesis:

The strong version says that language determines thought and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories.
The weak version says that linguistic categories and usage only influence thought and decisions.

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