030112 Linguistic Relativity (Werning)

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Since Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf formulated their famous hypothesis that the grammar of a person’s native language determines the structure of her thought, linguistic relativity has been a major topic in the philosophy of mind and language, linguistics and cognitive science. Numerous studies have investigated in how far the vocabulary and syntax of a language influence people’s ontology, the way they categorize objects and properties and how they think about time, space and causality. Philosophers have contributed to that debate by arguing for and against the indeterminacy of translation, ontological relativity, or the priority of language over thought. In the seminar we will review those arguments and evaluate them in the light of recent empirical studies. Aside from active participation, participants will be expected to give a presentation in English. Assistance regarding the English language will be provided. | | | Literature: Berlin, B., & Kay, P. (1969). Basic color terms: Their universality and evolution. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. Carey, S. (2001). Whorf vs. continuity theorists: Bringing data to bear on the debate. In M. Bowerman & S. Levinson (Eds.), Language acquisition and conceptual development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Davidson, D. (2001). Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kay, P., & Regier, T. (2003). Resolving the question of color naming universals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), 100, 9085-9. Li, P., & Gleitman, L. (2002). Turning the tables: language and spatial reasoning. Cognition, 83(3), 265–94. Majid, A., Bowerman, M., Kita, S., Haun, D. B. M., & Levinson, S. C. (2004). Can language restructure cognition? The case for space. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8, 108–14. Quine, W. V. (1960). Word and Object. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press Quine, W. V. (1969). Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. New York: Columbia University Press. Steels, L., & Belpaeme, T. (2005). Coordinating perceptually grounded categories through language. A case study for colour. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28: 469–89. Werning, M. (2004). Compositionality, context, categories and the indeterminacy of translation. Erkenntnis, 60, 145–78. Whorf, B. L. (1956). Science and Linguistics. In: Language, thought and reality: selected writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.