Sour Grapes
Of course we're Fair and Balanced!

2004-04-12

Color and linguistic relativity

We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages. The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds—and this means largely by the linguistic systems in our minds. We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances as we do, largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it this way—an agreement that holds throughout our speech community and is codified in the patterns of our language.

– Benjamin L. Whorf, Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings, 1956



Maybe not. This month's Scientfic American has a report, "Draining the Language out of Color," indicating that, at least with regard to color, this may not be true. While the article makes no claim as to applicability outside that narrow realm, one has to wonder [via Anu Garg's AWAD mail Issue 118].



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