What are your thoughts about the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, and do you agree or disagree with it? What examples or research can you cite to support your point of view?

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Many linguists disagree with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis itself but agree, to a point, with a weaker version of the hypothesis, linguistic relativism.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis claims that a person's language determines (or at least significantly influences) that person's thoughts and actions. In other words, language dictates or at least shapes...

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Many linguists disagree with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis itself but agree, to a point, with a weaker version of the hypothesis, linguistic relativism.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis claims that a person's language determines (or at least significantly influences) that person's thoughts and actions. In other words, language dictates or at least shapes how people think and act.

We can see that the words we use and how we use them do shape our thoughts and actions. Reflect for a moment on the word love, for instance. We use that word in all kinds of different ways to mean many different things, and how we use it in various situations helps determine how we act in those situations. If we say we love chocolate ice cream, we will likely order it frequently. But we don't mean the same thing here as when we tell someone we love them. That kind of love is different, and we know it, and our actions reflect that difference.

Most linguists these days, however, do not hold with the strong version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (often called linguistic determinism), because the evidence just does not support it. People's ability to think and reason is not completely governed by their language. Nor are the concepts we form completely governed by language. Think, for instance, of the feelings that we don't always put into words. Other languages may have words to express them, but even if English does not, we know what they are. Further, if this version of the hypothesis were true, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to translate works of literature into various languages, yet this happens all the time.

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