I was vaguely aware that not every linguist agreed, so I thought this book might be interesting.
Does language reflect the culture of a society in any profound sense beyond such trivia as the number of words it has for snow or for shearing camels? And even more contentiously, can different languages lead their speaker to different thoughts and perceptions?
So, what’s your answer? [STOP! Don't read on until you answer. Just a yes or no will do.]
I, of course, want to say yes. But then it said.
For most serious scholars today, the answer to all these questions is a resounding no. The dominant view among contemporary linguists s that language is primarily an instinct, in other words, that the fundaments of language are coded in our genes and are the same across the human race. Noam Chomsky has famously argued that a Martian scientist would conclude that all earthlings speak dialects of the same language. Deep down, so runs the theory, all languages share the same universal grammar, the same underlying concepts, the same degree of systemic complexity. . .
OK, so I should read this and find out where I’m wrong and why. I’m open to changing my stories about the world if I get new information. But then I read on.
In the pages to follow, however, I will try to convince you, probably against your initial intuition, and certainly against the fashionable academic view of today, that the answer to the questions above is - yes.
Hot damn. I have an ally. So, I’ll let you know if the rest of the book is as good as the beginning. He does have a sense of humor and playfulness that I’m enjoying just in the prologue.
See, I can do it. This post is under 400 words. One more short post to go. But maybe I can make this a habit.
[UPDATE: I have a follow up post here which is much better than this one.]