Re: Allowing the sweet voice of reason into our lives

From: Charles Hixson (
Date: Tue Aug 07 2001 - 09:12:52 MDT

Lee Corbin wrote:
> Samantha writes
>>... If I cast
>>them as opponents then I have effectively declared ideological
>>conflict and even war.
> Are you familiar with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis? There is
> some truth, here, I believe, that our terminology can indeed
> affect our intuitions, feelings, and thoughts in ways that
> can be detrimental. Yes, I can imagine that relentless
> labeling of those who disagree with one as "enemies" or
> "opponents" could grow to have this effect.
> ...
> Lee
To my mind the central truth of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is easily
demonstrated. Certain computer languages make certain kinds of program
easy to write, and other kinds of program quite difficult. Even while
all of these languages are formally complete.

The projects that one would tackle in ML are not the same as the ones
that one would tackle in Fortran. Or C. Or C++. Or Ada. Or
Smalltalk. These are all different. There is no technical reason why
any particular project could not be done in any of them (e.g., most of
them and be made to emit C code, or can use C as one step of their
compilation process). But the difficulty of a project can vary
radically from language to language. And the variation is
systematically different for different kinds of project.

So the hypothesis is testably true (and perhaps it should now be called
a theory). Assessing the degree to which (and areas on which) different
human languages have this effect is, however, much more difficult.

Charles Hixson

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