RE: Allowing the sweet voice of reason into our lives

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Tue Aug 07 2001 - 18:35:02 MDT

People reading Damien Broderick and Charles Hixson might come away
believing that I am a supporter of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

Here is the second paragraph about it, sent Mon 8/6/2001 6:46 PM,
that I wrote:

>> But the possibility has been overblown, in my opinion. The
>> high point of this view occurred in the 1950's. Since then,
>> the counter-reaction has been that we are not so much damaged
>> or affected by our terminology as had been thought. All
>> human languages, for example, are almost equally effective in
>> connoting, with some interesting exceptions. But they're no
>> longer regarded as all powerful in shaping our thoughts.

I have been enlightened by those who point out that the Sapir-Whorf
hypthesis should be considered to have a "strong" form and a
"weak" form, and made other remarks.


Charles Hixon wrote

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> []On Behalf Of Charles Hixson
> Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2001 8:13 AM
> To:
> Subject: Re: Allowing the sweet voice of reason into our lives
> 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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