THE SPECTRE OF BENJAMIN LEE WHORF. Adam Gopnik says in his review that: “A spectre haunts this book, however. It is the spectre of Benjamin Lee Whorf and the theory of linguistic relativism to which he gave his name.” I have posted on Whorfianism before, for example, here (the search feature using the word “whorf” will locate the other posts). I have acknowledged that I am a Whorfian. I think that much of the heat in the dispute comes from efforts to refute a strong version of Whorfianism—a claim that your language affects your worldview. Gopnik quotes McWhorter: “A difference in thought must be of a certain magnitude before it qualifies realistically as a distinct ‘worldview'”. Gopnik introduces the phrase “mild versions of the Whorfian idea” to apply to influences of a language that aren’t large enough to amount to a difference in worldview. Gopnik then provides illustrations of subtleties of languages that are hard to translate. I wound up with a stronger belief in “mild Whorfianism”.

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