WHORFIANISM AGAIN. I have posted a number of times, for example, here, about the “fierce debate” in linguistics between â€œthose, such as Noam Chomsky, who think that all languages function roughly the same way in the brain and thoseâ€¦ such as Benjamin Lee Whorfâ€¦[who think] that different languages condition or constrain the mindâ€™s habits of thought.â€ Anna Wierzbicka’s book is part of that debate. (looking up” Whorf” on the search feature on this blog will link to many of the posts on this issue). In that post, I quoted Lera Boroditsky, a professor of psychology at Stanford, who says that: â€œafter decades of work, not a single proposed universal has withstood scrutinyâ€¦.â€ Anna Wierzbicka proposes that there are universals, but only 65 of them. Except for those 65 words, she is on the Whorfian side of the argument.
I posted here on a comment by Dick Weisfelder on the issue of whether there are words that canâ€™t be translated into another language that â€œItâ€™s also how you organize thoughts and whether ideas can be stated directly or require complex circumlocutions.â€ I agreed with Dick.
Andrew Caines says that: “…the book’s message—that English, like all languages, is ‘culturally shaped, and this has profound consequences for today’s globalizing and English-dominated world’—is an urgent one.” I agree.