These examples of “untranslatability” are all wrong or just silly in their various ways. But it’s hard to shake off the feeling that there’s some truth in the idea that speaking a different language makes you see the world slightly differently: as though wearing tinted glasses that lend everything a French or Russian tinge. Two ideas in linguistics are relevant here. The first, called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, holds that language determines what humans are capable of thinking. Since languages vary starkly, so must thought. After lots of study, few linguists now believe that a given language can do more than slightly alter what we pay attention to in a situation, usually through its grammar.

« Sapir-whorf hypothesis »

A quote saved on Aug. 21, 2014.


Top related keywords - double-click to view: