How does language shape the way we think
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Is it right to claim that the language, which we speak, strongly influences the way we think and behave? Do linguistic habits of cultures and nations create main differences in how people perceive and conceptualize reality? This thesis reviews and examines the most famous and influential formulations of the above problem conceived by Benjamin Lee Whorf, known as the linguistic relativity principle and demonstrates that even tough the turbulent intellectual climate and modern knowledge have modified the original form of the principle, it is still an important and necessary component of the research on thought and language and even consciousness. The thesis is based on the strong interdisciplinary framework containing Philosophy, Lingustics, Anthropology and Theory of Evolution. There are three Chapters in this thesis. Chapter I is divided into two parts – (1) historical and (2) argumentative. Part one analyses the historical background of the linguistic relativity thesis. In it, I answer the question - what lead and inspired Benjamin Whorf to conceive his thesis making him ‘(…) the most celebrated relativist of this century.’ (Lakoff 1996, p. 304) This part also includes works of Aristotle, St. Augustine, Roger Bacon, and Wilhelm Humboldt and Whorf’s significant collaboration with Edward Sapir. The second part reviews, firstly, the logical structure of the thesis of linguistic relativity, or in other words, the Whorf syllogism. Second, it reconstructs Whorf’s line of argumentation in favour of the thesis, with the most important arguments being: i. The linguistically influenced forms of hazardous behaviour ii. Understanding and the perception of time in both SAE and Hopi iii. The role of nouns of physical quantity such as e.g. “substance” and “matter” in SAE and Hopi language. Chapter II is central for my Thesis. In it, I attempt to reconstruct the arguments, which explicitly or implicitly stand against the linguistic relativity principle, as meant by Benjamin Whorf. At this point, the following accounts are considered essential: i Noam Chomsky’s critique (i.e. the autonomous syntax perspective), and ii Brian Berlin’s and Paul Kay’s research on the universal rules governing the use of colour terms. Chapter III is the final and conclusive. It includes the contemporary research, which not only examines and gives arguments for the deep relation between language and thought but also between language, intelligence, perception and even consciousness. I believe that this research substantiates Whorf’s essential claims. Specifically, I will give a detailed examination of the arguments presented by (1) Daniel Dennett and (2) Linda Boroditsky.